12-0. It more than likely won’t ever happen again, but I correctly picked every single one of the winning fighters on the 128 card. Feeling confident, I went to Vegas a few weeks later and thought I had a solid six-fight parlay if it were not for Mike Russow spoiling everything!
ANYWAY, I am done whining and here we are at fight week for UFC 129, live from the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The gate is the highest in North American MMA history (55K strong) and it marks the UFC’s inaugural event in Canada’s largest metropolitan city (by population, that is). With a Maple Leaf-heavy card headlined by the golden boy of the Great White North (GSP), let’s get to the card…and no, I won’t say “eh?” at any point during this write up.
The Completely Broadcast Preliminary Card
Pablo Garza over Yves Jabouin (Facebook)
John Makdessi over Kyle Watson (Facebook)
Ryan Jensen over Jason MacDonald (Facebook)
Ivan Menjivar over Charlie Valencia (Facebook)
Daniel Roberts over Claude Patrick (Facebook)
Jake Ellenberger over Sean Pierson (Spike TV)
Nate Diaz over Rory MacDonald (Spike TV)
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson – Lightweight
Given the proliferation of Canadians on this card, the UFC starts the pay-per-view with a LW bout between countryman Mark Bocek and former WEC LW champ Ben Henderson, making his UFC debut. Fortunately for Henderson, I do not anticipate Bocek leaping off the cage and kicking him in the face ala Anthony Pettis. Unfortunately, he’ll have to keep this on the feet since Bocek’s a BJJ blackbelt with 7 of his 9 wins coming by submission (I don’t think Bendo will be able to snatch him up with that guillotine he’s become so fond of). Leading off the main card in his home country has got to have Bocek pumped for this fight, but Henderson has the advantage in the stand up and I think will be able to stay away from any scramble that might get him into trouble long enough to get a win.
Jay’s Pick: Henderson by decision
Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida – Light Heavyweight
Is it crazy to think that, if his pre-fight announcement stands, Randy Couture will be retiring from mixed martial arts and only be the 2nd or 3rd fight on the main card? For what he claims will be his final fight, Captain America draws The Dragon, who went from being completely elusive, untouchable and dominant to riding a two-fight losing streak following his title loss to Shogun and his questionable decision loss to Rampage at UFC 123. Couture is obviously known to be master strategist and claims to have something very specific in store for Machida, but he has not faced truly ‘game’ competition since losing to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 back in November ’08.
Since then, he lost to an aging Big Nog, won a suspect decision against Brandon “The Truth Is That He’s Underachieved” Vera, beat an over-the-hill Mark Coleman and then choked out James Toney (who had no right to be in the Octagon in the first place). Machida is due and I think he will be able to stay out of Couture’s dirty boxing and clinch range long enough to pick at him before finishing him off. Although hell, let’s face it, The Natural has been written off and counted out so many times before so who knows if he’ll pull another rabbit out of his hat. Either way, I am sticking with my pick.
Jay’s Pick: Machida via TKO, R2
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz – Light Heavyweight
To be completely honest, I struggled with this fight more so than any other fight on the main card. Brilz is one tough sumbitch, compiling an impressive 18-3-1 record, using some great wrestling to set up submissions (apparently Cecil Peoples successfully cloned himself and both Peoples’ were hired as judges during his most recent outing in an incredibly dubious split decision loss to Lil Nog at UFC 114).
The Janitor, on the other hand, bounced back from his R1 TKO loss to current LHW champ Jon Jones with a TKO win over Alexandre Ferriera at UFC 122. Both guys are stocky, getting up in years (Matyushenko is 40, Brilz 35) and will be ready to go come Saturday. Matyushenko will make sure to not leave this one in the hands of the judges and finish with strikes.
Jay’s Pick: Matyushenko via TKO, R3
Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick – UFC Featherweight Championship
If you are going to have the biggest fight in terms of gate in UFC history, having more than one title fight is just good business. Having one of the challengers a hometown boy who hits hard and likes to trade? Even better. Hominick is riding a five-fight winning streak since losing to Josh Grispi back at WEC 32 in Feb ’08 and has finished 4 out of those 5. Is the division as stacked as others in the UFC?
Objectively, no, but of the contenders out there, Hominick is seasoned with 28 fights and he’ll definitely lay it out there for his home country. Unfortunately, he’s going up against the current champ in Aldo, who hasn’t lost since the Bush, Jr. administration and has collected 3 Knock Out of the Night awards since 2009. That’s not even taking into account the fact that he’s a BJJ black belt and 5 of Hominick’s 8 losses have come by submission. The FW belt flies back to Brazil on this one.
Jay’s Pick: Aldo via TKO, R3
I considered splurging on airfare, getting a cheap hotel, and heading up to Toronto this weekend for the atmosphere surrounding this event and particularly for this fight. The crowd is going to go absolutely insane for George St-Pierre when he makes his way down to the Octagon to defend his title against Jake Shields and his fifteen-fight winning streak. Odds makers have GSP anywhere from around -400 to -500, which is saying a lot about Shields’ chances.
Despite the flack GSP gets from MMA fans about his lack of recent finishes, the man has absolutely dominated the division since the Serra loss back in ’07 by running through Hughes, Penn, Alves, Fitch, Koscheck (twice) and has not lost a single round. Shields has taken out some tough opponents in other organizations as well (Dan Henderson, “Mayhem” Miller, Paul Daley) but his split decision win in his UFC 121 debut against Martin Kampmann was far from impressive.
If this were strictly a jiu-jitsu competition, I’d actually give Shields the edge, but other than that, GSP has more powerful wrestling and faster, more accurate hands. Given his love and pride in his home country, I think GSP will put on another show (and yes, I think he’ll finish this one).
Jay’s Pick: GSP via TKO, R4