Martin McNeil for ESPN.com
Randy Couture might have lost a step over the years, but his efforts were still too much for Brandon Vera.
In trying to come up with a metaphor for Randy Couture's current physical abilities, you can't do much better than a boat anchor. If he gets a lock on your body, he will either drag you down or exhaust you with your own resistance, swimming against the current he creates. It's an ugly way to go.
Against Brandon Vera on Saturday in Manchester, England, Couture clung to Vera while landing few effective strikes. The biggest moments in the bout came only when Vera had the distance to land body shots, which Couture's creaky reflexes allowed through. Despite Vera's delivering the damage of the fight, including a knockdown, judges figured Couture's lone takedown and pressing Vera into the fence trumped it.
If the fight were scored as a whole, Vera would probably win. As it is, they appeared to split two rounds and stalemate a third. A draw would have made the most sense. Increasingly, we should not expect judges to do the sensible thing.
Couture looked a few frames behind Vera, which is a problem that will continue to plague him in the weight class that probably strikes the best balance between speed and power. But at 46, you take your victories however you can get them.
Next for Couture: A title shot against Lyoto Machida would insult viewers' intelligence: This was the least impressive win of Couture's career. A rematch with Tito Ortiz or a fight with the winner of next week's Antonio Rogerio Nogueira-Luis Cane bout would be a plausible progression toward that goal.
Next for Vera: Motivational speaking (attending, not lecturing).
Next for Dan Hardy: Facilitating the easiest payday of Georges St. Pierre's career: In beating Mike Swick, Hardy has been granted a shot at the welterweight title. The UFC will try like hell to sell this fight, but don't you believe it. Hardy isn't ready.
Martin McNeil for ESPN.com
Dan Hardy's heavy hands probably wouldn't help him seize the day against the likes of GSP.
Q: Will fans buy Dan Hardy as a worthy title challenger?
A: Hardy hits like a piston and gets better every time he appears in the ring, but he's still miles away from the kind of suffocating, upper-tier attack of a Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves. That's the kind of competition he should have to face and beat in order to earn a shot at Georges St. Pierre's chin. It's hardly sandbagging -- St. Pierre has defeated virtually every big name in the class -- but if this is the beginning of St. Pierre's 2010, he should consider a future at middleweight.
Q: Does Randy Couture have one more in him?
A: He went about it in the most perfunctory way imaginable, but Randy Couture still defeated Brandon Vera. And while he ate some crippling body shots, he proved he wouldn't turn to dust against a highly credible kickboxer. Other elite strikers in the division -- Thiago Silva, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua -- don't have Vera's Greco-Roman skills to work as a Couture anti-venom. He's not done.
Q: Have we underestimated Michael Bisping?
A: For most of his career, Bisping has had a habit of squinting into the camera and daring fans to like him. The knockout delivered by Dan Henderson brought some humility with it: Bisping was cordial in victory against Denis Kang, surviving a first-round daze to show off some impressive guard work. Everyone loses. If Bisping continues to acknowledge that, he can continue improving.
The young-old man of the night award: Aaron Riley, who became a fixture in the 1990s MMA scene and is still somehow only 28 years old.
Admiral apathy of the night award: Andre Winner, for strolling over to the splayed carcass of Roli Delgado to grab a nearby sponsor T-shirt, then scratching his nose as his name was announced. He might've gotten some water, too, if those stupid EMTs weren't in the way.
Glaucoma awareness of the night award: Tito Ortiz, for sporting sunglasses indoors -- that would make him look out of place if he were orbiting the sun.
Street fighter of the night award: Brandon Vera, for pulling off the sport's first and only simultaneous groin shot and eye poke against Couture. If you see this man in a bar, leave him alone.
The Goldberg award: Mike Goldberg, for never letting a fight get in the way of a plug.
Joe Rogan: "Riley needs to do something here "
Goldberg: "The 'Ultimate Fighter' finale tickets are still available "
Rogan: " even his kicks are tentative "
Goldberg: "Log on to UFC.tv for more info."
Martin McNeil for ESPN.com
Guess who's back: Maybe fans and media alike were too quick to write off Michael Bisping
• Manchester's M.E.N. Arena hosted 16,693 attendees Saturday, setting a European attendance record for the UFC: For financial reasons, it seems likely Dan Hardy's title shot against Georges St. Pierre would take place in the UK
• UK's Telegraph believes St. Pierre and Hardy might coach the 11th season of "The Ultimate Fighter." Thirteen weeks of attempted brainwashing
• White told MMAJunkie.com that the promotion is only "months away" from organizing international versions of "The Ultimate Fighter," with cast members pulled from hosting countries
• With the win over Vera, Randy Couture, 46, became the oldest winner in the Octagon in the promotion's history