UFC 129 was a historic event in many ways. It was the largest event in UFC history in terms of media coverage, attendance, live gate receipts and marketing.
This was a night that saw a flying submission, an end to a historic career, a gutsy performance by Mark Hominick, an injury to Georges St-Pierre and a kick straight out of an '80s kung-fu film.
Overall, it was not the greatest in terms of the main card, but it did feature some great moments. The fact that the crowd cageside was the same as the entire Mandalay Bay layout is incredible. The more than 55,000 people in that stadium was a truly amazing sight considering that Zuffa has only owned the UFC for 10years. It makes a fan proud to see the sport growing like it has lately.
I will discuss seven topics that piqued my interest following UFC 129.
1. Pablo Garza wins with a flying triangle choke
Pablo Garza was getting thrashed by the kickboxing of Yves Jabouin, only to secure a triangle choke four minutes into the first round. He did it in spectacular fashion by jumping on Jabouin, pulling him to the canvas and securing the lock at the same moment.
Jabouin tried to escape with some ground and pound but Garza had the choke locked in tight and that was all she wrote. Garza received one of the sweet $129,000 bonus prizes for his efforts. His stock rose considerably both in the eyes of his fans and with the UFC brass.
2. Makdessi Knocks Out Kyle Watson with brutal spinning back fist
Kyle Watson came to Toronto looking for a win and he was confident he could do so. Undefeated prospect John Makessi had other plans.
The Canadian up-and-comer looked brilliant, controlling the majority of the bout with clean, effective striking. In the third round he cut Watson. He then faked a kick and landed a perfectly timed spinning back fist that knocked Watson out cold.
3. Rory MacDonald is a legitimate threat in the UFC welterweight division
Rory MacDonald proved on Saturday night that he is a serious threat in the 170 pound division, and he did it in his home country in front of a North American record crowd. Nate Diaz is a handful for anyone, but Rory MacDonald showed why he was able to dictate the pace and flow of the fight.
MacDonald nearly beat Carlos Condit in his second UFC fight, but Condit roared back in the third round for a thrilling victory. Despite the loss, MacDonald nearly beat a former world champion. And on Saturday night at Rogers Centre in Toronto, MacDonald grappled, slammed and battered Diaz for three rounds en route to a dominant unanimous decision win.
After easily winning round two, Rory lit up the crowd with three flashy suplex slams which he finished off with some relentless ground and pound. This win should get the youngster a top-10 opponent. That is a scary thought whenever you find out that he is only 21 years old.
4. Machida invokes the spirit of the Karate Kid
Lyoto Machida and Randy Couture entered the Octagon needing no introduction. With six UFC titles between the two of them, these men are already legends of the sport in the eyes of every fan.
Randy Couture entered the bout stating that this would be his version of the farewell concert, his curtain call in the UFC. In a lot of ways this fight was a very melancholy moment for the world of mixed martial arts. Lyoto Machida found a way to win over the moment by landing a move reminiscent of the front kick that Anderson Silva delivered on Vitor Belfort earlier this year.
Machida waited until he was in position and landed a jumping front kick that caught Couture right on the button and ended his fighting career in an instant. Machida is now thrust back into the upper echelon of the 205-pound division.
5. Ben Henderson is smooth
Former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson impressed Saturday with constant aggression in his bout with Mark Bocek. Henderson peppered Bocek with punches and leg kicks.
By the end of the bout Bocek was bleeding and battered. Henderson was awarded a unanimous decision and looked extremely happy to be doing it in the Octagon. Expect Henderson to be fighting top tier talent very soon.
6. Mark Hominick was battered but not beaten
Jose Aldo looked to defend his UFC featherweight title for the first time. And for the first round he came out and looked as viscous as ever, landing leg kicks and hard punches. But, somewhere in the second round he strayed from the script.
I’m not sure if Aldo got tired from too tough of weight cut, whether he had a less-than-stellar training camp or whether it was just an example of how good Mark Hominick is, but Aldo did not look like the same fighter than terrorized the WEC. Hominick confused the champion and by the beginning of the fifth round he looked poised to put the hurt on the champ.
It was remarkable that Hominick had even been able to continue due to the large hematoma on the top of his skull that looked like a balloon ready to pop at any moment. Hominick was able to get Aldo down in the last round and pummel him with punches mostly from guard.
Mark was far too tired to finish off the champion and Aldo cruised to a decision victory. He has been criticized, but Aldo still easily won another fight over a top contender. It is hard to imagine that he will be beaten at 145 pounds anytime soon, if ever.
7. Georges St-Pierre has few options left in the welterweight division
With another lopsided win, Georges St-Pierre has all but cleared out an entire division in the largest organization in mixed martial arts. GSP walked out of the Rogers Centre with his sixth consecutive title defense and he did it with one eye.
Shields landed a punch to the left eye of St-Pierre and the champion had trouble seeing for the remainder of the fight, and he was still able to dominate him.
So this leaves us with a dilemma. Who will GSP fight if he stays at welterweight? I can think of only three that make sense to me.
If Georges does not move up in weight to fight Anderson Silva then I feel he must fight either Jon Fitch, Nick Diaz or the winner of the bout between Dong Hyun Kim and Carlos Condit.
Fitch makes sense as his next opponent for two very good reasons. Fitch has earned a shot. He has beaten all challengers since losing to GSP in 2008, with the one exception being a controversial draw in his fight with B.J. Penn.
Also, Fitch and GSP each need a good six months to recover. This could set up a rematch in November or December that would admittedly not be a huge seller, but it is a fight that Jon Fitch has earned.
Nick Diaz as an opponent would be an easy sell. The problem with that is that Diaz is still under his Strikeforce contract and he has been adamant about fighting in a boxing match before he returns to the cage.
Dana White is going meet with Diaz this week, and I would bet that he is going to offer Diaz more money to take a title shot at the UFC title and find a way for him to get out of his Strikeforce deal. After all, Zuffa now owns both of the organizations and fans have been clamoring for superfights.
Can you imagine a December card in Texas Stadium headlined by Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz? It would be epic.
The winner of the fight between Kim and Condit also would pose an interesting matchup. Condit especially is intriguing because of his chin and attacking style. I don’t see this happening but I wouldn’t complain if it did.