27 April 2011

UFC 129

The majority of the undercard and all but two of the main card matches fall under the purview of USA vs. Canada, something UFC loves to do whenever they're north of the border or across the pond (and possibly in Brazil this August). I even expect most of the Canadians to win on the undercard. Nate Diaz and Jake Ellenberger will probably come out on top during the prelim fights on Spike, though. Also, this event is notable for two other reasons. First, this is the UFC's debut at 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific, mostly because it's been increasingly difficult to get east coast folks to commit to fights that start at 10pm. This is a great move on the UFC's part, since most of their main events have started at midnight EST and I am an old man that gets tired just thinking about staying up that late despite my crippling insomnia. I can't imagine actually living on the East Coast and having to deal with such late UFC start times. The second thing that makes this card notable is that it's the first event in Toronto, a hotbed for MMA for a very long time, and it's taking place at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the SkyDome, which will hold a UFC and North American record of 55,000 plus fans. I really hope the production team makes this aspect of the card come across on TV because that's a gigantic number and something really special. They need to get some crowd shots and mic the place well, especially during the prelims on Spike, since this is so out of the ordinary for UFC events that it could actually get some on-the-fence types to lean towards purchasing. What I'm saying is that this show is a big deal.

Marc Bocek vs. Ben Henderson - Fresh off a destruction of Dustin Hazelett, Bocek faces former WEC Lightweight Champion and victim of the Showtime Kick, Ben Henderson. And while Bocek is a great BJJ grappler, Ben Henderson is Gumby. This guy can get stretched, twisted and pulled in ways that the human body should not be able to withstand and yet he continues to do so. Bocek for sure has the advantage on the ground, and he may be able to control Henderson if he gets the opportunity, but Henderson is just too well-rounded. Henderson has a durable chin and much better stand-up than Bocek could ever dream of having. I'm not only rooting for Henderson to win, I'm picking him to get a guillotine choke in the second round for the submission even though he'll probably wind up just taking the decision.

Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida - Despite the fact that Machida has somehow managed to get many people believing in the power of karate again, I learned a long time ago never to bet against Randy Couture. Win, lose or draw, Randy says that this is his last fight since he's going to be 48 in two months and he's making a lot of money outside of fighting just being Captain America and palling around with Sly Stallone. And, if by some chance he's able to have a good showing against Machida AND get the win, I think he might take another fight. These guys are a great stylistic match-up because both present aspects of their game that look to confound the other. A guy who works great in the clinch and can control distance between himself and his opponent is the perfect guy to take on Machida. Someone who is elusive, speedy and has tremendous knock out power is exactly the kind of guy that can take out Couture. Despite being on a three fight win streak, two of Couture's last opponents (Mark Coleman and James Toney) arguably had no business being in the octagon and he got a bit of a gift in the Vera fight with the decision win. And I honestly think that Machida will knock him out in the second, but I'm going with my heart here and picking Couture by unanimous decision.

Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz - Ugh...this fight is all sorts of lame and does not belong on this pay per view card when Nick Diaz is fighting in the one hour Spike TV prelims. In fact, this fight has gone through more changes than [insert timely awards show reference here]. Originally, UFC booked Matt Hamill to take on Phil Davis. Then Thiago Silva faked a drug test and Hamill was moved to UFC 130 to face Quinton Jackson. Mr. Wonderful's new opponent was Jason Brilz; not the most exciting fight, but at least Brilz had some momentum coming off a decision robbery against Noguiera. When Tito Ortiz pulled out of his fight in Seattle against Li'l Nog in late March, Davis replaced Ortiz, and Matyushenko moved in to face Brilz. This is all more interesting than this fight will actually turn out to be on pay per view. I plan to eat a piece of pizza and go to the bathroom and engage in lots of conversation about how boring this fight will inevitably be and generally be annoying during this fight out of frustration that is even on the main card. And Brilz will win by decision because Matyushenko is old and over the hill, kind of the opposite of Randy Couture in every way.

Mark Hominick vs. Jose Aldo (c) for the UFC Featherweight Championship - This is the debut of the featherweight championship under the UFC banner, and it's pretty auspicious since you have a guy who is thought to be an Anderson Silva level of athlete fighting a dude in front of 55,000 people in his home town. On paper, Hominick has a few impressive wins. He's also got crisp, technical stand-up and submission skills that few would scoff at. BUT HE'S FACING JOSE ALDO! This guy so thoroughly destroyed Urijah Faber that Faber left the division. He knocked out Cub Swanson with a double flying knee in eight seconds. His leg kicks are devastating. His knock out power is so great that he hasn't needed to use his Nogueira brothers black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. This is the most clear cut case of "anything you can do I can do better" on the part of Jose Aldo. And Aldo will win by knockout in the first round.

Jake Shields vs. Georges St. Pierre (c) for the UFC Welterweight Championship - Let's make things clear first: this is not the mismatch or blowout that everyone seems to think it is. Jake Shields is a dangerous ground fighter who has a fifteen fight win streak. He manages to win all of the time. Not all of the wins are impressive, mind you, as there are plenty of boring decisions in the mix. But the dude has a way of winning. And not in the gross and disgusting Charlie Sheen way of winning, but in the sense that he gets the job done.

Shields is a ground specialist so that means he'll manage to keep control of most opponents even if it means he doesn't get the submission. He also has a tremendous gas tank, despite his lackluster performance against Martin Kampmann back in October. While the winner of that fight easily could have gone either way, Kampmann is no joke and Shields fought him coming off a disastrous twenty pound weight cut that left him looking gaunt and listless. Taking that into account, Shields did a great job considering what a horrible job he actually did, if that makes any sense.

Shields' best chance of winning is in grabbing a guillotine choke should GSP go for a takedown. He has a knack for grabbing and holding that choke, especially if someone is foolish enough to leave an arm in, which GSP does on his takedowns on a consistent basis.

But who am I kidding? That isn't going to happen because GSP won't make a stupid mistake like that. Again, it's possible but possible in the sense that it's possible that I could one day, in a bout of weird Fringe-ian circumstances, start to sprout a third arm growing out of my back because anything is possible. Will a third arm grow out of my back any time in the near future? More than likely not. So will GSP go for a takedown against Jake Shields and leave himself open for a guillotine choke? More than likely not.

There is a strong chance that GSP could choose to attempt to beat Jake Shields at his own game, just like he did in the first Josh Koscheck fight or the second BJ Penn fight. However, that's just playing into Shields' hands and I doubt he wants to do that. Instead, I see St. Pierre finally attempting to finish a fight for the first time in three years. As great as Jake Shields is on the ground, his stand up is terrible. This is a guy that has been training and fighting MMA for ten years and yet his striking still looks slow and rudimentary every time he faces an opponent. Meanwhile, GSP utilized a jab for five rounds and managed to break Josh Koscheck's orbital bone in the first. Koscheck is still looking at another six months before he's able to fight again.

I am rooting and hoping and just plain WANT GSP to end this fight standing, preferably early. This is Georges St. Pierre we are talking about, though. GSP will retain his championship by decision.

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