Josh Gross
Sunday February 7th, 2010

It was a night to celebrate wrestling at UFC 109 in Las Vegas. In the evening's main event at the Mandalay Bay stood two of the game's early pioneers, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman, wrestlers responsible for changing how mixed martial arts was fought.

(Unfortunately for Coleman, he kept standing -- more on that later.)

Here, now, five things that became apparent during another night of interesting MMA bouts:

1. Randy Couture won't go away quietly.

Maybe "The Natural" is correct. Maybe, at the age of 46, he can still improve in a sport that requires every firing synapse a person owns to go off like Jimmie Johnson's 48 car.

Is it really possible?

Well, we know more about this: He isn't getting worse. During Couture's second-round destruction of Coleman, who last July at least appeared serviceable against Stephan Bonnar, he appeared physically capable of putting a fight together.

Before the bout, UFC president Dana White lambasted anyone who dared consider Couture (18-10) outside the top five at 205. Admittedly Coleman, a much older fighter than Couture despite being a year younger, isn't the best gauge of these things, and the case remains weak. But are we foolish enough to put anything past the multi-time champion. Yes, he's lost. A lot. More than one would expect for as many accolades as he receives -- including in this space -- but is it outside the realm of possibility that he could defeat a Jon Jones or Antonio Rogerio Nogueira?

I don't like Couture's chances in either case. However, as he's proven several times, it's not an idea you'd be smart to dismiss outright.

2. The wrestler who forgot what he did

Coleman made Couture's night easy when, at the advice of his trainer Shawn Tompkins and the despite the fact it has never been his path to victory, he chose to stand and trade.

From the outset, Couture jabbed at Coleman (16-10) and snapped his head back with right hands. Coleman took the shots and moved back on uncertain legs. This was not the dominant man who mauled people en route to UFC and Pride championships.

Before the fight, Tompkins said Coleman's performance would be a confident one. That for the first time in his career he walked into a fight knowing he was prepared and trained up. Shortly into the bout, Coleman carried the attitude of a confused athlete, one who was thinking instead of fighting.

Between the first and second round, Coleman looked up at Tompkins as the Canadian -- who has a long resume of working with some of MMA's best, including Couture and Dan Henderson -- offered instructions on how to keep distance and how to fire off combinations. I'm fairly certain he would have loved if Tompkins told him to run out there and take a shot on a double-leg. If you're going to go out, go out at what you do best.

Coleman, the great wrestling pioneer, forgot he was "The Hammer" -- a particularly poignant reminder from Chael Sonnen, who showed tonight ...

3. ... good ground-and-pound beats everything else.

Is wrestling a martial art? Some people will say no, but they're wrong. Wrestling is perhaps the world's oldest and most influential art. Sonnen, in the evening's co-main event against Nathan Marquardt, displayed the effectiveness of being able to place an adversary on the floor with control.

In the spirit of Coleman and Couture, Sonnen (24-10-1) smashed Marquardt's guard, slamming down punches and elbows from the opening bell. Marquardt (29-9-2) had improved steadily with his takedown defense, and against mediocre wrestlers it was enough to keep him standing. But not against someone as driven and competitive as Sonnen, traits which seem to be inherently elevated among wrestlers.

Because of Sonnen's style, aggression and pace, the No. 1 UFC middleweight contender is a threat to either champion Anderson Silva or Vitor Belfort, who meet in Abu Dhabi on April 10.

4. Sonnen-Marquardt one of the best fights in a long time.

There was plenty of skill, and enough blood to satiate anyone looking for that. Really, it was the spirit and competitiveness displayed by both fighters, particularly Sonnen, that stood out. There isn't much that beats fighters delivering in high-stakes MMA bouts.

The anticipation and tension that accompanied Marquardt's guillotine attempt in the third after he rose from underneath Sonnen and landed a knee is something special to MMA.

5. Five more things worth mentioning.

Matt Serra has some fight left in him. When Serra shocked the world in 2007 to capture the UFC welterweight title, the consensus was that the New Yorker's stoppage of Georges St. Pierre constituted a one-in-a-million Powerball ticket. Well, like most things, it didn't just happen. Ray Longo and hundreds of sparred rounds in the gym have plenty to do with it. Serra (10-6) isn't considered among the 10 best mixed martial artists at 170 pounds, though he should face someone of that caliber just to be sure. It's clear after UFC 109 that, unlike Frank Trigg (19-8), Serra's career is far from over.

Demian Maia (12-1) might be the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in MMA -- a difficult thing to claim, though he's undoubtedly at the top of the heap -- but his ability to win a championship in the UFC probably won't be determined by an affinity for finishing opponents on the floor. He knows this, and in the first two rounds against Dan Miller (11-3, 1 NC) tried to do something about it. "I came here to show the people I can fight stand up, because if I want to fight for the title one day I also needed to fight standup," said Maia, who rebounded after the first loss of his career -- a standing KO by Marquardt. "My boxing's not the best, but I can do."

• No. 1 contender fights should be five rounds. I've said this for a long time. I'll continue to say it. Sonnen-Marquardt was a tremendous three-round bout. It would have been an enthralling five-rounder.

• Brazilian welterweight Paulo Thiago (12-1) is legit, and I feel perfectly comfortable having him ranked No. 4 in the division behind Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch and St. Pierre. His swift followed up of a counter punch against Mike Swick (14-4) into D'Arce choke was beautiful.

• Just because your last name is Gracie doesn't mean you'll be much of a fighter. It's kind of mandatory that you need to try, but the family has lacked a standard bearer since Rickson stopped competing and Royce took steroids. Add Rolles to list of fighters with the Gracie name -- Igor and Gregor, for instance -- who won't make do much in MMA. Look to Strikeforce-signed heavyweight Roger for the next Gracie with a serious future in fighting.

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