One of the loudest and most enthusiastic crowds the UFC has ever seen should have gone home disappointed. The local favorites, hometown boys Ed Herman, Chris Leben, and Randy Couture all met defeat. Fortunately the fight card, including the wildly entertaining main event between Couture and former PRIDE and UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, was so good that not even the biggest Couture partisan could leave with anything but a smile on their face. After a rough start, the UFC and Portland were parting ways on good terms.
Nogueira was generous in victory, giving Couture plenty of props and recognizing his status as a fellow legend of the sport. This wasn’t a fight that featured heated rhetoric or some kind of manufactured grudge. Both men had plenty of respect for each other and understood exactly how dangerous their opponent could be.
“He’s a gentleman, a great athlete,”Nogueira told me after the fight. “It’s a pleasure to fight against someone like that. I’ve been watching him fight since 1997.”
The main event was a back and forth three round war. Both men looked to be in top shape and seemed to give it their all, trading punches and holds on the mat. Nogueira got the best of Couture on the feet and on the mat, knocking him down twice with punches and almost finishing things with two brutal chokes. It was an all-time classic. Although Nogueira won a unanimous decision, it was a fight that felt close throughout, with plenty of dramatic swings back and forth that gave the audience fits. Couture defended everything Nogueira could throw at him, powered on by a crowd that was deafening.
“I had a mental picture of the fight, starting two weeks ago. I knew I would go into the Octagon and the people would boo me. My heart beat was going more and more. But my breathing made my heart rate go down,” Nogueira said. After the decision was announced there were some cheers mixed in with the boos for Nogueira’s post fight interview. People may have wanted to see a Couture win, but everyone in the building knew they had seen a fight they would never forget. “I came here and I made a good show for them. People are going to appreciate that. I come from another country to make a show for them.”
After the fight, Couture announced he had just signed a new six fight deal to finish his career with the UFC. Even though he fell short of winning this fight, he looked good enough that he didn’t need to field a single question about retirement. At 46, he may not last the entirety of his contract, but this won’t be his last fight.
“I didn’t have any illusions I won the fight, but I knew it was a damn good fight,” Couture said. “Going out and doing what you trained to do is what it’s all about. Of course you’d like to win, but if you do what you trained to do, you can’t ask for more than that. As far as staying at heavyweight or going to light heavyweight, I’m interested in interesting fights. There are a lot of guys in both divisions who would be interesting fights for me. We’ll see what the Grand Poobah over here wants to do.”
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Randy Couture via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Thiago Silva def. Keith Jardine via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:35
Jake Rosholt def. Chris Leben via technical submission (arm triangle choke) – Round 3, 1:30
Nate Marquardt def. Demian Maia via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 0:21
Brandon Vera def. Krzysztof Soszynski via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Aaron Simpson def. Ed Herman via TKO (injury) – Round 2, 0:17
Gabriel Gonzaga def. Chris Tuchscherer via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 2:27
Mike Russow def. Justin McCully via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-28)
Todd Duffee def. Tim Hague via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 0:07
Mark Munoz def. Nick Catone via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Evan Dunham def. Marcus Aurelio via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)