Georges St. Pierre (file photo) has won nine straight. | Photo: Sherdog.com
They promised it would be big, and it was. UFC 129 brought two title bouts to a crowd of 55,000 in Toronto, showcasing a pair of champions, two tough challengers and a slate of supporting bouts.
Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre was his clinical, efficient self, decisioning Jake Shields. In the co-main event, Jose Aldo held off a surging Mark Hominick down the stretch in what was easily the best bout on the card and one of the best featherweight title tilts in the history of the sport.
Let’s take a closer look at who’s up, who’s down, who should hold ’em and who should fold ’em. The UFC 129 Stock Report is here:
Mark Hominick and Jose Aldo: This was a phenomenal fight, defined by Hominick’s rally from a pounding in the first round. It was straight out of “Rocky,” the overmatched challenger refusing to buckle, then closing strong down the distance with a ruthless blend of conditioning and unbreakable spirit.
By the second and third rounds, Hominick’s jab and peskiness were clearly bothering Aldo; after suffering a massive hematoma on his skull, Hominick mounted a rally that was an inspiring, head-scrambling roller coaster ride. Over most of the fifth round, he pounded Aldo with relentless shots from inside the guard. Impressively, the champion stayed intact over a marathon tightrope act.
Coming into this match, the featherweight division was largely seen as Aldo plus everyone else. This bout showed what an amazing fighter both of them are. That was the fastest-growing swelling I have ever seen -- even Hasim Rahman, he of the epic Evander Holyfield head butt, was probably horrified by how fast this thing bloomed. You could see it growing in real-time.
Yet, after passing a ringside physician inspection, Hominick rallied hard, putting Aldo on fumes with a furious last-round assault. "The Machine’s" finish is one of those rare glimpses into the depths of what a fighter’s heart is made of.
Lyoto Machida: The former light heavyweight champ was his old self Saturday, marking up Couture with spry striking and evasive movement before finishing brilliantly. Landing a fine real-life imitation of the crane kick made famous in “The Karate Kid,” Machida right-kicked Couture in the grill with his lead foot, sending Couture’s enamel flying in the process. It’s always worth the extra half-sawbuck it costs to get the HD pay-per-view feed.
The win puts him back in good stead after a two-defeat skid to Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson; by outfoxing the savvy-if-aged Couture, Machida proved he can still apply the magic that had the fight world captivated not so long ago.
Benson Henderson: “Smooth” was outstanding in decisioning Mark Bocek, showing a blend of wrestling and improved standup to carry him to a tough three-round win.
Jake Ellenberger: The hard-nosed welterweight has been cursed by a chaotic fight schedule in his UFC career, with opponent switches and substitutions, but he keeps rolling just the same. Taking a bout against Sean Pierson on a little more than two weeks’ notice, Ellenberger dialed in and dropped the hammer with a big left hook as Pierson waded in.
Ellenberger, a tough wrestler with 24 wins in 29 fights, may well be Jon Fitch v. 2.0. With heavier hands, he’s cut from the classical mold of power grapplers with top-level conditioning and an aggressive style. In short, he’s going to be a handful for anyone.
Ivan Menjivar: This sparkplug has always been exceptionally powerful for his size, and he showed how imposing he can be as a bantamweight in dispatching Charlie Valencia. Using a brutal, in-close elbow in a tie-up, Menjivar followed up with a dozen shots to finish the bout. After losing his WEC debut via decision to Brad Pickett, Menjivar instantly resurrected his career with this showing.
John Makdessi: “The Bull” showed heavy hands and solid timing with his counter punches. In the best homage to Shonie Carter seen in years, Makdessi stepped in with a feint low kick, nailing home a booming spinning back fist. It was a memorable win, showcasing highlight-reel technique.
Jason MacDonald: MacDonald’s ground game has always been stellar, marking him as something of a high-risk, low-reward foe for mid-level 185-pounders. He was precise and perfect at UFC 129, attacking Ryan Jensen quickly and forcing a ground battle, where he inevitably set up a triangle for the submission. It was a much-needed win for MacDonald.
Rory MacDonald: Sharp striking in the opening two rounds was followed by a trio of bodacious suplexes in the third. With a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz, MacDonald truly showed his versatility in getting a big victory here.
Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields: The conventional wisdom coming into this welterweight title belt was twofold; champ GSP would prove too diverse and capable on the feet or Shields would apply his wunderkind grappling to coax a submission.
The result was one few envisioned: St. Pierre cruised through a sometimes-tepid five-round bout, using more accurate and powerful strikes to take a unanimous decision. Interestingly, two judges scored it 48-47 for St. Pierre, showing how close Shields may have been if only he had been able to put together more sustained action.
It’s not entirely sure how this bout affects a St. Pierre campaign at 185; if he had finished Shields, that would have surely been the next most plausible move, at least in terms of marketability. Instead, we saw a horse race where St. Pierre finished by several lengths in front -- essentially reminding us of everything we already knew about him.
While St. Pierre’s vision was clearly affecting his performance, it is a testimony to his tactical brain that he still plied his modest and fading advantage on the feet, instead of trying for more takedowns.
It may take a great middleweight like Silva to force St. Pierre places he does not want to go; but on the heels of his fourth straight one-sided decision win, it does little to spark our motivation to see him move up.
However, he may have to -- right now he looks like Roy Jones Jr. did at 160 and 168 pounds: virtually unbeatable.
Randy Couture: If Couture had driven a monster truck through the center of the Royal Wedding, I still would not give him anything less than a “hold” rating. That is because he’s “The Natural” and the rest of us aren’t.
The two-division champ is a living legend. His swan song revealed that Couture is merely like 90 percent of the 205-pound division -- unable to solve the riddle that is Lyoto Machida.
Daniel Roberts and Claude Patrick: The welterweight prospects had an uneventful three-round affair. It may have been more a case of styles canceling one another out, as both are talented. Roberts’ striking was labored and rudimentary, while Patrick was unable to get untracked.
Mark Bocek: Game and ever-persistent, Bocek had some good moments before Henderson’s better standup proved the difference and swung the momentum midway through the bout. Bocek was persistent and imposing, but Henderson’s short shots and effective knees were the difference.
Nate Diaz: Outhustled by MacDonald, Diaz may need a year or two to truly get settled into a welterweight frame. Like brother Nick, he could use some time to grow into the 170-pound division and sharpen his standup. His conditioning and resilience are top-notch -- but at this point, he is still giving away a little too much strength and sharpness to the better welterweights. That can change over time.
Sean Pierson: Originally slated to take on Brian Foster, Pierson's home-country showing was spoiled by late sub Ellenberger. Pierson’s first UFC bout, a three-round stand-and-bang encounter against Matt Riddle, did not expose the holes in Pierson’s game. This fight did.
Ryan Jensen: Submitted quickly by MacDonald, Jensen has dropped three of his last four. Previously used as a measuring stick-style foe for up-and-comers like Mark Munoz and Court McGee, this loss definitely puts him on the bubble.
Charlie Valencia: KO’d in 90 seconds, Valencia has shown himself effective against lower-level 135-pounders. This was a definite setback for him, and he will probably have to get a win against an up-and-comer to rebound.
Kyle Watson: Ineffective through two rounds against Makdessi, Watson was blitzed out with a spinning back fist. In the packed lightweight division, a bad performance can be tough to overcome. His next bout will truly be a must win.