UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields" is all set to invade the Rogers Centre for the promotions debut in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this Saturday, April 30, 2011, live on pay-per-view (PPV).
It's one doozy of a card, pitting pound-for-pound great Georges St. Pierre against former Strikeforce Champion Jake Shields. That's not all, however, as Uncle Dana White has decided to grace us with an entirely watchable card.
While the main card boasts a bevy of compelling match-ups, the preliminary card is certainly nothing to scoff at and is worth more than just a passing glance.
And for the first time in the history of the UFC, all seven preliminary fights will be available for viewing live; five via Facebook and two via Spike TV.
Without further ado, in we go:170 lbs.: Nate Diaz (13-6) vs. Rory "The Waterboy" MacDonald (10-1)
The half of the ever-grumpy Diaz brothers that is still in Dana White's good graces, Nate is a former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner and had a pretty good thing going for himself at 155-pounds, including a submission of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt Kurt Pellegrino, before a controversial decision loss to old foe Gray Maynard (which capped off an abysmal 1-3 run) drove him to the greener, wrestlier pastures of 170.
After knocking Rory Markham’s block off at UFC 111 and rebounding from an early knockdown to submit Marcus Davis, he ran into a Korean brick wall at UFC 125, dropping a decision to undefeated Dong Hyun Kim. Should he lose here, he will be 3-5 over his last eight fights.
Heralded as the vanguard of a new generation, one raised exclusively on MMA as opposed to converting from existing disciplines, 21-year-old Rory MacDonald entered the UFC on a high note, submitting Mike Guymon on the undercard of the very fight that drove Diaz out of the lightweights.
He proceeded to prove that he was more than hype at UFC 115, shellacking former WEC Champ Carlos Condit for approximately thirteen minutes before succumbing to a late onslaught from the Greg Jackson trained fighter.
Come Saturday night, the Canuck super-prospect will look to reignite the hype train.
What I think is the best indicator of how this fight will go is Nate’s response to his defeat this past January, which saw him completely controlled for ten minutes before his foe’s gas tank gave him an opportunity he failed to capitalize on. He went on a rant about wrestlers and how he didn’t need to improve his wrestling, the rules had to change.
That, right there, indicates to me that Nate will have a great deal of trouble with the upper echelon of the division.
I have every reason to think MacDonald will come into this fight as a much better fighter than he was against Condit, and he was pretty spectacular there. I also have every reason to think Nate will be the same fighter that got manhandled by Guida, Stevenson, and Kim.
Though he is incredibly talented, Nate seems content with just good boxing and a solid guard game, while MacDonald has a much more varied arsenal. Diaz can’t dictate where this fight goes and that will be his undoing; I don’t doubt that he can outwork MacDonald in certain areas, but Rory can move the fight to wherever he has the advantage.
Look for The Waterboy to, just like Captain Insano, show no mercy with a kickboxing assault and a sprinkling of takedowns to complement it.
Prediction: MacDonald via decision.
Besides possessing what has to be the most generic nickname this side of "The Warrior", MacDonald is a true Octagon vet, having fought 11 times under the ZUFFA banner. Though he has lost six of those, those defeats came at the hands of some of the best in the division, including Rich Franklin, Yushin Okami, and Demian Maia.
He last fought at UFC 113 a little under a year ago, when he joined the likes of Corey Hill, Duane Ludwig, and Jared Hess in the "Holy Crap What the Hell Happened to his Leg" Hall-of-Fame (HCWTHHTHLHOF, for short) after a takedown from John Salter twisted his foot the wrong way. Insult may be added to injury should he lose Saturday night, as a loss could very well send him packing.
Jensen is no UFC rookie himself, as this will mark the eighth time he’s entered the Octagon. Although only two of his seven fights ended in his favor, he hasn’t exactly had an easy road, taking on wrecking balls like Thales Leites, Demian Maia, and Mark Munoz. Currently in his second run with the promotion, Jensen absolutely needs to win on Saturday to stay relevant.
This could be a classic "loser leaves town" battle. Neither man has impressed in the UFC; with only one quality Octagon win between them (MacDonald’s guillotine defeat of Chris Leben), this match-up could end up resulting in the cutting of fat from the middleweight division. On the bright side, the fact that Jensen has never gone to a decision and MacDonald has eighteen submission wins to his name cements this as quite an exciting fight.
It’s a hard one to choose; MacDonald has much more experience and will be fighting on his home turf, but a year away from combat, especially one necessitated by a gruesome injury, will take some wind out of his sails. Still, better someone who has somewhat impressed than someone who hasn’t impressed at all. This should be a good scrap while it lasts, which won’t be long before MacDonald gets his hands on Jensen’s neck.
Prediction: MacDonald by submission
170 lbs.: Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger (23-5) vs. Sean "Pimp Daddy" Pierson (11-4)
After whatever vengeful gods Brian Foster had offended took their vengeance via TKO (brain hemorrhage and burst testicle), brick-handed banger Jake Ellenberger stepped in on short notice to face UFC sophomore Sean Pierson. After a disappointing split-decision loss to Carlos Condit in his debut, which saw him tire out after a horrendously one-sided first round in his favor, he rattled off three consecutive wins, stopping Mike Pyle, turning John Howard’s eye into a balloon animal, and weathering an early grappling storm from Carlos Eduardo Rocha on route to a decision.
At only 26 years old with 19 stoppages to his credit, the sky’s the limit for Ellenberger, and he’ll be looking to prove it against Pierson.
A former police officer who was apparently deemed too pimpin’ for the Toronto PD, Pierson debuted in the UFC’s last foray up to the Great White North, locking up a decision against robot-impersonator Matt Riddle. Interestingly, that fight marked the first time he had defeated an opponent without stopping him in 15 fights. In the make-or-break UFC of today, he’ll have to get the streak going again in his hometown if he wants to stay relevant.
I’ll admit it; I have not seen all that much of Pierson outside of the Riddle fight, but it’s what I didn’t see that convinces me that he’s doomed. He essentially had Riddle on a silver platter -- the man was throwing punches so ugly that Joe Louis was spinning in his grave and Pierson’s pimp hand still wasn’t strong enough to put him down.
Not good against someone with a cast-iron jaw and dynamite hands.
Ellenberger has the wrestling chops to keep this fight wherever he feels most comfortable, and that’ll probably be standing. Howard blasted the hell out of Jake in the third round of their fight and couldn’t put him away, and I’d reckon that "Doomsday" hits twice as hard as Pierson. As bad as Jake’s gas tank is, I doubt it will be a factor, as he’ll knock Pierson’s block off early and with extreme prejudice.
Prediction: Ellenberger by decapitation. Don’t you know who he is?
When it comes to MMA veterans, they don’t get much more ... veterany ... than Menjivar, who had the honor of being Georges St. Pierre’s first opponent. Well, his first knockout victim as well, but the point stands; Menjivar has been in the game for almost ten years despite being only 28 and has faced some serious competition, even submitting UFC vet Joe Lauzon with a calf slicer.
After a three and a half year hiatus from the sport, he returned in 2010, picking up a submission win in the regional circuit before joining the WEC for its swan song. Unfortunately, he tasted defeat once again at the hands of eternal contender Brad Pickett despite a veritable typhoon of punches that very nearly put Pickett down. At 1-3 in his last four, this is a must-win for the Canuck.
Valencia was riding high on a three-fight winstreak when he got the unenviable task of being the testing dummy for Miguel Torres’s new boxing style at UFC 51. The former champ, enjoying a frankly unfair six-inch height advantage, did his best Tommy Hearns impression, slicing Valencia up with a quick jab before submitting him in the second. A WEC vet who fought nine times for the promotion, Valencia will look to prove that size doesn’t matter in his UFC debut.
Much as I’m fond of smaller scrappers, Valencia may just be too small for 145-pounds; at only 5’3" he’s three inches shorter than Menjivar, who isn’t exactly a skyscraper himself. Plus, aside from knocking out Antonio Banuelos, he’s lost every time he’s taken a step up in competition. Admittedly, the guys who beat him were people like Faber, Bowles, and Maeda, but nothing shows that he’s near the elite at bantamweight.
Granted, Menjivar hasn’t done much there, either, but he gave a very good Brad Pickett a serious run for his money in their fight and likely would have gotten the knockout if Pickett wasn’t built entirely out of concrete and moustache.
In addition, he’s got significantly more experience and has fought and finished people much larger than Valencia. He slowed down significantly against Pickett after a frenetic first two rounds, but proved to be unbelievably tough, eating vicious punches and elbows from the Brit.
Plus, he has a KO via suplex. That’s awesome.
Menjivar will simply be too strong and experienced for Valencia. Look for him to tag Charlie early and finish him before the end of the first.
Prediction: Menjivar via TKO.
155 lbs.: John "The Bull" Makdessi (8-0) vs. Kyle Watson (13-6-1)
A training partner of GSP, Makdessi Beybladed his way into the spotlight with a tornado of kicks against Pat Audinwood at UFC 124, taking an extremely one-sided decision. He was originally scheduled to face TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins, but the UFC apparently decided that Brookins would be more marketable with a concave face and matched him up with Jeremy Stephens. Disappointed in his current two-fight decision streak, Makdessi will attempt to once again launch into a cavalcade of knockouts like he did in his first six battles.
BJJ whiz and H.I.T. Squad trainer Kyle Watson, a castmate of the replaced Brookins, made it all the way to the semifinals of the show before being bounced by said hippie. While his record doesn’t look like anything to brag about, he’s currently on a five-fight win streak in official bouts, most recently outpointing Armenian loudmouth Sako Chivitchyan in December. On Saturday, he takes his first official step into the big leagues and will certainly hope to impress.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the people sufficiently crazy to throw multiple spinning attacks and will immediately, and without question, support anyone who has successfully landed an axe kick in MMA, so Makdessi has a bunch of points in his favor already.
Plus, throughout Watson’s career, the only fighters he’s faced that I would consider above-average strikers are Spencer Fisher and Bart Palaszewski, both of whom laid him out in a combined total of 58 seconds. In addition, the competition he’s faced since falling to Bartimus hasn’t exactly been elite.
His only real hope here is getting it to the ground, but Makdessi showed solid takedown defense against Audinwood. Even though that may not mean much, John trains at Tristar with the likes of GSP and has already proven to be comfortable throwing insane kicks. Now that his first fight jitters are gone, look for him to light Watson up early for a gnarly stoppage.
Prediction: Makdessi by knockout.
Canadian-born Claude Patrick was beaten in his second fight by Drew McFedries. The reason I mention this is that said fight was Patrick’s first and only loss, as he has rattled off twelve consecutive wins since that disappointment, all but one by finish. In his last effort, he defeated Ultimate Fighter winner James Wilks on the latter’s home turf at UFC 120.
In a welterwieght division that could best be described as a tank of acid and spikes filled with acid-breathing sharks and the occasional acid scorpion, Patrick will have to impress on Saturday to gain a foothold.
Roberts was undefeated heading into the UFC’s first event on Versus, replacing Anthony Johnson against murderous knockout machine John Howard. He was doing well in the early portions of the fight, controlling Howard on the ground before a diving left hand that local asteroids were probably taking notes on clocked him in the "off" button. He bounced back and is in the midst of a three-fight winstreak, including a "Submission of the Night" winning anaconda choke against Mike Guymon at UFC 116.
I wish I had some sort of deep, thoughtful analysis here, but this is a pick-'em of the highest degree. Both specialize in the same thing and are exceedingly good at that thing, both have almost identical records, and both are on nice winning streaks. I can’t even use my usual "take the guy with the cooler name/nickname" method, since Roberts makes me think of Dan McNinja while Claude’s last name is officially the best name on planet Earth, bar none.
Going to go with my gut here, then, and take Roberts in one hell of a grappling exhibition, which is a shame because I had this great pun about Patrick being on a hot streak and how ninjas can’t catch you if you’re on fire. Oh, well.
Prediction: Roberts by decision.
Garza, who had a rocky start with ZUFFA which included washing out of TUF 11 and being rapidly submitted by balding bruiser Tie Quan Zhang at lightweight, dropped down to 145-pounds and was last seen reinvigorating America’s space program by sending Fredson Paixao’s head into low Earth orbit with a flying knee straight out of a Tony Jaa flick. At 6’1", he’s the lankiest featherweight this side of George Roop and will look to use his absurd 5-inch height advantage to bring down Jabouin.
A wicked dervish training alongside the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Miguel Torres, Jabouin’s entrance to the WEC ended in disappointment, as he dropped a split-decision to perennial contender Raphael Assuncao in my hometown, San Antonio.
He more than made up for it in his sophomore effort, throwing down with number-one contender Mark Hominick in an absolutely ridiculous war of attrition that our very own Sergio Hernandez described far better than I could have. He’ll look to extend his winning streak to two in front of his countrymen this weekend.
I’m leaning towards Jabouin in this one. While I initially hesitated due to "Tiger" slowing down in the middle of his slugfest with Hominick, I can’t really say how much of that was due to poor cardio and how much had to do with the Machine turning Jabouin’s insides to mush with his left hook. Plus, I’m pretty sure Hominick had his chin surgically replaced with a boulder to survive those elbows.
What makes me hesitate is how little of Garza I’ve seen. While the loss to Zhang wasn’t the best way to make a splash, he took the fight on five days’ notice and, again, has a ridiculous height advantage over "Tiger."
Still, with the speed and ridiculously eclectic offense of Yves, I think I have to give it to the guy with 11 TKOs, one of them a spinning back kick.
Prediction: Jabouin by TKO.
That's a wrap.
Feel free to now get dirty in the comments section below, sharing your UFC 128 "Prelims" thoughts and predictions.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of all the night's action, beginning with the PPV telecast at 10 p.m. ET. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night.
Be there or be square.