Couture v. Toney
Since Dana White made the official announcement on March 3, this fight has garnered multiple monikers. Most apt being ‘Boxing vs. MMA.’ There is no confusion about their respective game plans. The Greco Roman Olympic alternate will try to close the distance, secure the takedown and employ his signature ground pound, presumably from his preferred half guard position. On the other end of spectrum Toney, a former world champion in the sweet science, totes an impressive professional boxing record with 72 wins 6 losses with 44 of those wins via KO.
The knee jerk reaction to the fight’s announcement has sustained itself to fight week. Such foresight rests in Couture’s wrestling. Prevailing wisdom defaults to a Couture double leg and a sound ground and pound beating on behalf of the three-time division I All-American. One very intriguing aspect in this fight revolves around the clinch. Couture’s Greco style of wrestling is predicated upon the clinch and presents inherent risks for the multiple UFC champion. The aforementioned double leg isn’t integrated into Greco Roman wrestling, in which Couture fostered his grappling, but rather in free style wrestling. In effort to close the distance and clinch, as opposed to a conventional freestyle double leg, Couture could encounter an abrupt ending at the hands of Toney. Couture relishes the clinch where he constantly jockeys for position while punishing his opponents. He may want to avoid this comfort zone with such a one dimensional power puncher.
A sport in which Couture has dedicated his Olympic talent and discipline for more than a decade, Toney has a meager four months worth of experience. However limited his MMA experience, Toney’s squared circle accolades must be recognized within the octagon where only four ounces of leather separate his world champion hands from a suspect chin.
Edgar v. Penn
The lightweight title will be determined in a role reversal rematch. Frankie Edgar employed a methodical strategy of footwork, and speed on his feet while showcasing glimpses of his wrestling pedigree to upset the reigning champion BJ Penn with a unanimous decision win in their initial Abu Dhabi meeting. Edgar has endured unfair criticism for the lopsided decision and is determined to prove his belt is not the result of misguided judging.
Penn certainly possesses more power in his strikes but as we’ve continually seen, speed kills. BJ will have to adjust his approach much more than Edgar in order to regain the lightweight title. Any time Penn fights there is always the looming question about his discipline and motivation, no such question mark exists in Edgar’s preparation. Edgar will come in with his inexhaustible cardio and look to implement a very similar strategy from the first fight with minor adjustments that could take the form of more wrestling and takedowns. Few can survive the grappling prowess of the Prodigy, but I feel many of those worries are curbed due to Edgar’s iconic BJJ coach Renzo Gracie, a man who is very familiar with Penn. Not only has Renzo fought BJ himself, but has now directly assisted two different fighters to victory over Penn on three occasions. It is also worth noting that Renzo’s brother Ryan reared Penn to his rapid ascent in the jiu-jitsu realm, earning him the ‘prodigy’ sobriquet.
Maynard v. Florian
Kenny Florian has made his opinion clear in regard to his number one contender match up with undefeated lightweight bully Gray Maynard. In a recent interview with mmaweekly radio the native Bostonian shared his thoughts about his backyard bout this weekend,
“He was pretty quiet as far as wanting to get the belt at first, seems like he didn’t want to fight B.J. or Frankie or whatever, and then all of a sudden when Frankie won it seems like he started to get real cocky, or started trying to make a name for himself. I don’t know, it seems like he got cocky over night, all of a sudden. It’s motivating for me. I don’t see any reason for him to be cocky. He’s had decisions over guys. He hasn’t finished anyone of note. He’s squeaking by on these decisions, yet he’s talking like he’s already a world champion.”
Florian is a cerebral fighter whose objective analysis manifests itself in consistent progression. Maynard has shown his desire to improve his standup in his previous two fights, possibly costing him a title shot. Current champion Frankie Edgar, whose only loss is courtesy of the bully at Fight Night 14 in April ‘08, assumed that role. I foresee Maynard getting back on the horse that brought him to a perfect 9-0 MMA record. Maynard’s preeminent Division I wrestling credentials could be the determining factor in order to vanquish Florian and solidify his place as the number one contender.