UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields," which features a welterweight championship battle pitting champion Georges St. Pierre against challenger Jake Shields, will take place from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 30, 2011.
In the weeks leading up to this historic bout, which will take place in front of a record-breaking 55,000 rabid fans, I've been compiling a list of predictions for the main event.
Everyone from the staff here at MMAmania.com to the frequent -- and loyal -- readers of this site, along with members of the mixed martial arts media, have all chimed in with their thoughts on what's going to happen up in the Great White North.
Is Georges St. Pierre going to do what he always does: implement his gameplan on the way to yet another title defense and dominant victory?
Or will Jake Shields do his best Matt Serra impression and shock the world with an upset for the ages?
Compelling questions, no doubt, and ones I felt were worth seeking answers for ... from every corner possible. That's what you'll find after the jump.
Before we dive in, though, know this -- for all of you that had the sack to pick Shields, I salute you ... BUT you will be expected to return to make atonement if he is to join the graveyard full of 170-pound bodies GSP has been piling up.
In we go:
To make this easier to read, I've broken it up into three sections. The Mania staff, the MMA media, who were all very gracious with their time, and the Mania readers. Thanks again, everyone. Let's jump right in.
170 lbs.: Georges "Rush" St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields
MMA Mania staff:
Tom Myers - Georges St. Pierre hasn't finished a fight in three years (Matt Serra). That will all change this weekend when he takes on Jake Shields at UFC 129. "Rush" can end this fight in just about every way imaginable -- Submission, (technical) knockout, cut, corner stoppage ... you name it. Shields, meanwhile, really only has one: Submissions. Sure, he's on a 15-fight tear, but it hasn't been without a fair share of scares. Recent scares, mind you. Dan Henderson nearly killed him, Mayhem Miller nearly put him to sleep (saved by the bell) and he was lucky to earn a split decision in his fight with Martin Kampmann. Shields is a fantastic fighter -- one of the best in the business. But beating a healthy St. Pierre isn't in his future. Shields still has clunky stand up, which St. Pierre will exploit, and his takedowns -- for a submission specialist -- leave a lot to be desired ... especially against an athletic freak like St. Pierre. Look for St. Pierre to do what he does best: Beat his opponents to the punch, set up the takedowns and unleash ground and pound ad nauseam. In this case, I see him stunning Shields, following him to the mat and finishing him with a quick submission near the end of round three.
Jesse Holland - Nostradumbass can't be bothered to make picks outside of the Nostradumbass column. Come back tomorrow for an extended prediction on this fight. Really, though, I just don't have a damn clue who I'm picking yet.
Geno Mrosko - GSP and he's going to give the fans what they so unflinchingly demand -- a finish. Shields has an avenue to win this fight but is he good enough to actually pull it off? I don't think he is. I just can't get the Martin Kampmann debacle out of my head. Bad weight cut or not, those telegraphed shots and horrific stand-up won't fly when you're in the cage with the greatest welterweight of all time.
Andrew Mendez - GSP via decision. Shields is very talented on the ground, but I won't believe he has the gas for 5 rounds until I see it, and with GSP, Ive seen it time and time again.
Sergio Hernandez - GSP. St. Pierre a thousand times over. Jake Shields has terrible stand-up. Okay, maybe not terrible but when he's in the cage with GSP, it's comparatively terrible. There's no way the American wins on his feet. His Brazilian jiu-jitsu game, though, is top notch. He will, however, have to get the champ down to make use of it. The same guy who Matt Hughes, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck either had an insane amount of trouble or flat out failed to take down. Expect another five-round shellacking that is reminiscent of St. Pierre's second fight with Koscheck. The best welterweight in the world won't finish Shields but he won't have any trouble with him either.
Brian Hemminger - GSP via jab of death. Shields is tenacious and he'll frustrate GSP with his relentless takedown attempts but the champ is too motivated, too well-rounded and his desire to be the best ever will keep him from wilting under pressure. He'll keep Shields at the end of his jab and mix in power strikes when he sees an opening, eventually taking the decision.
Zach Arnold, Fight Opinion - GSP. I like him by decision. I think the stand-up is where it's all at and where the damage will take place. Ask Koscheck.
Sergio Non, USA Today - GSP via TKO in round three.
Ariel Helwani, MMA Fighting - GSP by unanimous decision. Shields is as tough as they come, but I just can't see him taking this fight to the ground, which is where he needs it to be. Even if he does score the odd takedown, he won't be able to dominate GSP on the mat like he has against his previous opponents. GSP wins all five rounds due to superior striking and his solid takedown defense en route to the decision win.
Duane Finley, Heavy - GSP will win a clear decision. Shields is a great fighter but GSP is just too well-rounded.
Leland Roling, Bloody Elbow - GSP via TKO in round three. He avoids takedowns, stuffs Shields and jabs his face to death. I'll be ballsy and go with a finish.
Ken Pishna, MMA Weekly - GSP by decision. I honestly believe this is the toughest match-up ever for Georges St-Pierre. Jake Shields has been in the big fights and defeated all the guys that he wasn't supposed to beat. His submissions are second to none, his MMA wrestling is probably right there with GSP's, especially his positioning, and his striking, while not among the best, is solid. That said, Shields needs to get this fight to the mat to win. Even with that, it may not be enough. Georges St-Pierre is the most athletic fighter in the sport with a fierce competitive nature. He doesn't play to the crowd, he implements what he believes will win him the fight. Period. Shields is the one fighter I believe can catch today's St-Pierre in a submission, but I see this one going five rounds and a decision in St-Pierre's favor.
Hector Castro, MMA Die Hards - Jake Shields for the upset. GSP wins on the feet but this fight is going to the ground and down there, it's Jake's world.
Luke Thomas, SB Nation MMA - GSP by decision. Ultimately, the logical choice is GSP. The probability lies in his favor and with good reason. Shields is still criminally underrated. The San Francisco native is incredibly tough and not only has reactive jiu-jitsu, but offensive, attacking submissions as well. Shields is neither the defensive nor offensive wrestler that GSP is, but to suggest he's hopeless against the champion is foolish. Shields is the king of the scrambling re-shot. Even if GSP blocks the first attempt at a takedown, 2 or 3 or 4 more are coming in succession right behind it. There are two ways this fight will likely go. GSP jabs on the outside and defends the take down patiently until Shields gasses. When he does in the second or third round, that's when the champion turns it on and tries to put him away standing. Some have suggested GSP might do to Shields what he did to Fitch: wait until Fitch tries for the takedown, stuff it and then take him down. Shields' jiu-jitsu strength is not the guard game, although I tend to think the ground and pound of GSP has been absent of late. Either way, the idea GSP is going to burn him standing like he did Jay Hieron seems unlikely. GSP wins, but it won't come quick and he's going to work for it.
Jordan Breen, Sherdog - St. Pierre by jab, cross and sprawl in repetition, culminating in a mid-to-late stoppage or a woefully lopsided decision, giving Toronto its first championship performance in approximately 600 years.
Larry Pepe, Pro MMA Radio - GSP by unanimous decision. While I'm a Shields fan and respect his ground game greatly, I just can't see anyone in the world beating Georges St. Pierre at 170-pounds. Too fast, too athletic and too well-rounded. On the feet, it's a mismatch, a la GSP/Koscheck and Georges is virtually impossible to put on his back. I see GSP using his wrestling and athleticism to keep the fight upright for most of the night and he will successfully defend the belt once again.
Steve Cofield, Cagewriter - GSP. Georges is clearly the favorite, but he's not unbeatable in this spot. If Shields can consistently get the fight to the floor he's got a shot to finish it. The problem for Shields is that he has only one path to victory. GSP's great at game-planning to take away his opponent's strength. He'll make this into a stand-up fight and gradually break Shields down.
Jon Anik, MMA Live host - GSP by late round TKO or decision. Shields' 15-fight winning streak has been nothing short of brilliant and he has handled a number of worthy challengers along the way. That said, none of those tests was as staunch as the version of Georges St-Pierre he'll be staring across at Saturday night. At this stage of GSP's legacy-building, he is too intelligent and prepared to allow the door ajar with a glaring mistake. Shields' best shot to win will come early, when his cardio tank is on full. Once he absorbs a dose of St-Pierre jabs and takedowns, he'll be in survival mode the rest of the way.
Zeus, Middle Easy - Jake Shields will create a conduit between Toronto and the 209 and channel all of the inherit mean-mugging energy from Lodi, California and FINISH Georges St. Pierre in front of thousands of stunned Canadians who will have nothing left to say but 'egh?' Mark Pavelich will now be the most famous Canadian personality in the country and he will hold the emotion of all the fans in Canada hostage. Shields will hold the belt and will refuse to fight Nick Diaz on the basis that they are brothers, not friends. Shields will then give us an interview on MiddleEasy.com and attempt to convert his newly acquired fans on how to be a vegetarian -- and the world will never be the same.
Ben Goldstein, Cage Potato - GSP by unanimous decision. I'm expecting a repeat of St. Pierre vs. Koscheck. For Jake Shields, victory depends on his ability to force GSP to the mat. The thing is, he won't be able to do that - at least not consistently - and eventually there won't be much left for him to do besides eat jabs until the clock runs out.
Anton Gurevich, Low Kick - GSP via TKO in round three. Georges St. Pierre's striking advantage will play a major factor in this fight. In order to defeat St. Pierre, Jake Shields has to get at least two takedowns in every round, after frustrating the champ on his feet. Somehow, I can't see this happening. Georges St. Pierre has a bigger advantage as a striker than Jake Shields as a grappler.
Jon Luther, Freelance - GSP via decision. St. Pierre takes the first two rounds soundly with his patented jab, but Shields rallies from behind and takes all three subsequent rounds. Judge's decision gives it to an undeserving Georges St. Pierre in a robbery that will be remembered among all-time greats like Shogun vs. Machida I and Bisping vs. Hamill.
Isaac Hinds, Hardbody - GSP. He's fighting in his own backyard and the crowd will be insane. Jake hasn't talked the same amount of smack that Josh Koscheck did heading into Canada but I'm guessing he won't receive the warmest of welcomes. Georges is one of the most well-rounded athletes in the world. Some of his fights haven't been the most exciting in some fans eyes but he still manages to win in convincing fashion. Shields is a solid competitor but isn't on the same level as GSP, in my opinion. As long as there's no grease, the gate will close on the Octagon with GSP remaining the champ.
RJ Clifford, Sirius XM Fight Club host - GSP via fourth round TKO. Time and time again we call Jake Shields the underdog, say he has a style match up that he can not win and he goes ahead and proves us all wrong time and time again. This is one of those fights ... except I do not think he will catch magic in a bottle again. GSP should be able to do to Shields what he did to Josh Koscheck; stick and move, keep the jab in his face and stay away from the ground game.
Mike Straka, Fighting Words host - GSP via unanimous decision. As talented as Jake Shields is, and I am a big fan of the Skrap Pack, I don't see how Jake wins this fight. GSP is too talented right now, especially against someone who is just two fights into his UFC career, no matter what has happened outside of the UFC. GSP isn't going to run out of steam like Hendo did, and he's certainly not going to give the fight away like Kampmann did -- Georges is at another level right now. Even Anderson Silva says he's the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Brian Oswald, Bleacher Report - GSP by unanimous decision. Thinking over Shields options for winning: he doesn't have a punchers chance if the fight stays upright and he has an outside possibility to lock up a submission on the ground, perhaps with his threatening guillotine in the scramble. Some think he has a chance of winning a "war of attrition" but that is GSP's bread and Shields ain't buttering it. I am leaning toward Shields being able to survive what will start out with an indication of competitiveness and escalate toward likely onslaught. Perhaps the perception of Shields being too tough coupled with GSP bearing the MMA tramp stamp of "too cautious" keeps me from committing to the much sexier prediction of St-Pierre by 4th Round T(KO).
MMA Mania readers:
(Editors Note: I wanted to pick a top three for each side as representative for both camps but decided that would short change everyone that took time to explain their pick. So everyone gets a sentence or two. Thanks for all the great responses.)
LJ. - GSP! TKO round four because he is the better mixed martial artist. He'll pick Shields apart on the feet until a TKO or doctor stoppage, whichever comes first.
OJR - Jake Shields via submission. The beginning of the end comes when GSP gets a takedown. He'll get swept and it won't be long before Shields locks in the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
Puck Head - I see GSP winning a two-round beatdown in which he finishes Shields via choke.
Violent Mike - GSP via decision because he is my mostest favorite fighter in the world.
ufcaddict - GSP by decision. He dictates where the fight stays (on the feet) and peppers Shields with the jab.
NNR (formerly NameNotRequired) - GSP subs him out at the beginning of round two after doing the majority of the damage in the first round. Straight stand-up bashing.
scott1 - GSP by decision.
Drubbin - GSP is going to win by one-sided beatdown, as usual.
GodDamnMike - GSP via second round knockout. Shields isn't on his level ... at all.
doonerthesooner - GSP by unanimous decision. Shields might be able to get him down and he might even be able to pass but he won't submit him.
jay - GSP by some form of stoppage. Look for St. Pierre to drop Shields multiple times before the ref has to step in.
PHISH NATION - Shields by submission in round one.
Yan117 - GSP by TKO in round three because he has three big advantages: Cardio, striking and game planning.
IrishKev - GSP by TKO in round four. St. Pierre will dominate the entire fight and go for the kill in the fourth until the referee pulls him off.
WallyBallz - GSP by TKO at 3:40 of the fourth round. Head kick then strikes on the ground a la GSP vs. Hughes part deux.
robinhorobson - GSP by being the more complete MMA'ist. This will be a beating just like GSP gave Koscheck and Fitch. Can't wait to see Shields post-fight face.
TheGreg - GSP via unanimous decision. St. Pierre is capable of finishing with strikes but Jake is so durable that a decision is a lot more likely.
Johnny WF - GSP by dominant TKO. St. Pierre will pounce and keep punching until the ref says stop. It's his fight to lose and he won't.
jtl1687 - GSP by finish in the fourth or fifth round. He'll stuff takedowns and batter Shields with his jab until he opens up on the feet and takes him out.
kmdubya - GSP by either TKO or decision because danago will be picking Shields.
danago - Shields will beat GSP, finally finished my calculations. I'm 100-percent certain Shields has this.
magicmike - GSP via TKO. At some point in the second or third, GSP will put him down and Shields won't get back up again.
freenow82 - I'm going to go out on a limb here and pick GSP. He'll come in with the right gameplan and get the decision victory.
Bigger Zino - GSP by submission (armbar) at 4:13 of round three. When Jake taps Buffalo will wonder what that noise is.
Fulch - GSP finishes it in the fifth and it's not even close. He will be able to keep it on the feet and punish a tiring and frustrated Shields.
stinky~fingers - Shields by Cesar Gracie academy affiliation and 209, son.
David W-S - Shields by split decision. The fight will be a back-and-forth grappling clinic.
BNF - GSP via unanimous decision. Easiest pick ever. He will just take the gameplan he used on Koscheck and build on it. 50-45, bet on it.
vhw_ - GSP via unanimous decision 50-45. Five rounds of total domination in favor of GSP.
mistahsupahyphy - Shields by split decision. Jake is going to shock the world.
Deuce02 - Lots of crazy mat work which ends with a majority decision win for Shields. No one is stopping anyone in this thing. Expect some boos throughout this fight.
MM_Eh - GSP via TKO. I see a knockdown early in the third and the ref will be pulling St. Pierre off Shields a few seconds later. Hopefully they have a doctor who specializes in orbital fractures cageside.
Ulf Murphy - There is no reason to think Shields will be anything other than another notch on GSP's belt towards being the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
theworldismine - GSP by TKO in round two.
Newfie3 - GSP for obvious reasons.
Eduardo Cruz - Shields by way of submission (triangle choke) at 2:13 of the second round.
The Art of War - Jake Shields by fourth round submission.
Shoguns Hairy Forearms - GSP by submission. If anyone can beat St. Pierre at welterweight it's Shields but I'm sticking with GSP only because it's foolish to bet against him.
Phasebook - GSP will win this via five-round display of striking.
ItalianStallion54 - GSP by unanimous decision.
xxBAxx816 - Shields will win in the first round by bitch slap.
pbdb - GSP by unanimous decision. Shields cannot keep up with GSP's pace and this is going to be a repeat of the beating St. Pierre gave Koscheck.
thunderdownunder - GSP by TKO. He has the better striking by far and he controls where the fight occurs.
BJPennfan - GSP for the win, stand up assault. Can we please get a finish this time?
Scottidog - GSP by frustration. Somewhere around the beginning of the third or probably fourth round a badly battered and gassed Jake, with hands down, will get caught by a high kick and a TKO ground and pound finish.
judopei - GSP by unanimous decision or fourth round TKO via knees to the guts a la Matt Serra.
Dragon101 - GSP by fourth round knockout. He has superior stand-up and wrestling and he'll destroy Shields if this thing is on the feet. Left hook FTW.
Lester The Pimp - GSP by another decision. The decision king is back to bore everyone to death.
kg12 - GSP by whatever he wants. For everyone that loves to complain about his inability to finish, it ends here.
Tommygunk - GSP via unanimous decision.
Shadyone33 - GSP via decision. Tire him out in the first, take him down and break his will in the second, third and fourth and cruise in the fifth round by peppering Shields with jabs.
cyke - Shields for the upset. I think he will nullify GSP's wrestling and striking to come out on top.
(shonuff) - GSP will find a way to win but he will be in for the fight of his life. He's a little smarter than Shields and more adaptable on the fly.
vsiino - GSP by decision. St. Pierre will keep his distance and use his jab to earn another dominant unanimous decision victory just like he did against Koscheck.
mania~is~the~best - GSP by TKO in round three. After he stuffs every one of Jake's attempts it will only be a matter of time until Shields eats a leg kick or superman punch and GSP will swarm him.
Idleplucker - GSP via the most one-sided beatdown you'll see in a long time. Shields will gas around the fourth after his face becomes unrecognizable and if the doctor doesn't stop it for mutilation then GSP will knock him silly in the fourth.
ArlovsKang - GSP by unanimous decision. He keeps the fight on the feet and works Shields down with swift jabs and leg kicks. Occasional takedowns to keep Jake guessing.
Armando Baez - Jake Shields by rear-naked choke in the third round. After a few rounds of GSP dominating on the ground, he slips up and Shields locks in the submission forcing GSP to tap.
m_d0231 - GSP by TKO in round three. Superman punch drops Shields and GSP pounces taking his back and flatting him out before ground-n-pound strikes to force the stoppage.
i_am_awesome - GSP by TKO in round four.
Cal T Rocha - Shields by rear-naked choke in round three or early in round four. A less athletic but very intelligent, patient wrestler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert will expose St. Pierre.
Gene Gault - GSP wins a controversial decision. Shields is on top the majority of three rounds but at least two of the judges give one of those round to GSP because of the crowd influence.
RogersPark Kris - GSP by unanimous decision. Everything Shields does, St. Pierre does much better. Jake will just be happy to go away with the consolation prize of not being finished.
loco_motive - GSP by TKO or doctor stoppage in the second round. Jake is tough but Georges wins via technical striking. Too many clean shots will open up some easy ground and pound.
theoregonduck - GSP by TKO in round three.
Jared DeMarino - GSP by unanimous decision unless somehow Jake gets on top of him.
arm.bar.bandit - GSP by unanimous decision because that's how he rolls.
A.K - GSP will win this fight on the ground, either by strikes or a submission. Yes, St. Pierre can submit the veggie-scarfing "Scrap Pack" submission specialist. Because he has more ways to do so. Georges can finish this fight anywhere, at any time. On the feet or on the ground, with strikes or submissions, or he can also take a dominating decision victory. While I think Shields would beat GSP in a no-gi grappling tourney, this is not a no-gi grappling tourney. And GSP knows this is a very, very dangerous opponent and has prepared accordingly.
AintNoSunshine - Jake Shields, despite the superior striking of the champion, will win this fight. If he can pass and hold dominant positions look out, because an arm submission will be coming. While St. Pierre is dynamic and explosive, as well as a world class athlete, powering out of positions may lead to scrambles and small mistakes which could very well lead to Shields locking in submissions such as guillotines or armbars. If Shields can put the pressure on St. Pierre it will put St. Pierre in a position he hasn't been in since Matt Serra knocked him out. The key for Jake is to truly put the pressure on and overwhelm the champ.
There you have it.
That's a whole lotta lovin' for GSP and very little collective faith in Jake Shields. It's a landslide, in fact, but we'll see what happens when they climb in the cage at the Rogers Centre on April 30, 2011.
Thanks to everyone that participated in this.