When Hall of Famer Randy Couture meets Brandon Vera in the UFC 105 main event Saturday at the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England, he will (again) lock horns with a younger, faster and more athletic opponent.
Could this be the fight in which Couture, 46, finally shows his age? Vera, 32, who has won two straight, appears more focused than ever and understands how a victory over one of the game's greats could benefit his career. Couture, meanwhile, has lost two straight as he enters his first bout as a light heavyweight in more than three years.
Sherdog.com recently gathered predictions from a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge how they think the UFC 105 headliner will unfold.
Chris Weidman: Vera by decision. In my opinion, the outcome of this fight is contingent upon Vera being able to stay out of the clinch and avoid being taken down. Randy Couture's world-class wrestling, coupled with his ability to implement a game plan and follow it with precision, makes him a serious problem for anybody. In my opinion, Vera avoids the clinch and is able to outscore Randy with striking.
Robin Black: Vera's a pretty slick striker with decent wrestling and some nice kicks, but I gotta go with Randy on this one. He's gonna put Vera against the fence, rough him up with some short shots and dirty boxing and take him down. Randy's just too skilled, too mentally strong and will actually be as big or bigger than his opponent for a change. He'll spend most of the fight on top, elbowing Vera from half-guard. Then my man Joe Rogan will say something really cool about Randy being a superhero. Then everything will be good in the world.
Ben Saunders: I will have to agree with Robin Black, only because he ended it with the [line about] Joe Rogan saying how Randy is a superhero.
Jamie Varner: I'll never bet against Randy.
Eddy Millis: I got Randy in this one. Randy will own the clinch, take it down to ground-and-pound [and win it in] Round 2.
Kultar Gill: Couture [decision] by old-man strength.
Scott Bieri: Brandon Vera will look better than ever en route to dropping a decision to Couture.
Jeff Monson: Vera by decision.
Shamar Bailey: I'm picking Vera over Couture, even though I hate doing it. I don't think Vera is going to let Randy get in close enough to do damage, and Vera knows enough in the clinch and on the ground to get the fight back to the center of the cage. I'm picking Vera by KO.
Brodie Farber: It's hard to bet against Couture, but I have to go with Vera by KO/TKO.
Dewey Cooper: Every time Randy Couture fights, I always wish that he wins. This fight is no different. However, it is only my wish that he wins this fight and not my realistic thoughts. Brandon Vera is trained by my friend and childhood idol, the greatest kickboxer from Holland in Rob Kaman. So needless to say, his striking is excellent and will be a serious problem for Mr. Couture. Vera's jiu-jitsu is awesome as well, so he is a well-versed MMA fighter. Randy's only advantage I see in this fight is his strong, mauling wrestling. He will need to take Vera down many times as well as rough him up on the ground, which I think is going to be a problem for Couture because of Vera's speed, thunderous leg kicks and punishing knee strikes. Vera wins by late second- or early third-round stoppage.
Zac George: Vera TKOs a tired Randy late in the second. [This is] my first time to pick against "The Natural."
Charlie Brenneman: Though it's a tough one to call, I gotta go with Randy. I think he'll be able to close the distance and make it his fight. Vera is extremely tough on the outside, and though his clinch game is good, Couture's is second to none. That, along with being at his natural weight class, will carry Randy to a TKO stoppage late in the second round.
Tom Gavrilos: Gotta go Randy by decision. He will control the clinch and the fight.
Stav Economou: Randy via third-round TKO.
Michael Guymon: Vera via decision. Hard fight to pick, though.
Ray Elbe: Very tough fight to pick. It's only a matter of time before Randy Couture is diagnosed with OMS. Is this Vera fight the point where he starts showing Old Man Syndrome? I'll take the Pinoy late in the third round, as I'm finishing my second plate of adobo chicken during the UFC broadcast.
Elvis Sinosic: This should be a good fight. Randy is the consummate professional and always comes to the fight prepared and with a good game plan, win or lose. Brandon is a talented fighter who is improving. Though Randy is coming off two losses, they are to two of the top heavyweight fighters: Brock [Lesnar], the champion, and [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira. In both matches, he put up a great fight and showed some great skill. Brandon is coming off victories in the light heavyweight division.
Vera has shown some great striking, particularly with his kicks. He has strong grappling. The only area of weakness is his wrestling. Randy's strength is his wrestling. Randy has good boxing and great submission defense and dangerous ground-and-pound. I think Randy will be able to control the distance and take Vera down. Vera has great striking, but his strength is his kicks and knees, and I believe these will get him taken down. Vera has good boxing, but it's not great; Randy has good boxing as well, and even better dirty boxing if they clinch. Though Vera is a very talented grappler, I don't think he has the skill that Nogueira does. If Nogueira couldn't submit Randy, I don't think Vera will pull it off.
Look for Randy to use his boxing to close the range, use his dirty boxing to avoid the knees and take Vera down. This is a three-round fight, and we know Randy can go hard for five rounds, so he'll be able to blast through three rounds easily. Vera has looked good at light heavyweight, but not great, and at times has looked slower in the later rounds. Though he improves, I don't think it is enough to stop Randy. He will ground-and-pound Vera for either a TKO stoppage or a decision.
Gabe Ruediger: Not sure on this one. Randy typifies the term "competitor" and is dangerous against anyone. Vera has shown great striking but hasn't seemed to put everything together at light heavyweight. The deciding factor will be the wrestling, in which Randy is superior and Vera doesn't use (even though people talk about his ability). In the past, I've bet against Randy and been wrong, so I'm going Randy by decision.
Kit Cope: Only for the fact that the lights have been turned off for Randy a few times lately do I think that Brandon has a shot in winning this fight. I know a lot of people are talking about Randy's focus due to drama in his personal life, but Randy's a mental beast. I don't think that'll be a factor for him. Brandon wins this one with a lot of footwork and lateral movement in a fairly boring fight.
Erin Toughill: Because my husband, Neil Melanson, is Randy's head ground coach and Randy has always been a favorite of mine, I have to say Randy. I have no doubt Vera will try to shine, but Randy will negate everything and have an unstoppable offense. Never been a Vera fan anyway, but it should be an exciting fight. Randy via TKO in the third round.
Jason Zorthian: Couture, first round, ground-and-pound.
Josh Kyrejto: I'd agree with [Zorthian's] statement; or decision and Randy just controls him on the ground the whole time.
Travis Lutter: I think Randy should win this one, but can Randy take his shots? I am excited to watch Randy fight again and hope he wins.
Frank Shamrock: Randy is the king of MMA, and I am picking him to win against Vera. Randy is so tough that sometimes when he fights, John McCarthy has to tap the mat.
Jason Lambert: Vera by KO/TKO.
Nick Thompson: Vera will be too quick for Randy. Vera by KO.
Kevin Burns: I think this is the best weight class for both Randy and Vera. That said, I believe Randy will have a strength advantage, which will allow him to wear on Vera in the clinch. I also see Randy dominating the ground-and-pound war. Randy by decision.
Billy MacDonald: I honestly can't wait to see how this one is going to pan out. I become more of a Brandon Vera fan every time I watch him fight. That being said, I still don't see a way to not pick Randy in this one, so I will take Randy Couture via decision.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I can't lie: I'm not overly excited for this fight or this UFC card, in general. I don't really care too much who wins, and I honestly don't really know who to pick. But if I had to, I can see Randy grinding out a unanimous decision. I would be surprised if someone finished it before the 15 minutes were up.
Bill Mesi: I agree with Mike. Joe Silva's wondering how the hell he's picked the matchups for this card. Gotta go with Randy -- not because I think he's better, just that he's a better striker than Vera is a wrestler. I think that's how you decide when it comes to the classic wrestler-versus-striker fights.
Pros who picked Couture: 20
Pros who picked Vera: 11
Pros who couldn't decide: 2
Mike Sloan is a contributor to Sherdog.com.