Couture, a former two-time light heavyweight champion, fought his retirement fight against Lyoto Machida (17-2) where he lost via KO at UFC 129. He notes that Machida's karate style and power makes him difficult to read.
"Machida is elusive with a very unique style," said Couture. "From fighting him last year, I know he comes at you from a very different place with his strikes. It is not a boxing or Thai stance like most MMA fighters throw from, it is that karate stance. It is very distracting when you are trying to set up on him because his positioning is always not what you'd expect. Plus he's a great athlete, a very underestimated athlete with explosive power."
If Ryan Bader (14-2) wants to win, Couture thinks he needs to use his wrestling skills and make the fight a ground game.
"For Bader, same as everyone, the real challenge is finding out a way to get to Machida consistently," said Couture. "To do that, Bader has to wrestle him as much as possible. Bader is certainly capable of getting his hands on Machida - he's a NCAA wrestler and - what's more - he can really hit. Bader has to mix up his takedowns, wrestling along the fence and throw in the right hand; he has to make Machida guess. It is tough to predict how well Bader will do with scoring the takedowns, as Machida has great defense, but that has to be the key for Bader. I think Bader needs to get the takedown very quickly in the fight before Machida hits his stride or he will have problems."
At UFC 105 Couture defeated Brandon Vera (18-5-1) via unanimous. Despite the win, Couture was forced to change is strategy midway through the fight as Vera was good at shifting the way he fought.
"With Brandon against Shogun, first of all, Vera is a very smart and instinctive fighter," said Couture. "He made adjustments very quickly against me in our fight to make it very hard to take him down. I had to fight the second and third rounds very differently than I planned to because Brandon was so good at adapting. He also hurt me very badly with a kick to the liver in the second round. I don't think Brandon realized how badly he'd hurt me with that kick. He let me off the hook, and I was in great shape and was able to recover. But he can hurt Rua for sure with his strikes."
Couture noted how Vera lost track mentally during his current UFC run, but he has all the skills to pull off a victory against Mauricio Rua (20-6).
"Brandon has been on the down and out for a couple of years, but there was a time when people were saying he could win the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles at the same time," said Couture. "But something happened mentally and he went off the boil. Now he's got a big chance to play spoiler here. He's got a great set of tools to make the upset. He's the better wrestler, he can hang on the feet, and he's got very little to lose. He can let it all hang out and – mentally – be right there, he has a shot."
While Couture picks Rua to win, he said not to count Vera out.
"Rua is still one of the top contenders for the belt and should be feeling the pressure to impress on the night. But he's had issues with his knees and you can't discount that. He has to be favored to win this - he's the guy with more big wins, championship experience, and he's the one with serious ambitions of being a two-time UFC champion at the weight. It is Rua's fight but don't discount the upset."
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