UFC 129 predictions, preview and analysis

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UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields" is all set to go down tomorrow night (April 30, 2011) live from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 9 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV).

UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre will defend his 170-pound strap against division number one contender Jake Shields in front of a record-breaking 55,000 fans.

Will "Rush" be able to eliminate what many pundits consider to be his last credible threat in the welterweight division?

Also in action is Jose "Junior" Aldo, who in a bizarre set of circumstances will both make his UFC debut and defend his UFC featherweight title against Mark "The Machine" Hominick in the night's co-main event.

And who could forget Randy "The Natural" Couture's retirement match against Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida?

I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities ... let's get cracking:

170 lbs.: Georges "Rush" St. Pierre (21-2) vs. Jake Shields (26-4-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Why am I picking Georges St. Pierre to win? Because Jake Shields has 26 career victories and only three of them have been by way of technical knockout. Yes, three, and that's not the kind of fighter that beats a guy like "Rush."

Does Shields have the best jiu-jitsu in the entire division? Probably, but having the world's best grappling credentials isn't enough to get you to the promised land. If it was, Demian Maia would be middleweight champion and not Anderson Silva.

I'm not one of these Canadian crotch-clingers who believes St. Pierre is invincible because he isn't. But you need two very important attributes to get it done: Great takedown defense and world-class hands.

Jake Shields has neither.

Betting against Shields isn't a knock on his accomplishments. When push comes to shove, he always seems to find a way to win but if you take a critical look at his recent string of victories, building a case for an upset in Toronto becomes harder and harder.

He's beaten some very big names throughout his career but let's not overlook how he beat them. St. Pierre hasn't been finishing people either but his performances are criticized because he plays it safe and coasts to a decision whereas Shields has to work his ass off and sometimes just hang on and survive to get the "W."

Simply put, St. Pierre is on another level. We know he can wrestle and in the Koscheck fight last December he showed us he can box, too.

And when is the last time you saw the Canadian sucking wind?

It's very difficult to picture a scenario where Shields can hold GSP down and work his magic. "Rush" is too strong, too athletic and knows how to work a gameplan like no other.

I don't think he'll get the finish unless Shields is completely spent by round four, but I predict he outclasses him en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory.

Betting lines (as of April 29):

St. Pierre: -450 ((Bet Now))

Shields: +325 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: St. Pierre via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Jose "Junior" Aldo (18-1) vs. Mark "The Machine" Hominick (20-8)

Nostradumbass predicts:  A lot of people are giving Mark Hominick a very good chance to beat Jose Aldo on Saturday night based on his fearless approach and technical striking ability.

And by "a lot of people" I mean Hominick and his coach, Sean Tompkins.

As far as I'm concerned, anything more than one seems like a lot for this fight. I'm not suggesting Hommy's a "can" because he isn't. He's a talented mixed martial artist who unfortunately shares a weight class with one of the most gifted fighters under the Zuffa umbrella.

I know there are critics that aren't impressed with "Junior's" resume, but that can happen when the extent of your research is the right-click roll call on Sherdog's fight finder. Instead, watch some of his fights. The magic we saw in the rise of Jon Jones wasn't about his opponent, it was about his performance.

The same applies with "Scarface."

Seven of his last eight contests have ended by brutal (T)KO. Not only did those fights lack any kind of drama, they didn't even look competitive. Speed, timing and killer instinct, it's all there.

"The Machine" has been enjoying some success himself, having rattled off five straight wins with four finishes. I know he's touting his hands but if Leonard Garcia can take you to a split decision, it doesn't leave me with a good feeling about this weekend.

And if you want to complain about Aldo's resume, take a look at Hominick's. You've probably seen Carmen Sandiego more times than some of his past opponents.

I know the Canadian isn't afraid to stand and trade with Aldo, but neither was Manny Gamburyan. Ask him how that turned out. On second thought, don't ask him, he probably doesn't remember.

Aldo by whatever he wants.

Betting lines (as of April 29):

Aldo: -600 ((Bet Now))

Hominick: +400 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Aldo via technical knockout

205 lbs.: Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (16-2) vs. Randy "The Natural" Couture (19-10)

Nostradumbass predicts: Randy Couture is one of our most celebrated athletes. Not because of his skills or his accomplishments, but because they exist within the context of his advanced age. And you know what? That's fine by me. I'm one of the cheerleaders.

But there is a marked difference between subscribing to a feel-good story and taking a critical look at how two fighters match up.

And "The Natural" hasn't done anything in the past two-to-three years that makes me believe he has any chance of winning this fight. Yeah, he's in great shape and is the cerebral assassin, but let's be honest with ourselves because recently he's been the recipient of some pretty favorable match-ups.

After getting beaten up by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, "Naytch" was gifted a decision win over Brandon Vera before choking out Mark "The Hammered" Coleman and James "GTF Out" Toney. And that's enough for Dana White to call him top ten in the division?

Sorry, not buying it.

I know the popular thing to do these days is shit on Lyoto Machida, but let's not forget he was also a division champion and fighting Thiago Silva, Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson while Couture was busy on the senior's circuit.

What's the big knock on "The Dragon?" That he was slain by "Shogun?"

I'm also not going crazy over his loss to "Rampage." Coming off the knockout to his fellow Brazilian, he was afraid of getting pasted for a second time -- but look what happened towards the end of the fight when he got his confidence back -- and I believe it's back for good.

Machida doesn't have to worry about Randy's power because there isn't any. What he does have is a terrific clinch game and a great awareness inside the cage, but he's going to try to box Lyoto into a corner and get knocked clean out in the process.

We still love you Randy, but it's time.

Betting lines (as of April 29):

Machida: -350 ((Bet Now))

Couture: +250 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Machida via knockout

155 lbs.: Ben "Smooth" Henderson (12-2) vs. Mark Bocek (9-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: It's easy to forget how talented a fighter is once they become the victim of an opponent's highlight reel. Much has been made about the "Showtime kick" that landed on Ben Henderson, because it not only cost him his title, but most of the hoopla surrounding his accomplishments.

Bendo has finished Jamie Varner, Donald Cerrone, Shane Roller and Anthony Njokuani. Not beaten, finished. That's a pretty impressive list of victims and Henderson had his way with all of them.

I don't want to get caught up in the "he can't be submitted" PR campaign because he can, but even as good as Bocek is on the ground, I don't think he gets it done tomorrow night.

Seven of his nine wins have come by way of submission, including an impressive finish over Dustin Hazelett at UFC 124 last December, but I think Henderson is too "Smooth" to get forced into a bad situation and I believe he keeps it upright long enough to win this fight on the feet.

Neither fighter is known for knocking people out and I doubt that's going to change in Toronto, but in a three round fight I predict Bendo stays out of trouble long enough to rack up the points and sweep the judges' scorecards.

Betting lines (as of April 29):

Henderson: -145 ((Bet Now))

Bocek: +115 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Henderson via unanimous decision

205 lbs: Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko (25-5) vs. Jason "The Hitman" Brilz (18-3-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I'm picking Matyushenko here. U Vlad? They call him "The Janitor" and that's not exactly the kind of marketing strategy that gets the fans excited to see you and it's a shame, he happens to be a pretty talented fighter.

When the biggest knock on your UFC career is getting your ass handed to you by Jon Jones, I'd say you're doing alright for yourself. And his only other loss in almost eight years came to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira under the Affliction banner.

He's not exactly a spring chicken, but the Belarusian is a powerful wrestler with good ground and pound. So what advantages does he hold over Brilz?

Not many.

"The Hitman" is an accomplished wrestler in his own right, showing the world he can hang with just about anyone in the division when he beat was robbed by "Lil' Nog" at UFC 114 almost a year ago.

That's why he fails tomorrow night.

I don't believe he competes with the kind of style that suffers from a long layoff, but Brilz doesn't have any momentum coming into this fight while Vladdy Matty is fresh off his destruction of Alexandre Ferreira back in November.

Expect a close fight with lots of mat work but in the end I see Matyushenko grinding out the split decision victory.

Betting lines (as of April 29):

Matyushenko: -115 ((Bet Now))

Brilz: -115 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Matyushenko via split decision

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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