UFC 129 Results: Georges St-Pierre Bleeds, Doesn't Break & More Lessons Learned
UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields lived up to its not inconsiderable billing even if its namesake did not.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship's first foray into the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto went off with a minimum of hitches. The Rogers Centre crowd was electric and appreciative of the sport in all its facets, growing restless only once the entire event and mildly so the one time it did happen.
The Canadian fighters came out on top in the majority of their matches and in the most important one.
Only the muted affair between UFC Welterweight Champion Georges "Rush" St-Pierre and game challenger Jake Shields marred an otherwise stellar night. Even the GSP-Shields clash delivered to a degree, it just wasn't the triumphant capstone to the evening many hoped and expected it to be—myself included.
Nevertheless, UFC 129 was a smashing success.
UFC Featherweight Champion Jose "Junior" Aldo and Mark "The Machine" Hominick put on a show for the ages in the other half of the co-main event, earning Fight of the Night honor.
Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida sent Randy "The Natural" Couture into retirement with one of the greatest knockouts you'll ever see. Of course, the Dragon was only following the lead set by the preliminary card, where five of seven bouts ended before the judges got involved.
So Dana White, Joe Silva and the rest of the UFC powers-that-be still know how to put on a historic event, delivering at UFC 129 much like they did at UFC 100. But we pretty much knew that going in—Saturday night was more a reminder of the fact.
Here are the real lessons we learned in Toronto.
Predicting Fight Outcomes Is a Waste of Time...for Me
I had Nate Diaz beating Rory "The Water Boy" MacDonald, Jake Shields upsetting Georges St-Pierre, Shields winning Submission of the Night, Jose Aldo winning Knockout of the Night and GSP vs. Shields earning Fight of the Night.
Granted, I did correctly predict victories for Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger, Ben "Smooth" Henderson, Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko, Lyoto Machida and Aldo.
But those were relatively obvious choices.
The UFC Isn't Quite as Hospitable To Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu
Daniel "Ninja" Roberts got dismantled by Claude "The Prince" Patrick.
Nate Diaz got destroyed by Rory MacDonald.
Jake Shields pushed him harder than anyone since Baby J, but still got handled by Georges St-Pierre.
Although it's two best stallions—Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez and Nick Diaz—are over in the Strikeforce stables, Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was still expecting better results than an 0-fer-Toronto with two severe thrashings.
Team Canada Can Fight...and Take a Beating
Okay, so there is no real Team Canada.
With nine of 12 pairings at UFC 129 featuring a Canadian versus an American (and a 10th taking on the Brazilian, Jose Aldo), it sure had some of the trappings of a team competition.
The Rogers Centre arena certainly embraced the made-for-the-event rivalry and backed their athletes like few crowds I've ever heard outside of European soccer.
And, man, did the Canucks enjoy themselves inside the Octagon as well.
Of those nine tussles pitting a Canadian against an American, the Great White North saw its fighter's hand raised six times and watched its favorite son, Georges St-Pierre, retain his welterweight strap.
It also witnessed featherweight contender Mark Hominick absorb one of the more hellacious beatings you'll see inside a cage. Although the Machine tasted Aldo's wrath time and again, the tough-as-nails Hominick kept coming back for more—even shrugging off the ugliest hematoma anyone has ever seen (warning: picture to come).
If not for Rory MacDonald, the Machine would've given the most impressive showing of the 10 Canadian competitors and he would've done it in defeat.
A New Legend Is Born: The Historic Hominick Hematoma
And that's a good angle of the hematoma.
An elevated angle taken from Mark Hominick's other side makes that baby look like a serious case of elephantiasis. From that angle, the Machine's nickname would more appropriately be Rocky, and not the Sylvester Stallone version.
In all honesty, that fight probably should've been stopped—Hominick is an all-time warrior for his eagerness to continue the scrap despite the alien head protruding from his forehead, but it would've been a step backward for UFC 129 and the sport in general if that thing had burst.
In a lot of ways, we were all saved by Jose Aldo's brutal weight cut that left him totally fatigued in the fifth round, incapable of threatening that bulbous monstrosity.
If I've got this right, there was a whole lotta blood welling up under the flesh.
A stiff punch landed in the right spot by the Brazilian could've theoretically sent a cascade of Hominick's fluids all over everyone in the general vicinity. The MMA skeptics would've been all over that scene.
Not really the scenario you want unfolding at the UFC's first event in Ontario after the sport was legalized.
But all's well that ends well.
The Welterweight Division Has a New Player, Rory MacDonald
The most incredible performance on Saturday night belonged to young Rory MacDonald.
The 21-year-old Waterboy absolutely dominated Nate Diaz in every element of their three-round fight. He showed excellent defense against whatever Diaz threw at him on the feet or in an attempt to drag the scrap to the ground. In addition to the crisp striking MacDonald used to tenderize the younger Diaz Brother, he brutalized his opponent with raw strength and athleticism.
Any highlight reel of UFC 129 will forever include images of Rory tossing the pride of Stockton around the cage like the proverbial rag doll. It's not often you see a professional fighter chucked a** -over-tea-kettle, but Nate found himself ripped off his feet and airborne on three occasions.
I know I'm higher on Nate Diaz than most, but even his detractors must admit he's no chump in the Octagon.
Yet that's precisely what Rory MacDonald made him look like for 15 minutes.
It was very reminiscent of Jon "Bones" Jones breakthrough against Stephan "The American Psycho" Bonnar, given the Water Boy's age, the profile of his adversary and the way the contest unfolded.
And considering the dearth of viable challengers for the 170-pound monarch, GSP (read: guys he hasn't already beaten), a similarly meteoric rise may be on the horizon for the young Canuck.
It's High Time Jake Ellenberger Gets Some of the Spotlight
The UFC welterweight division is becoming one of the organization's most crowded.
With Rory MacDonald's symbolic pronouncement at UFC 129 that he's ready for deeper waters, the 170-pounders add another talent to an already thick crop.
GSP rules over dangerous subjects like Thiago "The Pit Bull" Alves, Carlos "The Natural Born Killer" Condit, Jon Fitch, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann, Dong Hyun "Stun Gun" Kim, Josh "Kos" Koscheck, John "The Hitman" Hathaway, B.J. "The Prodigy" Penn, Jake Shields and Rick "The Horror" Story. Believe it or not, that's not even an exhaustive list; there are three or four names I didn't include that probably deserve to be there.
Jake Ellenberger used to be one of those unfair omissions, but no more.
The 26-year-old from Nebraska hasn't lost since he accepted a date with Condit on short notice and proceeded to drop a split decision.
That was almost two years ago—in the roughly 20 months since that loss, he's stopped the underrated Mike "Quicksand" Pyle, John "Doomsday" Howard and now Scott Pierson. He also earned a split-decision over glowing prospect Carlos "Ta Danado" Eduardo Rocha.
The Juggernaut was slated to face Fitch earlier this year, but those plans were scrapped.
I say it's time to get Ellenberger that bout or an even tougher one because he's bombed his way onto the list of top contenders at welterweight.
Vladimir Matyushenko and Ben Henderson Are Bad Men, Only 1 Is a Contender
I've been a big fan of "The Janitor" for years and it was awesome to see Vladimir Matyushenko get the quick KO of Jason "The Hitman" Brilz at UFC 129. But with all due respect to the big Belarusian, all that talk of contending for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship was strictly for the pre-fight hype reel because the 40-year-old has already faced Jon Jones.
And he got run right over by Bones' vicious elbows.
Matyushenko simply isn't a serious contender in the UFC's deepest division at this stage of his career.
On the other hand, Ben "Smooth" Henderson can slide right in amongst the top challengers at lightweight.
Mark Bocek might not be a world-beater and he overestimates his ground game, but he is a handful at 155 pounds. If he's not one of the top lightweights, he's only a hair below that group. Despite those credential, Smooth had little trouble with the Canadian on Bocek's home turf.
Given the energy in the building, that's no simple task.
The WEC merger has injected serious depth at 155 pounds with Anthony "Showtime" Pettis, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and now Henderson joining the ranks.
Lyoto Machida Is Still a Dangerous LHW, but Let's Not Get Carried Away
Lyoto Machida appeared to be his old self against Randy Couture.
The Dragon was deftly side-stepping the Natural's offense while launching accurate counterstrikes before retreating back into his elusive bubble of space. Additionally, the leaping front kick that ended the matter was a thing of beauty.
Nevertheless, we must make allowances for Captain America's sunset ride.
By his own admission, Couture felt like he was "standing still out there." That's not to diminish either Lyoto's victory or Randy's iron will—let's be brutally honest, the Natural was a sizable underdog for a reason and half the battle was just agreeing to take the fight—but I do mean to pump the brakes on any "he's back" talk.
The Brazilian karate specialist certainly seemed like the pre-Shogun II version, but I'll wait for more evidence before hopping back on the bandwagon.
Mark Hominick Really Is the Machine, Showed Incredible Heart
That right there is something I hadn't seen since Junior broke on the WEC/UFC radar. Granted, I've only seen his last five fights so I can't say Mark Hominick is the first person to ever put Jose Aldo in a supremely compromised position, but it's a safe bet considering the way the young Brazilian has run through top competition in his last quartet of bouts.
Yes, the fact that Aldo hadn't competed since September played a part in the outcome, but give the Machine his due.
We've already covered the hematoma, but there was so much more courage on display from the Canuck.
He weathered a furious opening salvo from the UFC Featherweight Champion and came right back with shots of his own. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say Jose looked surprised at certain points during the first round. Whether it was because his gas tank was running low so quickly or because he was taking return fire, we'll never know.
One thing is certain, however, Mark Hominick wobbled Aldo with a few of those shots in throughout the fight. Not permanently, not even badly, but the champ definitely took an unsteady step or two.
Additionally, the Machine endured more of those wicked leg kicks than should be humanly possible before finally breaking down in the fourth round.
Amazing performance in defeat by Hominick.
It Wasn't the Prettiest Chapter, but Jose Aldo Adds To His Legend
Having give Mark Hominick his well deserved praise, let's cut to the chase—Jose Aldo was ambushed by himself more so than the Machine.
You could see the ease with which he was dispatching Hominick in those opening few minutes before he realized that he was gassing. The challenger was getting walloped to the head and body while those trademark leg kicks knocked him essentially off his feet.
Ordinarily, Junior keeps that pace going until the referee takes mercy on his enemy-for-the-day or the latter goes limp.
At UFC 129, he wasn't as relentless.
Hominick definitely had something to do with the unusual pauses Aldo took from time to time, but I'm inclined to take the champ at his word. In his post-fight interview, he said the longer layoff gave him a chance to put on more muscle than he's used to operating with and it cost him his customary level of activity (I'm paraphrasing).
In other words, Jose Aldo was vulnerable in front of an incredibly dangerous and rugged challenger yet he rose to the situation and persevered.
And he learned an invaluable lesson without suffering defeat.
That's very bad news for the rest of the 145-pound world.
A Bruised and Bloodied Georges St-Pierre Reveals More Athlete Than Fighter
It was a stark contrast to see Georges St-Pierre whining—sorry GSP fans, there's no better word for it—about the minor damage to his grill after his fellow Canadian, Mark Hominick, had been campaigning to avoid a doctor's stoppage despite the horrendous gore inflicted upon him by Jose Aldo.
And therein lies the problem with GSP.
He's much more professional athlete than he is a professional fighter.
I don't mean that as an insult—it's a testament to just how superhuman the man is that he's one of the sport's top three warriors despite not having the same bloodlust that many of his colleagues boast.
Nevertheless, the same reservations that seem to prevent him from pouncing on an outclassed opponent and alleviating the judges of their responsibilities are the ones that cause him such concern when something sneaks through his defenses.
The UFC Welterweight Champion was groaning to his corner as soon as the first blood and swelling appeared. Meanwhile, his intra-round counseling always resembles more therapist's couch than fighter's stool. Of course, he doesn't often need strategic help since he's so frequently dominant, but that doesn't change the impression that GSP's psyche is very high maintenance.
Consequently, doing damage to Rush is sort of a double-whammy; it weakens GSP physically, but it also screws with his critical mental focus. To date, he hasn't encountered any gladiator who's able to keep up with his incredible skill set.
Sooner or later, though, he'll run across one and things will get very interesting.
Jake Shields Was Better and Worse Than Advertised, Ultimately Shined in Defeat
If someone told me GSP and Jake Shields spent 24 of 25 minutes on the feet during their title bout, I would've expected an embarrassing romp for the UFC Welterweight Champion. I would've been in the majority.
Few observers—even Shields most ardent supporters—would've expected Shields to not only give Rush a run for his money, but also to be the first challenger to take a round off the champ. I'm not sure I agree, but two of the three judges at cageside gave the American two rounds against the Canadian kingpin.
The third gave all five to GSP, but details, details...
The bad news for Shields is that his superlative grappling and takedown offense never materialized. He was able to get his hands on St-Pierre several times, but Georges shirked him off each time with demoralizing ease.
Thus, Jake spent all but 60 seconds of the scrap trading jabs and kicks with a man who was supposed to be light years beyond him in the striking department. For his troubles, he was thoroughly outpointed, but certainly had the fresher face when all was said and done.
Nobody in the UFC competes for moral victories, least of all Jake Shields.
Alas, that was his consolation prize on Saturday night.
Randy Couture Retires as Gracefully as Ever Despite the Loss
It wasn't the storybook ending his die-hard fans and many newer ones had hoped for, but the end to Randy Couture's epic career still felt like a high note. Although he had been crane kicked into oblivion moments earlier by Lyoto Machida, the Natural bounced back and gave an articulate-if-not-eloquent post-fight interview in which he confirmed his permanent retirement.
He also spend some of his final air time complimenting the Dragon and cracking a few self-deprecating jokes.
In the process, Captain America demonstrated—unfortunately for the last time—what was perhaps the greatest trait he ever bestowed upon mixed martial arts.
The man was as classy as they came whether he'd finished an opponent or been finished by one. Win, lose or draw, Couture was the picture of sportsmanship and dignity inside the Octagon. He might've lost his fastball a few years ago and been more of a novelty act in these last couple years, but he will be missed.
He helped popularize the sport as one of its first mainstream ambassadors and he'll continue to be effective in that role outside the cage, but Randy Couture will most definitely be missed.
Georges St-Pierre Is Still the Champ and Still the Best
Some of the mystique was erased by Jake Shields, but Georges St-Pierre remains the UFC Welterweight Champion and arguably the best fighter the sport has to offer.
Shields ground game cannot be denied, which allowed him to deploy his better-than-advertised striking with greater ease than any of Georges' previous opponents. Furthermore, Jake proved against "Dangerous" Dan Henderson that he's no simple chore to put away. The result was, just as GSP stated, the most dire threat the Canadian hero had faced during his reign atop the 170-pound division. He got popped in the eye, experienced some swelling and bled for the first time in ages.
Yet Georges St-Pierre was never really in trouble except from his own neuroses.
You can't really say he silenced his critics because he had yet another victim ripe for the finishing and failed to sufficiently press the advantage. But a win is a win and GSP keeps racking them up.