UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture says he's game for a quick turnaround against Brandon Vera.
The dust had just barely settled on Couture's "instant classic" with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102 when another opportunity knocked. The promotion's eighth trip to the United Kingdom, UFC 105 on Nov. 14 in Manchester, was without a main draw.
"They asked me if I'd be willing to step up and fill the spot," Couture told MMAWeekly.com on Tuesday. "I talked to my team, and evaluated the turnaround and how I was feeling after the Nogueira fight, and it made sense, so we jumped back in."
Initially, the UFC offered Rashad Evans as an opponent for the UK event, but Evans held fast to a fight with fellow "Ultimate Fighter" coach Quinton Jackson, who passed on meeting him at UFC 107 for a role in the movie remake of The A-Team. The two are expected to meet early next year.
Couture felt the Evans match-up was interesting, but was equally intrigued by a meeting with Vera.
"I like the matchup," said Couture of Vera. "We're both the same size, he's a good size light heavyweight as well. He fought at heavyweight for a while. We both have Greco background. He uses his Thai skills a lot in his fights. It's a good match-up and it's an interesting fight."
Vera, who fought alongside Couture on the main card of UFC 102, notched his third victory as a light heavyweight with a decision victory over Krzysztof Soszynski. Once considered a top contender in the heavyweight class, Vera dropped to 205lbs. after consecutive losses to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum. Like Couture, he maintains a walk-around weight around 220lbs.
Couture, who showcased a diligent study of the stand-up game in his performance against Nogueira and, earlier, Brock Lesnar, hinted that he would return to the ground and pound style that's defined much of his career.
"I haven't had a chance to break down tape on him yet, but just the fights that I've seen, I'm gonna have to work and cut him off," said Couture. "I know he's good at throwing kicks, high or low, so I've got to be prepared for that, but I think every time he picks his foot up, I should be able to transition and put him on the ground.
"I think I'm gonna focus more on what I do and do what I do well: just take guys down and put him on the bottom and force him to work from there. Brandon's gonna come out and try to establish his range and land his long punches and kicks, and I've got to be ready to deal with that, and make him pay put him on the ground every time he does.
"I'm not worried about the style match-up. He is what he is. Obviously, I've been in there with a lot of good strikers and done well. I don't think he uses his wrestling skills much, and I think he's going to be forced to use them here."
Couture signed a new seven-fight contract with the UFC that began with UFC 102, and anticipates staying at light heavyweight for the near future, though heavyweight opportunities are still possible.
"I think this fight will put me in the mix at 205," he said. "Ultimately, I'd love to compete against Machida. Nobody's really seemed to solve that puzzle yet, and I'm very intrigued by him and his style."
Machida has been the talk of the division since his title-winning performance at UFC 98, with many observers, including Couture, pondering how to defeat the Brazilian's unorthodox, Karate based style.
"I think I have wrestling abilities that he maybe hasn't seen yet, that could make his usual game plan and his usual style a little more difficult," said Couture of a possible meeting with the champion.
For now, though, Vera is the challenge ahead. Couture is currently in Wyoming shooting a television special on archery hunting for deer and antelope. He plans to begin camp next Wednesday at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and says his partners will remain in-house.
Couture has not had such a short gap between fights since May 2001, when he negotiated a return to the UFC at UFC 31 with new owners, Zuffa LLC, after a contractual dispute with previous owners Semaphore Entertainment Group.
As to whether the Vera fight is an indicator of a busier fighting schedule, Couture says he will take it a fight at a time, as always.
"I've been fighting once, maybe twice a year," he said. "I'm certainly capable of that schedule. I can do more. I can do three. I've done four before, but that's pushing it, in my opinion. It's more about the match-ups, taking it one fight at a time, and evaluating things when the opportunities present themselves.
"We'll see what the UFC has and what's interesting after this fight, if it's at heavyweight or light heavyweight, I don't think it's an issue either way."