One whole week before UFC 129 may be a bit early for a preview, but as the event draws nearer, one can feel the magnitude of this upcoming card. Not only is it taking place in Toronto, Canada, which is the home country of welterweight (170 lbs.) champion Georges St. Pierre, but it may very well be the last time we see MMA legend Randy Couture compete in the cage. All this, plus the debut of featherweight (145 lbs.) champion Jose Aldo and it's understood why UFC 129 may be the biggest card of the year so far in the UFC and possibly all of MMA.
The main event alone is an exciting one that is being looked forward to with much anticipation. That is because it features arguably the most popular fighter in the sport today, St. Pierre (21-2, 8 KO's 5 subs) defending his title against quite possibly his toughest test to date Jake Shields. Shields (26-4-1, 3 KO's 10 subs), is a former 5x World Champion in every major organization outside the UFC, including both Strikeforce and EliteXC. He's also a decorated jiu-jitsu black belt under renowned trainer Cesar Gracie. That is why I find it so difficult to believe that Shields is such a huge underdog.
If St. Pierre has one advantage on Shields it's in the stand-up game where GSP's Kyokushin Karate and boxing background make him far superior than Shields with both his hands and feet. However, when it comes to the ground game, as proficient as St. Pierre is in both wrestling and jiu-jitsu, where he is also a black belt under Bruno Fernandes, I have to give the advantage to Shields. A former college All-American wrestler from Cuesta College in California and highly decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner, Shields has fused wrestling into his jiu-jitsu game, thus describing his style as 'American Jiu-Jitsu'.
Yet, as evenly matched as they are, I predict St. Pierre will be the victor here in a late round TKO via ground and pound. Why? As experienced as Shields is, this is only his second fight in the UFC and first in the main event. He has recently stated he did not realize all the media demands that a fight of this stature in the UFC requires and I think inevitably GSP's experience in the octagon, 17 fights in seven years, will prove the difference. I think Shields will wear out by the fourth or fifth round under the pressure and get caught under a barrage of punishment from St. Pierre that will force the referee to stop the fight. Bold prediction considering GSP has not won a fight via stoppage in over two years.
As for Couture (19-10, 7 KO's 4 subs), the 47 year old marvel looks like he's finally decided this will be his last hurrah. He's been hinting at retirement after his last couple of fights after coming out of his first retirement four years ago to win back the UFC heavyweight championship for a second time against Tim Sylvia. A former two-time light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion as well, that is where he will fight his last fight against another former champ Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida.
Machida (16-2, 5 KO's 2 subs) is coming off two straight defeats in 2010, the only two of his career and suddenly finds himself at a crossroads for the first time in his career. As great as Couture is at game planning and figuring out fighter's that possess unique styles, such as Machida's Karate/counter-striking style, I think he will end his career with a loss as he did the first time. I think Machida will see the faults in his laid back approach, implement a much more aggressive demeanor and win a close decision against one of the all-time greats of the sport.
Hard to believe that the exciting and flashy Aldo (18-1, 12 KO's, 2 subs) isn't getting much attention on this card, but that's what tends to happen when you're out of sight, out of mind. However, if he holds true to form after coming back from a neck injury, the UFC fans are in for a special treat. The UFC's first and only featherweight champion is the number one featherweight and consensus number three pound-for-pound fighter in the world for good reason. This 24 year old kid has decimated the competition in his weight class.
Step up Mark 'The Machine' Hominick (20-8, 9 KO's 7 subs), winner of his last five fights in a row. At 29 years of age, Hominick is a true veteran of this sport fighting his first fight before his 20th birthday. A well-rounded fighter who is part of highly recognized 'Team Tompkins', Hominick would be favored against just about any other featherweight in the world. However, against Aldo I don't see it happening.
Unless the injury has caused Aldo to suffer some ring rust or his first fight ever in the UFC can cause the champ to have the well known first time octagon jitters, I see Aldo finishing Hominick within the first two rounds. His devastating Muay Thai style has caused fighters to fold under kicks, knees, elbows and anything else he can throw. Also, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from famed Nova Uniao and a member of the great 'Blackhouse' team, there's just too much here for Hominick to overcome. Don't blink as this fight along UFC 129 should live up to the hype and be fast and furious.