Photo courtesy of UFC.com
This Saturday night (April 30, 2011) at UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields," the UFC featherweight title will be on the line for the very first time as current champion Jose Aldo matches up with veteran Canadian striker Mark Hominick.
Aldo is an absolute monster in the cage.
The fans and media alike have not been giving him the attention he deserves. The Brazilian buzzsaw was asked one measly question at yesterday's press conference. He's extremely eager to put on a show for the millions of viewers around the world and hopefully gain some respect
Hominick, on the other hand, seems just happy to be here and is enjoying the moment. "The Machine" has the technical boxing skills to hang with the champ but he will have to go above and beyond to dethrone him. On Saturday night we'll find out what he's really made of.
UFC 129 will be, by far, the most viewed featherweight bout in MMA history. Putting on a show and gaining fans will go a long way towards helping the lighter-weight fighters get treated equally. There's a tremendous amount of pressure on both men to perform to the best of their abilities this Saturday.
Can Hominick possibly dethrone the top 10 pound-for-pound king? Will Aldo continue to steamroll everyone in his path? Will the smaller weight classes finally quit being viewed as the red-headed stepchild?
Check out our complete fight preview after the jump:
Record: 18-1 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Luciano Azevedo (Jungle Fight 5)
How he got here: After making waves in Brazil, Aldo migrated to the WEC and immediately began wrecking the place. He tore through his first four WEC bouts with deadly striking and decided to cap it off by earning a title shot with an unbelievable eight second knockout of Cub Swanson at WEC 41. Believe it or not, the time of the knockout was the least impressive part of it. Aldo flew through the air and connected on poor Cub's chin with not one but two flying knees at once and finished the stunned Swanson off with quick ground and pound.
The Brazilian made the most of his opportunity and manhandled then-champion Mike Brown, finishing the turtling titleholder with ground and pound from behind. His victory set up a WEC super-fight with the ever-popular Urijah Faber at WEC 48. "Scarface" would work a different gameplan for that fight, absolutely massacring Faber's legs until they turned into linguine and "The California Kid's" corner needed to carry him to his stool in between rounds. The champ retained his title one final time, viciously knocking out Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season five finalist Manny Gamburyan early in the second round. After the UFC/WEC merger, he's ready to prove he belongs on MMA's biggest stage.
How he gets it done: The Black House product is incredibly diverse. Aldo has obliterated his opposition with his punches, kicks and knees. We've heard that his Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) game is even better than his striking but no one has ever seen it since he entered the Zuffa umbrella.
Saturday night could very well be that time.
His opponent, Mark Hominick, has been submitted five times in his eight career losses, including both of his losses in the WEC. Aldo could finally show the world what he's capable of on the canvas.
I could also be 100% wrong and Aldo chooses to stand and blow Hominick away. If he chooses to strike, he will likely look to keep his distance and work his nasty kicks, patiently waiting for an opportunity to explode forward and hurt the Canadian. That's the advantage of having a diverse attack and being able to win the fight in multiple places.
Record: 20-8 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
How he got here: At 28 years old, Mark Hominick has been fighting professionally for nearly nine years. "The Machine" put himself on the map when he upset top 10 lightweight at the time, Yves Edwards, in his UFC debut.
The Canadian would stumble against grappling experts, Hatsu Hioki, Rani Yahya and Josh Grispi and after over a year away from the sport, "The Machine" came back with a vengeance. (We can rebuild him!) He ripped through the WEC featherweight division with a four fight winning streak that had people considering changing his nickname to "The Terminator."
Unlike Josh Grispi, Hominick would crush his opponent with a title shot on the line. Former training partner George Roop was simply an obstacle that needed to be hurdled and the Canadian striker cleared him in less than 90 seconds with a ferocious TKO to set up his match with Aldo.
How he gets it done: Hominick is a battle-tested veteran of the sport and he's mastered one part of his game, his boxing. If there was one part of "The Machine's" arsenal that's equal if not superior to the champion, it's his technical striking. Hell, he was able to un-hypnotize the judges and earn a decision against Leonard Garcia, using his lead jab despite having a broken hand.
The Shawn Tompkins-trained fighter needs to get this fight where he has the most potential to do damage, and that's up close and personal. The clinch is Hominick's friend and so is the pocket. He absolutely needs to avoid staying too far away from Aldo and his extremely painful leg kicks so don't be surprised if he's constantly pressuring the champion and looking to inflict damage to the head or body with his powerful precision striking.
Fight "X Factor:" The "X Factor" for this fight will be how Aldo's recovered from injury. The champion had to pull out from his original title defense at UFC 125 due to neck and shoulder problems and he recently revealed that he had a shoulder injury during all three of his last title fights. The injury could be a reason for Aldo's relatively slow starts.
If he's 100% healthy now, watch out. The same butcher that sliced through the division and ended fights with increasingly deadly efficiency could be back. It's been nearly two years since we've seen a healthy Jose Aldo and in that time, he's been working with Brazilian standouts Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, both Nogueira brothers as well as "Feijao" Cavalcante. On Saturday night, Aldo has the potential to prove he's the most dangerous man on the planet.
Bottom Line: The biggest thing Mark Hominick has going for him in this fight are the fans. He's going to have 55,000 Canucks screaming their heads off in support of him and their country. Hominick MUST take advantage of every opportunity he's given. The biggest one will be if Aldo again gets off to a slow start. Like Melvin Guillard did to Evan Dunham, "The Machine" can't blow an early opportunity if he sees it. He will need a superhuman effort to oust the champ and leave the Octagon with the featherweight strap.
That being said, Aldo seems completely unfazed by the magnitude of this bout. The champion has more weapons than Hominick and he's got the wherewithal to use them. This is Aldo's fight to lose.
Who will come out on top at UFC 129? Let us know in the comment section below!