Friday, May 6, 2011

UFC 129 PREVIEW: Penick's full event breakdown and fight predictions for GSP vs. Shields in Toronto

By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

UFC 129 is finally here tonight, and the first ever stadium event in UFC history is sure to have an insane sold-out crowd at the Rogers Centre to cheer on the multitude of Canadian MMA fighters on the card. Out of the 12 fights scheduled for the event, only two fights will not have a Canadian represented, and it will make for a loud and passionate crowd throughout the night for what should be a highly entertaining night of fights. Jury duty has kept me out of action for much of the week here on the site, so unfortunately this event's preview will be a bit shorter than normal, but here's how I see things playing out tonight at UFC 129.


Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields (UFC Welterweight Championship)

The UFC has done their best to present Jake Shields as a legitimate threat to GSP's reign atop the welterweight division, but while he remains one of the most dangerous fighters to face on the ground, he's going up against the most well-rounded and the greatest fighter in the division.

GSP matches up favorably with Shields in strength and grappling, and though Shields' submission prowess likely gives him the advantage in that department, St. Pierre's defensive abilities should be enough to get him out of trouble when he needs to.

Ultimately, because of St. Pierre's grappling ability, both on the offensive and the defensive, I don't expect this fight to be there all that often. The biggest advantage St. Pierre has in this fight is in the striking game, where he is simply leaps and bounds ahead of Shields. And that's not meant as a slight to Shields, it's simply the part of his game where he hasn't advanced nearly to the level of his ground game, whereas St. Pierre's striking continues to get more refined and dangerous.

This should be a good, competitive fight throughout, but I think ultimately it will be St. Pierre once again laying on the punishment on the feet for the duration, and eventually I see Shields succumbing to the accumulation of strikes in the championship rounds.

PREDICTION: St. Pierre by TKO in the fourth round

Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick (UFC Featherweight Championship)

Mark Hominick's got a better chance in this fight I believe than a lot have given him, but he's still a massive underdog for a reason. We've seen Aldo earn victories in a number of ways in his time in the WEC, from the eight second destruction of Cub Swanson with a double flying knee to the five round humbling of Urijah Faber, Aldo has faced and beaten the best an (admittedly) thin featherweight division has had to offer him.

Hominick has come on strong over his last several fights, earning impressive wins over George Roop, Yves Jabouin and Bryan Caraway in the WEC cage. But while he has the speed, aggression and power to trouble Aldo in ways Aldo's other opponents haven't been able to, I don't know that it will be enough to dethrone the champ. I think this will be a good fight, and an exciting fight, but Aldo is immensely dangerous and he'll find a way to stop this midway through the fight.

PREDICTION: Aldo by TKO in the third round

Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida (Light Heavyweight)

Randy Couture asked for this fight. That's admirable for the 47-year-old legend, not wanting to simply ride into the sunset on wins over what has been less-than-stellar competition over his last several fights. Saying this will be his last fight, he's taking on a legitimate challenger in the division, only two fights removed from being the division's champion, and who lost a razor thin split decision in his last fight to another top contender in "Rampage" Jackson.

Machida understands the spot he's in. He's lost two fights in a row, the last of which because he was hesitant to engage off the bat in the fight. A more aggressive "Dragon" is in order against what will be a slower Couture, and though Randy is capable of doing damage in the clinch and squeaking out rounds, Machida's got the power to hurt him when he attempts to engage.

Couture will be competitive in this fight, but Machida is looking for something spectacular after his last fight, and doesn't want to allow the judges to determine the outcome of this one, I think he'll find a way to finish this.

PREDICTION: Machida via TKO in the second round

Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz (Light Heavyweight)

Brilz is returning from a nearly year-long layoff after his valiant effort against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira last May. Matyushenko has kept himself relatively busy since his return to the UFC, with this fight being his fifth over a 19-month timespan. Coming off a first round stoppage of Alexandre Ferreira in Germany last November, Matyushenko wants to continue the momentum.

This was and still is an odd choice for the pay-per-view card, and it's likely to be a battle of wills between the old guard in Matyushenko against the grinding and talented Brilz. It's going to be close, but I think the cage rust will play a major factor in Brilz's performance and allow Matyushenko to edge him on the scorecards.

PREDICTION: Matyushenko via unanimous decision

Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson (Lightweight)

This fight is Henderson's opportunity to prove that his competition in the WEC was just fine and that he can absolutely compete with the guys in the UFC. It's also a chance for him to try to get out from under the shadow of "The Kick" that he took from Anthony Pettis in December.

Mark Bocek has submitted four of his last five opponents, with the only holdout being the decision loss to Jim Miller at UFC 111 that he nearly pulled out. He's as dangerous a fighter as any that Henderson has ever faced, and presents a huge challenge on the ground.

That said, Henderson's insane flexibility has gotten him out of trouble in the past, and his submission game is pretty damn good himself. This should be a fast-paced, highly competitive and entertaining fight, but at the end of the night I think Bocek is simply really, really good, and I think he finds a way to snatch a limb from Henderson at some point late in the fight.

PREDICTION: Bocek via submission in the second round.


Sean Pierson vs. Jake Ellenberger (Welterweight)

Ellenberger may be stepping in on late notice for this fight, but he's a massively dangerous opponent regardless of the notice he's given. Pierson's wrestling is pretty good, and he could surprise people by giving Ellenberger a challenge in the early going, but this fight is Ellenberger's all the way. He hits very hard, and if he can come in and do what he's capable of, this fight should end in violent fashion.

PREDICTION: Ellenberger via TKO in the second round

Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald (Welterweight)

I love this fight, and for fans it's awesome that it's on free TV. MacDonald is returning for the first time since his loss to Carlos Condit last June, and though he was beaten badly in the third round of that fight, he was still ahead on "The Natural Born Killer" heading into that final round. The 21-year-old has done nothing but impress everyone who has seen him fight or who has stepped across the cage from him, and he'll be out for his 11th stoppage win against the always tough Diaz.

Coming off a disappointing decision loss to Dong Hyun Kim, this is a fight that will likely determine which direction Diaz takes next with his career. He's 2-1 since making the move up to welterweight, but he's coming in against a buzz-saw in the 21-year-old Canadian, who will be competing in front of a massive home country crowd.

Diaz is tough, and has taken a ton of punishment throughout his career without ever being stopped by strikes. That toughness will allow him to bring this fight through 15 minutes, but surviving won't be enough to win.

PREDICTION: MacDonald via unanimous decision


* Daniel Roberts over Claude Patrick via unanimous decision

* Ivan Menjivar over Charlie Valencia via unanimous decision

* Jason MacDonald over Ryan Jensen via submission in the third round

* John Makdessi over Kyle Watson via TKO in the second round

* Pablo Garza over Yves Jabouin via TKO in the second round


12 - GSP - TKO RD. 4
11 - Machida - TKO RD. 2
10 - Ellenberger - TKO RD. 2
9 - R. MacDonald - DECISION
8 - Makdessi - TKO RD. 2
7 - J. MacDonald - SUB RD. 3
6 - Aldo - TKO RD. 3
5 - Matyushenko - DECISION
4 - Bocek - SUB RD. 2
3 - Menjivar - DECISION
2 - Roberts - DECISION
1 - Garza - TKO RD. 2

$500 on J. MacDonald
$200 on Bocek
$100 on Garza

$200 parlay on J. MacDonald, R. MacDonald and Makdessi


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