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MMA - UFC 129: St. Pierre vs Shields
Saturday, April 30, 9 p.m. ET
UFC 129 is a card packed with interesting matchups that's anchored by title defenses from two of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the
sport. Canadian fan favorite Georges St. Pierre will defend his welterweight crown against Jake Shields, and Jose Aldo makes his long-awaited
return to defend his 145-pound title against hometown striker Mark Hominick. This will mark St. Pierre's second straight title defense in his home
Georges St. Pierre (21-2) vs Jake Shields (26-4-1)
Remember that kid in high school who just happened to be a great athlete despite not looking like he's even trying that hard? That's Georges
St. Pierre, who despite having no real wrestling background growing up remains one of the most physically dominant wrestlers this sport
has ever seen. He's got a rare combination of power and raw explosiveness that none of his recent opponents have seemed to be able work
around, as he's put them on the ground at will with the ability to hold them down and do damage whenever he feels like it. He's also capable
of winning a fight on his feet, as his recent defeat of Josh Koscheck showcased how effective the lost art of the perfectly timed jab is.
is an admitted perfectionist, as he's been quoted as saying he's always looking for "the beautiful victory." His quest for flawless technique has
led to some recent criticism though, as it seems he's been too focused on doing everything perfect without actually aggressively trying to finish
his opponent. St. Pierre's last three fights have gone the distance and ended in lopsided five-round decision victories, but he's been unable
to finish despite having multiple opportunities to do so in each and every match. Some critics think he's lost his killer instinct, and those very
same critics think that could eventually be his downfall.
His opponent is Jake Shields, a Cesar Gracie camp representative who like his partners Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez has a reputation as a
relentless fighter who's nearly impossible to finish. Like St. Pierre, Shields base is in his dominant wrestling game and top control. Shields
hasn't lost a fight in nearly seven years, and in that span he's beaten some of the best the sport has to offer in two weight classes like Yushin
Okami, Dan Henderson, Jason Miller and Carlos Condit.
Aside from his wrestling chops, Shields is an accomplished grappler who holds a
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie, and he's shown a knack for finishing his opponents after wearing them down on the mat. He's
not as skilled of a striker or athlete as St. Pierre, but he's shown in the past that can take any punch that an opponent can hit him with. In his
upset of MMA legend Dan Henderson, Shields took one of Henderson's famous hand-grenades directly on the button. Not only was Shields
able to survive and recover when most men would've been put to sleep, but he went on to dominate the next four rounds en route to a
lopsided decision victory.
This is one of the more interesting title defenses we'll get to witness for St. Pierre because for the first time he's facing a fighter who's just as
relentless and skilled in the wrestling department but also has the added dimension of a dangerous submission game. This fight will come
down to how well St. Pierre can keep this fight standing. He's got a good enough arsenal to outpoint Shields all day on the feet, but Shields
will be relentless with takedown attempts. It'll be interesting to see how well St. Pierre can fight off of his back if Shields can take him down.
There's more potential for an upset here than I can remember in any of St. Pierre's recent title defenses, but I think he does just enough to win
this fight via split decision with some really close calls.
Jose Aldo (18-1) vs Mark Hominick (20-8)
This fight will mark Jose Aldo's third title defense at 145 pounds and the first ever 145-pound title fight under the UFC banner. If you've never seen a
Jose Aldo fight, go to YouTube and find his highlights. It should only take a minute or two, because most of the fights don't last long. Since
joining the WEC nearly three years ago, the Nova Uniao fighter has looked virtually unstoppable against every opponent including the long time
champ Urijah Faber. While Aldo possesses a dizzying array of flying knees, leg kicks and hard punches, he's also a Jiu-Jitsu black belt and he
proved in winning the title against Mike Brown that he's not to be toyed with on the mat.
Mark Hominick feels right at home, being the other Canadian fighting for a title on Saturday night. He also feels right at home because this
isn't the first time he's fought a title fight at the Rogers Centre, as he won his first ever MMA title for a much smaller fight promotion nearly 10
years ago. Hominick is likely the most well-rounded and technical striker that Aldo has ever faced, and he has the same advantage that Jake
Shields does in the fact that he's a heavy underdog who has the same strength as his opponent but also has a very sneaky submission game.
If this fight went to the mat (and I'd put a lot of money that neither man wants to do that) then Hominick won't overpower Aldo on the mat,
but he's shown the smarts and has the experience to catch the champion sleeping with a submission if given the chance. The best part about
Hominick's game is that he's willing to take chances in his fights, and he goes 100 percent looking to finish his opponent.
I'm willing to guess that with the way both of these guys fight that this can't go five rounds without someone falling. Aldo may show some ring rust given his extended layoff, but he's still an exceptionally gifted fighter whose athleticism is unparalleled at this point. I think the first couple
rounds go by with some really good exchanges, but by the third round Aldo's speed and power will get the better of Hominick and Aldo walks
away with a TKO victory and his belt.
Randy Couture (19-10) vs Lyoto Machida (16-2)
Randy Couture is older than most of our dads. Fact. Randy Couture would also beat the snot of us and our dad at the same time. Fact. Despite
being dangerously close to getting the senior citizens discount at the local Entenman's outlet, Couture is still a former two-weight class
champion with enough experience, toughness and skill to give his opponents problems. Couture's been hopping back and forth between light
heavyweight and heavyweight for a long time now and it seems like he hangs around in each class just long enough to embarrass someone
that he shouldn't beat before coming back down to earth and switching weight classes again. His wrestling will give anyone problems who isn't
prepared for it, and finishing him in a fight isn't something many fighters can say they've even come close to.
Lyoto Machida was once a 15-0 light heavyweight champion when Joe Rogan proclaimed "Welcome to the Machida era". Well, one highly
disputed decision win and two losses later and it looks like Rogan was a bit premature in his crowning of the new king. Machida seems to have
lost the elusiveness that once made him a terror to fight, and it seems that more and more the people who can find his chin also find out that
it's his weak spot. Where Machida excels is getting in and throwing a combination and getting right back out before his opponent has the
chance to counter. Luckily for him, he'll have that speed advantage he loves in this fight and he should be able to impose his will on the older
and much slower Couture. Should Couture get Machida to the ground, it's still a winnable fight for Machida because he's another jiu-jitsu black
belt who's not afraid to hit the mat. I can't see Machida finishing Couture, but I can see him outpointing Couture for three rounds en route to a
unanimous decision victory and getting back on track in the division he used to rule.
Ben Henderson (12-2) vs Mark Bocek (9-3)
If Gumby was an MMA fighter, he'd be Ben Henderson. I can honestly say I've never seen a person inexplicably escape so many submissions
where it looked like he had absolutely no shot of getting out. You name it; armbars, guillotines, triangles, heel hooks. Henderson has been
caught in each and every joint crushing, air-restricting one of them only to wiggle out and absorb little to no damage. It's a pity that Henderson
is best known for falling victim to Anthony Pettis' ridiculous jump-off-the-cage Mortal Kombat style head kick in his last ever fight in the WEC.
Henderson's real strengths lie in his tenacious wrestling and a crushing guillotine, both of which have helped him get to where he's at right
now. His standup is basic right now, but it's enough to occupy his opponent until he can take them down and beat them up a bit.
Here we go with the Canadian theme again. Mark Bocek could be the most unassuming looking fighter in the UFC. If I had to guess, I'd say he
was an accountant or a businessman. Instead, Bocek boasts one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu arsenals the UFC has to offer and it's evident by
winning seven of his nine fights by submission. He actually got his shot in the organization after becoming Dana White and the Fertita brother's
personal jiu-jitsu trainer years ago. He hasn't disappointed, always putting on a good fight and consistently a threat to finish the fight with an
This is an interesting style match up here, as both men will want to be on the ground but one man is known for not being able to be submitted
while the other man makes his living doing just that. Bocek isn't nearly the athlete that Henderson is, and that will be apparent in the stand up
game. But if this fight goes to the mat (and it should), Henderson needs to be aware that Bocek is on a different level submission-wise than the
guys who have threatened him before. I'm going to call an upset on this one, as Bocek gets the fight to the ground one way or another and ends
up surprising the former 155-pound champ in a submission.
Vladimir Matyushenko (25-5) vs Jason Brilz (18-3-1)
Here's another fight between two men with similar strategies, even if they use different styles to work those strategies. Vladimir Matyushenko
is a scrappy veteran with a ton of experience against good fighters. He uses a blend of raw power, tricky clinching and wrestling ability to
absolutely wear his opponents down if they aren't prepared for his tactics. Matyushenko is responsible for derailing more than one rise in a
promising young fighter's career as he's able to overcome his lack of athleticism with pure toughness and savvy. He'll work to get his opponent
to the ground and he's got a brutal ground and pound game once he gets you on the mat.
Jason Brilz was a relatively obscure fighter until his spirited short-notice loss to Antonio Rogerio Noguiera. That was a fight where Brilz was a
late fill in and he was supposed to get blown out of the water. What actually happened was Brilz showing his wrestling prowess to go along
with an improving stand up game that shocked everyone in attendance. Some thought he won that fight, and the hype train has been rolling
ever since. Brilz hasn't fought since last May, so it will be interesting to see if he's improved his game or his last fight was just a fluke.
Matyushenko has become the new gate-keeper at 205 lbs, and Brilz is the latest fighter to come knocking. I think Matyushenko answers the
bell with a fire, but ultimately Brilz superior wrestling will be enough to help him survive and early flurry and take control of this fight and end it
with a late TKO.
Jones gives the Packers a physical hitter and presence in the middle of their defense. Morgan Burnett is in the last year of his contract, is approaching 30, and had injuries last year. Jones could learn behind him for a year and then take over.