In the largest UFC event in history, the hype riding behind one of the organization’s most stacked cards did not fall short of expectations within the Rogers Centre of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. A former champion made his debut in the UFC against a rising star. A veteran of the game proves to show that even old dogs can learn new tricks. A legend of the game made the walk to the cage for the final time with a potential UFC Hall of Famer waiting inside. A hometown hero and a fighter who destroys all in his way let their fists fly with a title on the line. In the main event, one of the world’s greatest fighters battled against a specialist who has been unfamiliar with defeat for a period of time. With all the historic events that went down at UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields this past Saturday night, here is a recap of the evening as well as future match-ups that might take place for the victors.
“Smooth” Ben Henderson (12-2) defeats Mark Bocek (9-4) via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
In a truly entertaining match-up to kick the main card off, Ben Henderson was able to best the native Canadian Mark Bocek to a Unanimous Decision victory in his UFC debut. With the more precise striking the former WEC champion was able to keep Bocek in dire straits throughout the match’s duration. It seemed Henderson was doomed at one point when Bocek was able to plant an Anaconda Choke. However shades of his first bout with “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (13-4) arose when Henderson was able to hang on and explode back onto his feet, landing strikes to punish the Canadian. With his hand raised at the end, there is no doubt Ben Henderson has found a place in the UFC’s lightweight roster.
As a former WEC champion now stakes his claim in the UFC’s 155lbs. division ranks, perhaps it is time to officially give German kickboxer Dennis Siver (18-7) or “Handsome” Matt Wiman (13-5) their chance to step up from prospect to contender. With both men specializing in one art, Siver via kickboxing and Wiman as a wrestler, they hold well enough on their own even when fighting on foreign territory. Whoever wins after their encounter at UFC 132 in July might see Ben Henderson standing opposite of them sometime soon. “J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (19-6) still presents a danger to any fighter in the 155lbs. weight class. With his relentless pace and countless submission attempts Lauzon might give Henderson nostalgia of the WEC days.
“The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko (26-5) defeats “The Hitman” Jason Brilz (18-4-1) via Knockout, Round 1, 0:20
Twenty seconds in the first round was all “The Janitor” needed to sweep another victory in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Hoping to ride on the momentum after his controversial loss to “Lil’ Nog” Antonio Rogerio Nogueria (18-5), Jason Brilz planned to get back on the winning side after an 11-month layoff. Unfortunately, a right uppercut and straight left from Matyushenko put those intentions on hold for another night and another fight. A wrestler at heart, Matyushenko’s striking is improving. If he needed any confirmation about his current progress when it comes to letting his hands go, he has a highlight reel knockout on hand for him to refer to.
“The Janitor” wants a UFC title before he hangs his gloves up but as for now, he still remains in the middle of the pack within the UFC’s light heavyweight division. What contenders of any division have is a skillset diverse enough to help themselves manage no matter their situation. Matyushenko’s reputation as a wrestler will always precede him but to test his striking, “Banha” Luiz Cane (9-3)’s Muay Thai will definitely assess Matyushenko’s stand-up. Cane would love to add another victory to even out his current tear of 1-2 while “The Janitor” would love to prove he can keep up with the younger generation. This fight might not have any title implications tied on but will serve as a checkpoint to both fighters at this stage in their respective careers.
“The Dragon” Lyoto Machida (17-2) defeats “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-11) via Knockout, Round 2, 1:05
It was not the way Randy Couture would have wanted to end his career, but the urgency of losing a third match in a row led to Lyoto Machida knocking out his elder and mentor. It became apparent within the opening bell that Machida had Couture playing his game. Couture would strike and Machida would counter. Couture would try to secure the clinch, Machida would shrug him off. After a one-sided first round, Machida landed an elevated front-snap kick flush on Couture to drop him to the mat. Even though Machida attempted to attack the downed veteran, referee Yves Lavigne intervened saying that all has been done.
With the defeat of a former champion under him, Machida secures his standing as one the elite in the 205lbs. division. Now for him to get back and moving towards the title, he has to remove another top contender out of position, and with much of the light heavyweight ladder already occupied, Forrest Griffin (18-6) stands as one of the 205lbs. contenders who has yet to face Machida. With Griffin’s three-inch reach advantage and taller height, Machida’s plan of stepping offline to counter will be compromised as he would have to come within Griffin’s proximity to launch any offensive. Even if the fight is taken to the ground Griffin’s stellar Jiu-Jitsu and size again will pose a challenge to “The Dragon” no matter if he is in top position trying to control or on bottom trying to escape. “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (29-8) holds his win over Machida as undeserved and if the UFC wishes to make a rematch happen, Rounds 4, 5, and 6 would come to fruition. Jackson’s aggression and one-punch stopping power always has fighters cautious when approaching him, but Machida was able to stun and nearly finish Jackson in the final round. Another set of rounds might be needed to see if Jackson’s victory was a matter of judging or if Machida simply needed more time to execute his plan.
“Junior” Jose Aldo (18-1) defeats “The Machine” Mark Hominick (19-8) via Unanimous Decision, Round 5, 5:00
In his first official UFC featherweight title defense Jose Aldo added another victory to his reign of terror when he was declared the victor after a grueling five-round war with Mark Hominick. Aldo utilized an array of tools consisting of his typical straight right hands, stellar head movement, and pendulum-esque leg kicks to slow down Hominick during the championship match. Unlike many of his prior fights, Aldo initiated and landed some of his own takedowns in order to institute the Jiu-Jitsu offensive on Hominick and recover from exhaustion. Hominick though gave the champion the first true war in his MMA career, landing a multitude of solid shots to the champion. Hominick nearly stole the entire fight after being down four rounds when he brought Aldo down and tried to ground-and-pound his way to a victory in the final stanza. Unfortunately for Hominick, Aldo was able to hold on until the end of the match to receive the judges’ nod.
Since the WEC was absorbed into the UFC many UFC lightweights have chosen to make the jump down to featherweight. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace “Ken-Flo” Kenny Florian (13-5) is one of those fighters to have made that jump. The loss from “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0-1) set him back in terms of the lightweight division title picture, but if he can comfortably make the 145lbs. mark and convincingly get through a vicious Muay Thai striker in “The Gun” Diego Nunes (15-3), he might be given that chance at gold again. Wrestling powerhouse “Money” Chad Mendes (10-0) is riding an undefeated record on the other hand. Aldo’s difficulty escaping Hominick from bottom position in the fifth round might be a testament to how he handles himself in threatening positions or how he fares when exhausted. With a phenomenal wrestler in Mendes, Aldo’s Jiu-Jitsu game might finally be seen if Mendes collapses the pocket much like Hominick did, only bring the fight to a different dimension.
“Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2) defeats Jake Shields (26-5-1) via Unanimous Decision, Round 5, 5:00
At UFC 129 Georges St. Pierre walked out of the Rogers Centre as the welterweight champion and with another successful title defense to his credit. In a fairly lackluster, one-sided fight, St. Pierre was able to keep challenger Jake Shields out of his comfort zone in wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu for 25 minutes by keeping the fight standing. Much like his prior fight with “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-5), St.Pierre’s heavy use of the jab kept the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu student at bay for a majority of the match, even at his mercy when he dropped Shields with a headkick in the fourth round. Shields, to his credit, did not let St. Pierre win the battle unscathed as his repeated combinations of jabs and straights battered the left eye of the champion. For now, Shields is sent to the back of the line giving him a chance to work on improving his striking to compliment his one-of-a-kind ground game.
Short of major challengers now in the welterweight division, it appears that given a long lay-off to recover and healthily pack on the needed muscle, a jump in weight to face middleweight champion “The Spider” Anderson Silva (28-4) is one of the remaining options for St. Pierre to be challenged. Given his world-class striking, always dangerous potential to submit when seen on the ground, and size advantage, Silva would most easily contend with St. Pierre. Should he forge ahead at welterweight, former WEC champion “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (26-5) remains as one contender who St. Pierre has yet to face. Condit is well known as being a versatile fighter with an always aggressive attitude. His willingness to stay game will cause St. Pierre to fight on all fronts, rekindling that killer instinct he used to bear, or sink losing his title in the process. This of course would follow through if Condit can get past “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (11-4-2) at UFC 132. The Strikeforce Welterweight Champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (24-8) would be of course another challenging fight but unless the talks of merging or Diaz’s aspirations to turn to professional boxing are set aside, this easy-sell of a fight would have to wait.
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