Before I get into the UFC74 fights, I want to talk real quick about the the fights that mattered most to me this weekend. I would have loved to make it out to Vegas for UFC74 this weekend, but I had a couple guys fighting back home on a local show. This was my last local show before heading off to Hawaii and my team didn’t disappoint.

Matt “Vitali” Vitale (pronounced “Vital”) made his amateur debut this weekend. Vitale is part of the “3rd Generation” of fighters that Team Aggression has turned out and started off his amateur career on a strong note. Matt came out and stuffed a few takedown attempts, before taking the back of his opponent. In a scramble he lost back control and ended up on bottom, but did a great job of getting back on top. He again worked for the back, and went right from the rear naked choke to the straight armlock and got the submission. Matt was the first fight of the night and set the tone and the pace for the fights to follow.

“Gorilla Bob” Balaschi made his pro debut this past April after a rocky 30 seconds to start his fight. He came out, got excited, and did an excellent job of stopping every punch thrown with his face (someone else said this, I forget who, but I stole it). He got it together though and came back strong and put on a grappling clinic for the next round and a half before sinking the rear naked choke for the submission win.

This weekend he started off much better for Gorilla Bob. Not only did he keep his hands up, but he set up his takedown beautifully and was in control from bell to bell. He worked from within the guard landing good punches and eventually worked to half guard where he TKOed his opponent. I am most proud that this time he remembered his name and knew his fight was over when I talked to him a few hours after the fight was over.

We are very proud of both guys.

Because we were at the local fights, we taped UFC 74 back at home and were just praying that we would get out early before hearing any results. We ignored text messages and phone calls trying to not let anything get ruined. It was going to be particularly tough tonight because Gabriel Gonzaga is from Massachusetts and he was fighting Randy Couture in the main event for the Heavyweight Title. Luckily, we made it out of the venue without having any of the fights spoiled.

Patrick Cote vs Kendall Grove
I thought this was a good fight. Patrick Cote actually trains some locally with Mark DellaGrotte up at Sityodtong in Somerville. I thought the fight was a great display of using all your “weapons” in an MMA fight. Those guys were throwing a variety of punches, elbows, knees and kicks. I thought Kendall was getting the better of a competitive fight before getting caught with an overhand right that knocked him silly. Cote followed up mounting him and hit him enough to get the TKO stoppage at the very end of the first round.

For those of you that don’t know, Cote was originally brought to the UFC as a last minute replacement to fight Tito Ortiz, who Kendall trains with, at Light Heavyweight. Cote said it was funny because he caught Tito with the same overhand right when they had fought. This was the first fight Cote was able to finish in the UFC and you could see how happy he was about it.

Joe Stevenson vs Pellegrino
This fight was interesting to me for a number of reason. Firstly, these guys are both in my weight class and I had a feeling the winner of the fight would be facing BJ Penn for the vacant lightweight title if Sean Sherk is indeed stripped.

More importantly, I had a “T-Shirt bet” on this fight. Its known I like to play poker and would bet on most anything… although I am not as bad as McMackin who would bet a coin toss. I knew this was going to be a good fight, but was pretty confident Joe was going to take it. I had a bet with Rick Caldwell that if Joe won he had to wear a shirt to the next local show that said “Lauzon’s B*tch”. If Kurt won, I had to wear a shirt that said “Rick Caldwell taught me everything I know”. And yes… pictures would be taken. Thats a given.

The fight went pretty much how I thought it would. Both guys were happy to throw until getting caught with a good punch and then showing how wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu should be blended. I thought it was a great fight from start to finish and absolutely loved when Stevenson suplexed Kurt while keeping the back control and then moving to back control from the turtle. Joe ended up winning a unanimous decision, despite having his jaw broken in the first round. Yes… he broke his jaw and still fought on to win a decision with a badass like Kurt Pellegrino. I think we will be seeing Joe and BJ fight very soon.

Roger Huerta vs Alberto Crane
This is another fight I was interested in seeing. Again, both guys are lightweights. And again, I had a bet on the fight. While I won the first bet, I lost this one. Alberto Crane was +300. For those of you that don’t understand how odds work… that means Crane was a 3:1 underdog and every dollar I spent would pay me 3 times that if he had won. I think I bet like $70 bucks to win $210. I thought it would be a close fight as Crane is a wizard on the ground, as he showed. I will take 3:1 odds on a close fight any day.

Roger proved to be just too much for Crane showing excellent submission defense, great striking both on the feet and on the ground, superior cardio and the best use of the large video screen I have ever seen. Roger was on his knees and used the screen to see where Crane’s head was, and delivering elbows. It was like watching someone play a video game and staring at the TV screen. Once again, Roger has one of the most entertaining fights of the night.

Georges St. Pierre vs Josh Koscheck
I bet on this fight too (which I did win). Are you starting to see a pattern here?

We all know it, but it has to be said: GSP is a freak. Koscheck is a ridiculous wrestler and was taken down by someone that never wrestled in high school or college. Like GSP, I never wrestled in either… but I am always working on my wrestling. I know its going to be tough to catch up to guys that have been wrestling since they were 6… but GSP gives me hope.

I thought going into the fight that GSP was going to take Kos down, as he took down Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg and BJ Penn in their fights. GSP also beat in ADCC (which is basically the Olympics of Submission Grappling) a guy that beat Kos in wrestling his senior year in college. Add in the fact that GSP moved really well on his feet and sets up his takedowns well and you have a tough fight for Kos. Kos was swinging for the fences and was taken down in the first round with a double leg. It could maybe be chalked up to carelessness in the first round, and Kos adjusted in the 2nd round. This time, GSP got in again and took him down with a single leg. For the third round, you could hear Kos corner telling him to take GSP down. When he tried, GSP was able to get his legs wide and work out of a deep single leg (much like he did against Matt Hughes while in a deep body lock). This kind of marked the end for Kos as he had GSP on top of him for the 3rd straight round. It was a good fight, but GSP just showed how he is an absolute animal.

Randy Couture vs Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga

Guess what… I didn’t bet on this one. I really couldn’t. I was a little bit torn for this fight. On one hand, I got to meet Randy while on the Ultimate Fighter and worked out with him and he showed me some great things. On the other hand, Gabriel and his team are from Massachusetts. In the end, I had to pull for the Heavyweight title coming back to Mass.

I was hoping this fight would go from bell to bell the way the opening minutes went. Both guys were throwing punches and rocking each other, working takedowns and just putting in on one another. Randy showed why he is the champ and lifted 250 pound Napao over his head with a high crotch and landed on top of him. During the takedown, it looked like their heads collided a little bit and caused the cut on Napao’s nose. This was the beginning of the end for Napao. Napao needed all the cardio he could get to keep pace with Randy who is known for outworking guys in the cage. Add a broken nose and having to deal with swallowing blood and its only making things more difficult, never mind when you are fighting Captain America.

Randy kept working hard and after 3 rounds was able to overwhelm Napao. To me, it looked like Napao was just mentally and emotionally drained. When you train that hard for a fight and it starts going south and you are seeing your own blood and knowing you are losing, its tough on you. Randy was the gentleman as always and in his post fight interview came right out and said without being asked he felt Napao’s nose break when they landed for the takedown. It’s a fight… things happen. Great fight for Randy, who I hear said in the post fight press conference that he wanted Fedor. With the acquisition of Pride, I am sure the UFC could do a great job of introducing the american audience to the closest thing MMA has to the terminator.

Great weekend overall.