Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun boxing/MMA writer Brett Okamoto and fellow sports writer Ryan Greene breakdown UFC 105 and give their predictions on the fights.
Brandon Vera describes his pre-fight routine like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
He likes to pack his bag twice before leaving the hotel — pack, unpack, then repack. He gets to the arena early enough to watch the preliminary fights on either television or from the stands. He starts his warmups. He throws up once or twice. And then he takes his place at the curtain and waits to be announced.
Wait, what was that second to last one again Brandon?
“Yeah, I throw up before every fight,” Vera says. “Who knows why? Nerves, excitement, anticipation — it could be a bunch of things. All I know is if I ever stop throwing up, it’s bad.”
Whatever the feeling is that makes Vera feel nauseous, chances are it will be doubled when he faces the legendary Randy Couture in Manchester, England, on Saturday.
But even though Vera has a great deal of respect for the man he sometimes refers to as Mr. Couture, he also says there won’t be any hesitation on his part to defend himself and fight back against the 46-year-old at UFC 105.
“Randy deserves all the respect in the world. He is the man,” Vera said. “But come fight night...if Randy is throwing good ones, I don’t ever want to be on the receiving end of that.”
It will be a fight of mutual respect that takes place Saturday between two fighters at completely different points in their careers.
While the 32-year-old Vera looks up to Couture for all that he has accomplished and is still working toward, Couture admires the potential Vera has to leave a similar mark.
“I enjoy watching Brandon fight,” Couture said. “We knew each other in the wrestling world before we both started fighting, and I’ve enjoyed his style of fighting. I respect the way he approaches it. He’s beat some very good guys and done a great job.”
Both fighters opted for six-week camps rather than the usual eight weeks, following their fights in August.
Saturday will be the first time Couture will fight at 205 pounds since 2006, but the former champ says he’s had no problem dropping the weight.
“It hasn’t been difficult, actually. The weight just came off,” Couture said. “I was walking around at 216 the whole camp so I haven’t had to do anything special or refine my eating habits any more than I usually do. I actually had to work to keep my weight at 220 pounds in heavyweight.”
In making the switch, Couture’s weight for this fight has actually been focused on by the media more than his age, as many believe he will benefit from not having to face heavyweights that were able to negate some of his wrestling skills because of their size advantage.
“The training has been different for me,” Couture said. “With heavyweight fights I had to bring in large guys and put myself in the worse case scenario of being on the bottom. I used to dread that. I hate having big guys lying on top of me.
“With light heavyweight fights, I still train for the same thing, but I’m dealing with guys closer to my weight.”
Classic, old-school Couture used to ground out wins by working into a clinch, out-wrestling his opponent to the ground, gaining the top position and pounding out victories.
Vera has a strong wrestling background — he spent time at the Olympic training center with Couture working on his Greco-Roman — but it will be interesting to see if he can stay off his back during this fight.
“I wouldn’t say I’d welcome his clinch, but I’m well prepared for it,” Vera said. “I’ve been wrestling a long time and I’ve been lucky enough that I haven’t had to use it much in fighting. It hasn’t had to be a big part of my game plan. But I can wrestle.”
Although Couture’s boxing skills are also impressive, chances are he won’t want to take the risk of standing with Vera, who is a natural striker with better Muay Thai skills.
“He’s a strategic striker. He switches leads and throws long straight punches,” Couture said. “He mixes in high kicks and low kicks. I don’t expect him to change any of that because he’s fighting me.”
If Couture can wrestle and avoid damage as he used to at 205, it’s his fight to lose. But if he’s lost a step, Vera should be able to avoid the clinch and score points on his feet.
Last time out:
Couture: Unanimous decision loss to Antonio Nogueira at UFC 102.
Vera: Unanimous decision win over Krzysztof Sosynski at UFC 102.
The lines: Couture minus-150; Vera plus-120
Couture: On friend and trainer Shawn Tompkins' decision to leave Xtreme Couture: Shawn wasn’t a part of this training camp. He has a special work permit to work in the U.S. and it would have been difficult for him to come. Shawn and I parted on good terms. We’re still good friends, and I wish him the best.
Vera: On perseverance: No matter what odds you're up against, no matter how bleak it looks, if you keep pressing forward and focusing on the task at hand, you’re going to come out on top. My dad came over here with nothing and ended up owning seven restaurants. He is the American Dream.
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].