When Randy Couture finally returns to action on Saturday night fans at UFC 91 in Las Vegas are expected to give the UFC heavyweight champion one of the loudest ovations any fighter has ever felt before. But soon after the entrance, the business begins and standing across from Couture will be Brock Lesnar waiting to welcome the champion back to the Octagon.
The matchup with Lesnar is very interesting simply because the former WWE superstar currently holds a 2-1 professional record and hasn't gone through many of the top contenders most would view he should fight before getting to Couture. But the champion understands why this fight was made and also compliments the fighters right underneath him hungry for a shot at the championship.
"I don't think anyone's pretending that he's earned No. 1 contender status," Couture told MMAWeekly Radio recently. "With (Frank) Mir, who caught him in a kneebar and obviously (Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira out there holding the interim championship. Those are the two candidates probably most likely to be No. 1 contenders. Obviously Nogueira is more than a contender, he's the interim champ. I think it's about putting on a big fight."
The fight will likely be one of, if not the biggest fight, in UFC history in terms of viewers tuning into the pay-per-view on Saturday night. Couture isn't looking at this as a spectacle, he's focused on breaking down Brock Lesnar, and he understands the dangers he presents in the cage.
"He's a big strong guy that poses interesting problems in the heavyweight division. He may not be the most experienced opponent, but still a competitor. I think having a similar wrestling background makes it an interesting fight," Couture commented.
"You don't find a lot of big guys that move as well as he does and he uses that wrestling base very effectively with his 275-pound frame. Those things coupled make for a pretty interesting fight."
A major factor going into the five-round title fight is the fact that Couture hasn't fought since August 2007 in a win over Gabriel Gonzaga, but the seemingly ageless wonder has been staying busy in his off time and is anxious to see if Lesnar is ready for him.
"I've been pretty active with the guys at Xtreme Couture. I've been in their camps and training with them and they're pretty active, so it wasn't a huge stretch to get my body back to top fight shape," stated Couture. "I've had a good 10 weeks to get ready for this fight, and I feel like I've really come into a peak here ... so I'm ready to go."
The early part of the bout may be the biggest storm that Couture will have to weather, as Lesnar has been an imposing force in the opening stages of each bout in his brief three-fight career.
"We absolutely know he's going to come out hard," said Couture. "He's a freight train; he explodes. He's going to come out hard in that first round, and try to be overwhelming and we have to be prepared for that."
Two other major factors in the fight come down to Lesnar's relative inexperience in the cage. Through those first three match-ups, the Minnesota native has not taken a punch standing or been put on his back, which for a championship level wrestler is uncharted waters for sure.
"I definitely want to punch him in the face. I don't think anybody's stood in there and really give him a good taste of what mixed martial arts is all about," Couture commented about his strategy going into the fight.
"The other thing is I'm perfectly capable of taking him down and putting him on his back, which is another area where I haven't seen him yet. I have the wrestling ability to put him on his back just as easily as he can put me on my back."
With so many different factors playing into the bout between Couture and Lesnar, the fight is beyond just a title fight, pitting champion against challenger.
It's the old lion against the young lion.
It's the veteran versus the new kid on the block.
It's simply going to be one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
It's Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar.