Is the world ready for Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva? | Photo: Dominic Chan/WENN.com
Georges St. Pierre left the masses unsatisfied, as the man some view as the top pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts went the distance for the fourth time in as many fights.
St. Pierre defeated Jake Shields by unanimous decision to retain his welterweight crown in the UFC 129 headliner on Saturday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. In doing so, the soon-to-be 30-year-old turned away yet another chief rival but kept his detractors in business. St. Pierre has not finished an opponent since he ousted an undersized B.J. Penn in four rounds more than two years ago. That nugget seems to have overshadowed his career-best nine-fight winning streak.
Having all but eliminated the contender population, St. Pierre has few worthwhile options left at 170 pounds. He lost a round for the first time since 2007 but looked no less dominant against Shields, a durable and driven two-division stalwart who entered the Octagon on a string of 15 consecutive victories.
A closer look at the matches we want to see after UFC 129 “St. Pierre vs. Shields” follows:
Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva: If “The Spider” passes his forthcoming test against Yushin Okami at UFC 134 in Brazil, he, too, will have effectively wiped out a division. Silva hushed his own critics in February, when he knocked out Vitor Belfort with a jaw-dropping front kick. He has won 14 fights in a row, 13 of them inside the UFC. No other man has treated the Octagon to such dominance. However, St. Pierre’s relentless takedowns seem a perfect foil for Silva, whose lack of wrestling skills remains a glaring weakness. Though his latest performance left many uninspired, St. Pierre did nothing to diminish his status as the welterweight division’s alpha male. Should he decide against a move to middleweight, a showdown with current Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz at 170 pounds would be an easy sell.
Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian: Thanks to the underrated and underappreciated Mark Hominick, Aldo’s aura of invincibility took a significant hit in his unanimous decision victory at UFC 129. For once, he looked human.
Pushed for five grueling rounds, Aldo ran out of gas in the fifth and was forced to weather a ground-and-pound onslaught from Hominick for much of the final five minutes. That, combined with an expected influx of former lightweights to 145 pounds, means his spot at the top may be far more tenuous than first thought.
Florian, a two-time lightweight title contender, brings with him a wealth of experience and a cerebral approach to fighting.
Provided he gets past the world-ranked Diego Nunes at UFC 131 in June, he seems like an appropriate challenger for Aldo. However, the unbeaten Chad Mendes might get first dibs.
Lyoto Machida vs. Quinton Jackson: Machida kept safe his place among the world’s premier light heavyweights, as he knocked hall of famer Randy Couture into retirement with a vicious second-round front kick. Still very much in his prime, the 32-year-old Brazilian remains a difficult strategic puzzle to solve. He clearly has a desire to return to title contention, and that road may lead to a rematch with Jackson, who faces “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 alum Matt Hamill at UFC 131. Jackson won a controversial split decision from Machida in November. Would anyone be opposed to rounds four, five and six?
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Luiz Cane: Matyushenko packs quite a punch. Just ask Jason Brilz. The grizzled 40-year-old Belarusian knocked out Brilz in just 20 seconds at UFC 129, as he once again slammed the cage doors on the fingers of Father Time. A powerful wrestler, Matyushenko can serve as an excellent litmus test for anyone teetering on the line between contender and pretender at 205 pounds. Cane steamrolled Eliot Marshall at UFC 128 and stemmed the negative tide that resulted from his back-to-back losses to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Cyrille Diabate. Matyushenko would almost certainly probe his takedown defense and ground skills. Neither man figures to factor into title contention, but they could still put on a meaningful fight as part of the light heavyweight division’s middle class.
Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis: Their first encounter was as memorable as any in recent memory. There is no reason to think a rematch would be any different. Henderson made a successful promotional debut at UFC 129, denying native son Mark Bocek a signature win in front of his fellow countrymen. The well-rounded 27-year-old former WEC champion has shown a diverse and complete skill set since Zuffa LLC welcomed his services in 2009. Henderson pairs a strong wrestling base with effective striking and an insane ability to escape danger on the ground. Pettis awaits a June 4 showdown with Clay Guida at “The Ultimate Fighter 12” Finale. Should he win there, the Duke Roufus protégé would likely move into position to challenge for the UFC lightweight crown. A defeat could set the stage for a rematch with Henderson.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Rory MacDonald: Two of the UFC’s top young talents at 170 pounds, they have staked their respective claims to primetime. Ellenberger wrecked Sean Pierson on short notice at UFC 129, as he finished him with a beautiful counter left hook and follow-up punches. Not long after, MacDonald corralled “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz. The 21-year-old Canadian dazzled the raucous Rogers Centre crowd with three belly-to-back suplexes and put on display his wonderfully diverse skill set. Diaz had no answer for MacDonald, and it stands to reason that few will as he continues to develop. Ellenberger, a stout wrestler with legitimate one-punch knockout power in his hands, has positioned himself for a meaningful fight. The 26-year-old Omaha, Neb., native has quietly compiled a 4-1 mark inside the UFC.