As UFC Lightweight Ryan Couture (6-2) prepares for his sophomore effort inside the Octagon, the up-and-coming MMA fighter feels a sense of relief this time around. At UFC 164, he’ll battle former TUF Live finalist Al Iaquinta (5-2-1) on the Facebook preliminary card.
When Couture joined MMA Fight Corner on the day of weigh-ins ahead of his fight, he admitted that he doesn’t feel half as much pressure on him as there was when he made his promotional debut.
At UFC on FUEL TV 9, Couture flew to England to make his UFC debut opposite a grizzled veteran in Ross Pearson. Things didn’t go Couture’s way that night and he was TKO’d in the second round of action of the co-main event.
In his second effort, his mind has is at ease. There’s been less build up, he hasn’t had to travel to another country, and the nerves of making his debut on the world’s largest MMA stage exist no more.
“I’m kind of excited to be flying a little more under the radar this time and to be fighting early and getting it over with,” Couture admitted. “I think that’ll be a big help in dealing with the nerves this time through. Camp’s been awesome. I feel sharp and I’m ready to go.”
Recently, his Las Vegas-based training camp, Xtreme Couture, has had a lot of fighters and coaches part ways with them. The gym was established by Ryan’s UFC Hall of Fame father, Randy Couture. In addition, due to a falling out the elder Couture had with UFC President Dana White, Ryan didn’t have Randy cornering him in his debut as he previously had. Despite any changes, Ryan has managed to have a productive training camp and has adjusted to the other extenuating circumstances.
“I still have my core group of guys that I train with and my training team has stayed completely in tact, so things have been going great,” Couture added.
Ahead of Couture lies Al Iaquinta, a Long Island, New York native who trains among the likes of Matt Serra and Ray Longo. Known for his performances on The Ultimate Fighter Live season, Iaquinta made it to the season’s finale where he suffered a first round submission loss to Michael Chiesa in June 2012.
Next, Iaquinta was expected to square off against another TUF alum, Joe Proctor at UFC 159. However, both fighters had to withdraw due to injury. After 14-months away recovering from a knee injury, Iaquinta is back to also make his second UFC appearance.
Initially Ryan was slated to meet Quinn Mulhern at UFC 164, but Mulhern had to pull out with an injury and Iaquinta jumped at the opportunity to fight Couture. To prepare for Iaquinta, Couture took to YouTube to find some tape on the prospect and also watched his scraps that took place on The Ultimate Fighter. One thing Couture thinks could play to his advantage is the fact that Al hasn’t competed in over a year.
“It may cause him to start a little slower, or it may take him a little longer to find his groove. But it also leaves a little uncertainty as to what tools he may have added and what changes he may have made in that time in the gym. So, I can’t expect him to be the same guy he was a year ago,” said Couture.
“I think I’ve seen most of his fights, if not all of them by now, and he hasn’t changed too much. He’s just gotten better. He’s tough, he hits hard, he’s aggressive, he’s going to come forward and try to take my head off. I’m kind of used to that. We’ve trained for that before so, I just gotta play to my strengths, try to get a hold of him and make him grapple with me and see if I can get the submission.”
Now that the much dreaded Octagon Jitters are behind him, Couture wasn’t discouraged by his loss to Pearson. Instead he said he’s learned from what went wrong in that fight and hopes to show Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center an improved version of himself on Saturday night.
“I think I was kind of tense and I drained my gas tank quicker than I would have liked,” Couture said. “And I think that tension kind of led me to make some mistakes that Ross was able to capitalize on and it cost me the fight. But I also learned that I’m capable of competing with a guy at his level and I think I proved that in the first round. I did really well, started strong. I’ve just got to loosen up and relax a little bit so I can see it through to the finish.”