Beyond that, however, was another ridiculous card that also featured the likes of Kenny Florian taking on Joe Stevenson for the probable right to take on UFC Lightweight Champion, B.J. Penn.
Before taking on Demian Maia in the first big fight of the night, Nate Quarry noted that his opponent only had one chance to win. "He's got to take me down to the ground to make that happen," he said. "And I'm here to make that not happen."
Early in the first, Quarry initially sprawled out of a takedown attempt, but Maia did not give up on it. Eventually, Maia succeeded in bringing his opponent to the ground. Soon after, came the mount. Then Maia took his back, punching away at his opponent while looking for a rear naked choke. For a significant period of time, Quarry did a good job of defending by controlling one arm. However, in the end Maia was just too good and sunk it in.
Demian Maia wins at 2:13 of round one by way of rear naked choke. This guy's ground skills are just on another level. But in this fight against a man with very good takedown defense, he also proved he could put a good wrestler on the ground.
Josh Hendricks had the following to say before his fight with Gabriel Gonzaga: "A win over him would basically send my career into the stratosphere." Yup. But beating Gonzaga, as Mirko Cro Cop once found out, is easier said than done.
Early in the fight, both combatants were willing to throw down. The difference was that Gonazaga's strikes were straighter and faster. Along with this, he connected with a nice right hand early on and several big knees before quickly putting the nail in the coffin with another right hand that floored Hendricks. One shot later, and the referee stepped in.
Gabriel Gonzaga wins via TKO at 1:01 of round one.
Former TUF participant Matt Brown took on Ryan Thomas in the next bout. The fight started off nicely for Brown, who connected with a solid combination and defended the takedown early in the first. However, Thomas eventually took him down. But then Brown got back to his feet.
Looking like a fun one so far.
Thomas got two underhooks while in the clinch and took Brown down again. Brown struggled to his feet once again. Some mild work in the clinch by Thomas followed before he succeeded in taking Brown down one more time. But this time Brown nearly sunk in a triangle. Though the move didn't work, he then transitioned to an armbar that almost came through. Unfortunately for him, when the armbar failed Thomas transitioned to side control. But then he lost the position, with Brown gaining full guard. Then Brown turned Thomas over. After some punches, Thomas turned Brown over and almost got caught in a guillotine for his efforts. Then the bell.
An awesome round with a ton of back and forth. Give it to Brown based on the submission attempts.
Early in the second, Thomas took Brown down again. But once again, Brown sunk in the armbar quickly. This time he was able to hold onto it through two different slams, forcing his opponent to tap. Boy, Brown has really improved his submission skills.
Matt Brown wins via armbar at 57 seconds of round two.
"Doesn't matter where it (the fight) is, I'm still gonna crack his head open," said Tamdan McCrory before taking on Dustin Hazelett. Then again, Hazelett has proven in recent fights that he's awful hard to dominate. Would this fight against a recent college graduate in McCrory be different?
McCrory started things off by swinging away and connecting with several hard punches, but Hazelett survived to drop McCrory with a nice front kick. Still, McCrory was up quickly. From there, both fighters connected with kicks, but McCrory's were harder and more frequent. Though Hazelett hit home with two huge right hands in succession in the middle of McCrory's efforts, eventually the low kicks began taking an obvious toll on his legs.
But then McCrory facilitated a takedown. From there, he was immediately in trouble, with Hazelett sinking in a shoulder lock (omoplata). Eventually, Hazelett pulled McCrory's arm out and sunk in an unorthodox armbar.
Dustin Hazelett wins via armbar at 3:59 of round one. This guy is really good.
Next up was a fight between Jeremy Stephens and UFC newcomer Rafael Dos Anjos. Josh Hendricks, another newcomer to the UFC, had his night spoiled earlier. Would Dos Anjos experience much of the same?
Early on, the two traded strikes. Eventually, though, Dos Anjos shot in. His initial shot didn't work, but he was persistent enough to take Stephens' back on his feet, eventually slamming him to the canvas. From there, the Brazilian fighter struggled to gain a better position against a game Stephens, succeeding in gaining side mount in time. Then Stephens turned him over, but it was all in vain as Dos Anjos sunk in an omoplata. This was one of those shoulder locks that hurt, too, not just an attempt to turn an opponent around. Stephens persevered until the bell. Still, he clearly lost the stanza.
Early in the second, the two traded big strikes with Stephens connecting with a knee and Dos Anjos a punch. Soon after came a big right hand from Stephens. But eventually, Dos Anjos shot in for a takedown and after a struggle, slammed his opponent to the canvas. Straight from there, Dos Anjos took his back and sunk his hooks in. While looking for the choke, Stephens turned things over on him but almost ate an armbar for his efforts.
But Stephens got out. Then came some vicious elbows from Stephens on the ground. The ground and pound continued in a strong manner, with elbows and punches, until the bell. This was a very close round. Give it to Stephens, as he started the stanza stronger and ended it stronger.
Then came the third round. In a word, wow! After some trading, Stephens came forward and exploded into his opponent with a ridiculously powerful right uppercut that floored Dos Anjos. This was not your usual knockout punch. It was flat out ridiculous. From there, Stephens continued to strike on the ground until the referee pulled him off.
You don't want to get hit by this guy.
Jeremy Stephens wins by way of knockout after only 39 seconds in the third round.
"I'm gonna go out there to destroy Joe Stevenson. That's my goal. I'm gonna show him why I'm the favorite," said Kenny Florian before taking on Stevenson in the next fight. Stevenson was upset that most were giving Florian the edge in this one coming in. Of course, everything before the fight is just talk.
The fight started with Florian landing a nice right to the body, then a solid head kick that was partially blocked. Stevenson then landed a big right and shot in for a takedown, pressing his opponent along the wall. Stevenson completed a nice takedown from there, but Florian got right back up. Then Stevenson picked Florian up and slammed him down. The slam would've been harder but Florian grabbed the fence.
Regardless, Florian got up again and this time gained separation. The two traded strikes before Florian picked Stevenson up and slammed him to the canvas. Some strikes from the top followed before he moved to the mount very quickly in a beautiful move. From there, Florian took the man they call Daddy's back.
Then came the rear naked choke. Awesome. There's no argument anymore. Kenny Florian deserves a title shot against B.J. Penn.
Kenny Florian wins via rear naked choke at 4:03 of round one.
"When I walk out into that arena, it's gonna feel like home," said Randy Couture before taking on Brock Lesnar. "After fifteen months, I'm back home." Still, Lesnar wanted to ruin the homecoming. Lots of tension coming into this one. Lots of questions.
Let's get the answers.
Early on the two clinched and Lesnar landed several hard knees. Eventually, the big guy then turned things around and pressed Couture up against the cage. There he connected with a decent right inside. But upon separation, Couture connected with a very solid right hand.
Soon after, Lesnar shot in and grabbed Couture's leg up along the wall. However, Couture defended the shot nicely. But then Lesnar dropped a level, grabbed his legs, and took him down. However, Couture got back to his feet and grabbed Lesnar's leg and almost turned him over. Then Lesnar turned things around and got on top of Couture. Along the wall, Couture held half guard. Lesnar started looking to pin Couture's arm down and connected with a couple of solid punches. But then The Natural got to the turtle position with Lesnar in front on top of him. Then Couture got to his feet and pressed Lesnar up against the wall, starting in with the knees. Couture began looking for the takedown.
Then the bell. A close round. But with the takedowns, Lesnar likely took it. Between rounds, Lesnar was breathing heavy.
Couture connected with a hard jab early in the second. But then he got rocked by a hard right elbow by Lesnar, leaving his legs wobbly. When Lesnar came forward, much more in control than he was against Heath Herring, Couture calmly turned him into the Octagon wall. There, The Natural landed a nice knee to Lesnar's face. Then there was a separation where both fighters landed big shots. In the middle of the ring, both guys connected with hard shots again. Lesnar shot in for a takedown. Couture defended well and pressed him up against the Octagon wall.
What a great fight so far!
Up along the wall, both guys landed knees. Then in the middle of the ring Lesnar connected with a right that dropped his adversary. Several hammerfists later and Lesnar had proven everyone wrong.
Brock Lesnar wins via TKO at 3:07 of round two. He's the new UFC Heavyweight Champion of the world.
In the end, UFC 91 will likely be remembered as a historic night. Brock Lesnar, by defeating Randy "The Natural" Couture, truly announced his presence in MMA by taking home the UFC Heavyweight Championship belt. Further, Kenny Florian made an announcement as well afterwards.
He noted that he wants B.J. Penn next. Looking forward to possibly seeing that.