UFC129 – St Pierre vs Shields: Preview and Predictions

First of all an apology. Haven’t blogged in absolutely ages and have missed the opportunity to talk about so many significant fights and events. This blog will be an abridged version of my normal predictions posts as once again I find myself with so mch to do and so little time!! Anyhow, enough of the excuses, onto the action! The UFC returns to Toronto tomorrow night and Canada’s favourite MMA son, George “Rush” St Pierre defends his Welterweight title for the 6th time (7th if you count him winning the interim title against Matt Hughes). His opponent Jake Shields has been on a dominant run in the “minor leagues” of American MMA and earned himself a shot at GSP with his decision win against Martin Kampmann taking his unbeaten run to 15 straight fights.

Elsewhere on the card we have the first UFC appearance since the WEC merger of top P4P contender Jose Aldo. The little Brazilian has been a revelation since exploding onto the world stage with his devastating brand of muay thai tha has made many compare him to that other dominant Brazilian with the deadly hands and feet – Anderson Silva. Aldo is on an 11 fight run and defends his belt for the 3rd time, even though technically this is the 1st defence of the UFC featherweight title.

Rounding out a superb 3 fight headline of this event is Randy Couture vs Lyoto Machida. The “machida era” as coined by Joe Rogan was short-lived and after Mauricio Rua showed one way to solve the Machida Puzzle, will Randy be able to se his brand of dirty boxing and greco-roman wrestling to show another. Many wrestlers have fallen at Machida’s feet, not least Rasha Evans who was KO’d in brutal fashion. Does the same fate await the ageing Captain America, or will he give another performance that will make him think it is not quite his time to bow out just yet.

Here are my predictions of how it will all go down in the main card:

Benson Henderson 12-2-0 vs. Mark Bocek 9-3-0 – Lightweight
Henderson is the former WEC lightweight champion and was on the on the wrong end of one of the greatest highlight reel moments ever in MMA when Anthony Pettis’ matrix style off-the-cage-wall kick landed on his jaw at the last ever WEC. He is an outstanding grappler and prior to that loss was 10 fights unbeaten. Like his opponent, he loves a submission and this match against Bocek should be an excellent match for fans of top-level grappling in MMA. Whilst he doesnt have the same kind of record as his opponent, Bocek is no joke. He is one of Canada’s first ever BJJ blackbelts and as the local fighter he will enjoy the home-crowd support. Bocek is a bit of a grinder and has a kind of slow-and-steady style that has been effective at times but he has stalled against the more dynamic fighters he has faced like Frankie Edgar and Jim Miller. You don’t get too many more dynamic than Henderson who I expect to use his speed to force an electric pace on Bocek. I don’t see Bocek coming out of this fight with the win and am picking Henderson to pick up a submission some time in round two as Bocek wilts under the relentless pressure he finds himself under. Henderson submission round 2

Vladimir Matyushenko 25-5-0 vs. Jason Brilz 18-3-1 – Light Heavyweight
I must admit to being surprised at the inclusion of this fight on the main card, I think given the quality of the match-ups throughout the other marquee fights, maybe the Diaz vs McDonald fight would have been better placed amongst them. MMA fans are never 100% happy though and whilst this probably won’t be as dynamic as the other matches on the card, this is certainly a well-matched clash between two veterans who really know the game. Whilst Brilz has been in amongst it a fair few times in his career at 35 years old he is still 5 years younger than his opponent, who can’t have too many miles lef on the clock. I thought Brilz deserved to win his last fight against little Nog and on that performance I can’t see Matyushenko troubling him too much. Both guys have heavily wrestling based styles, but Brliz is younger, faster, and better in my opinion. Matyushenko has enough about him to gut this out to a decision but I think Brilz needs a good win and he knows it, and will really go after the finish. He won’t be able to do it Jon Jones style, but I’m going to go for a TKO stoppage in the third for Brilz. Brilz TKo rd 3

Randy Couture 19-10-0 vs. Lyoto Machida 16-2-0 – Light Heavyweight
This is an intriguing match-up on many levels. Firstly there is the obvious stylistic clash: Randy’s grind-em-against-the-cage and beat them on the inside brand of MMA against Lyoto’s in and out striking style coupled with effective takedowns and strong GnP from inside the guard. Then there is the the fact that Lyoto needs a win badly. If he loses this it is going to be very hard to argue his place in the UFC and he may find himself plying his trade in the UFC B division (formerly known as Strikeforce!). Randy doesn’t need MMA anymore, he has a great gym, an acting career (such as it is) and the image and brand that can earn a fighter big bucks long after he has hung up his gloves. It is only Randy’s desire for competition that drives him on. but he is also accutely aware of his longeivity in the sport andhow much he can squeeze out of his remaining time. If he wins this and then “retires” again, he will get big (well bigger!) money than he is on now as Dana will no doubt attempts to tease him out of “retirement” to give the fans what they will inevitably crave – one last hurrah in the octagon from Captain America.

Whether it will come to that is up for debate as if Machida fights the correct fight, then I think this is a bad night for Randy. Machida needs to be on his toes and use his kicks and long jabs to pepper Couture and set up the big shot. Randy has had his lights put out a good few times and despite being on a 3 fight streak since returning to LHW, when you look at the opponents (Vera, Coleman, Toney) they are all fights he was absolutely expected to win. Even if he gets hold of Machida then he could have a hard time getting him down as Machida has a great clinch himself and stuffed almost every single takedown attempt of Tito Ortiz when they fought. As long as Machida stays off the fence he can win this fight, and I think he will. Although I am tempted by the conservative pick of a fairly comfortable decision, i can’t get the images of Rashad Evans crumbling against the fence when he squared off against Machida. I think the dragon could find the opening to do the same to Randy and so i am going for a KO in the 2nd. Machida KO round 2

Jose Aldo 18-1-0 vs. Mark Hominick 20-8-0 – UFC Featherweight Championship
There can’t be too many people giving Hominick a chance in this fight. For sure the home fans will be rooting for their boy, but even those cheers will be slightly hollow as they will certainly sense the inevitability of Hominicks demise as soon as the first few shots land. No-one that I have seen in the Featherweight division can hang with Aldo. His striking is simply out-of-this world and if you do get him down to the mat he will mess you up there too. No fighter is unbeatable, and just when their air of invinvibility seems unpenetrable someone will come along with the antidote (see Machida, and to some extend Anderson Silva against Sonnen). But I don’t think Hominick has the antidote to Aldo and this could be a short and pretty painful night for hime. I don’t want to do him a total injustice, he will come to fight and will make it exciting by going after Aldo, but that just plays into the Brazilians hands (and feet and knees and elbows!). Aldo TKO round 2

Georges St. Pierre 21-2-0 vs. Jake Shields 26-4-1 – UFC Welterweight Championship
With almost half their total combined fights ending in decisions, many people will be expecting an epic five rounder in this match. This one is a shoe-in for fight of night and in Jake Shields, GSP will be up against one of the most difficult challenges he has faced in his MMA career. Both men are are elite wrestlers and BJJ blackbelts. GSP definitely edges the standup game and possibly the wrestling but in submissions you would have to give it to Shields. I would expect GSP to come out with a very similar gameplan to the Koschek fight: use that awesome jab and stuff the takedowns. For Shields the mission is simple, put GSP on his back. Well it’s simple to make the gameplan – it’s a whole other ballgame to execute it. It’s hard to remember the last time GSP was put on his back and put in trouble. I’m sure the cesar gracie camp have been working hard on doing just that, but I am equally sure they have no training partners as good as GSP on which to practice. I can’t see anything other than a GSP decision win here, it will be a great fight and there may even be some hairy moments in there for the champ. But I predict he won’t be losing the gold just yet! GSP decision

******************** UPDATED WITH RESULTS ******************************
Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza – My Pick: Actual: Garza Submission (flying triangle) rd1
John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson – My Pick: Actual: Makdessi KO rd3
Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen – My Pick: Actual: MacDonald Submission (triangle) rd 1
Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia – My Pick: Actual: Menjivar TKO rd 1
Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts – My Pick: Actual: Patrick Decision
Sean Pierson vs. Jake Ellenberger – My Pick: Actual: Ellenberger KO rd 1
Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald – My Pick: Actual: MacDonald decision
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson – My Pick: Henderson submission rd 2 Actual:Henderson decision
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz – My Pick:Matyushenko KO rd1 Brilz TKo rd 3 Actual:
Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida – My Pick: Machida KO rd2 Actual: Machida KO rd2
José Aldo vs. Mark Hominick – My Pick: Aldo TKO rd2 Actual: Aldo Decision
Georges St Pierre vs. Jake Shields – My Pick: GSP Decision Actual:GSP Decision


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