I have been waiting so long to begin documenting my many thoughts on the world of mixed martial arts. After last night, I figured there was no better time to begin sharing my opinions. With the action packed event that took place at the sold out Rogers Center in Toronto, I along with millions of fans around the world may have witnessed an event that truly lived up and beyond the hype that was surrounding this "biggest event yet" fight card. For those of you that are avid mma watchers you already know that there can be great disappointments as well as amazing performances, but never in my year and a half of intensely following each event in the Mixed Martial Arts world have I seen a card that "wow’d" me the entire night as much as last nights did. The overwhelmingly stacked card on UFC 129 was speculated to be the biggest event since UFC 100, in which GSP vs. Alves, Lesnar vs. Mir, and Henderson vs. Bisping headlined. Almost every single fight last night achieved so much more quality action and with the combination of a flying triangle submission, and a spinning back fist KO, this was already one of the most exciting fight nights I have watched live, and I was saying this before the main card had begun.
With the exception of the fight between Claude Patrick and Daniel Roberts (nothing against either fighter), I was simply taken aback with the constant highlight reel fights appearing all the way through the preliminary fights. The very first fight that took place in the home of the Toronto Blue Jays (a baseball stadium) was one that would win a bonus at the conclusion of the night. Yves Jaboulin and Pablo Garza took the stage at 3pm PT. After the first round appeared to be in the books, Garza had a hold of Jaboulin as he was moving backwards, and out of nowhere, he slingshot his legs over the shoulders of his opponent, and seconds later forced Jaboulin to tap due to a flying-triangle choke. I feel like that needs a second mention, Flying triangle choke! John Makdessi was next to capture attention of anyone watching at barely 4pm PT (a mere two hours before the start of the main card). He had picked apart Kyle Watson for two rounds, and seconds after Watson found his under hooks and almost made it to the ground, Makdessi faked a right leg kick and spun around giving Watson a backhand and earning him a knockout. This did not look like undercard fights, but rather Pay Per View competition.
Next up was a matchup between Ryan Jensen, and Jason McDonald. McDonald, who has overcome many personal issues throughout his life, came into the octagon with a goal to win and make his biggest move towards the right direction. He did just that, as 1:37 into the first round, he secured a triangle choke, just after withstanding a slam (which in fact tightened the choke), and multiple frantic, dying shots from Jensen before he tapped. After a Claude Patrick Decision over Daniel Roberts, the excitement picked up again in sudden fashion (again, nothing against those fighters) as Jake Ellenberger faced off against Sean Pierson. Pierson, who was supposed to fight Brian Foster (who couldn’t take the fight due to head injuries discovered weeks before the fight), was slightly favored simply due to the fact that Ellenberger took the fight on around two weeks notice. It was a relatively evenly matched bout as both were exchanging, that is until Ellenberger continued the surreal entertainment of UFC 129 with a left hook catching Pierson’s head as he slowly tilted his way to the canvas. Ellenberger’s body glided after his right finishing cross onto the top of Pierson’s body and was taken off by Herb Dean before any further damage could be done.
The next in line was a man who has been well known for his abrasive personality, yet won the show The Ultimate Fighter in season five against Armenia Manvel Gamburyan due to shoulder dislocation. Nate Diaz. He was matched with a new face in Mixed Martial Arts but immediately respected Rory MacDonald. MacDonald trains with Georges St. Pierre at TriStar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. From hearing that anyone who knows their mma would assume he would be a solid test for Diaz, yet once he started working in the octagon that night it became very clear that he was a prodige of Mr. St. Pierre. Almost everything that MacDonald did was GSP-esque, including the part where he dominated his opponent. His quick jabs, superman punches, athletic movement, and takedown defense were all indicators of a young GSP. Even more so, his quick diving superman jab to a leg kick (landing multiple times) was a spitting image of the Welterweight Champion Not to mention the three ground-breaking suplex throws, when he slammed Diaz around like a rag-doll and sending chaos through the stadium full of his Canadian faithful. Out of all the fighters that I saw on the night of April 30th, this kid was the one who I am most excited to see in the octagon again.
Next comes the Main Card. Wait, what? That was the undercard? Deep Breath, and now time to pay attention to the headliners. Bocek vs. Henderson began the second half of UFC 129. In a fight that was though to be submission specialist versus the speedster standup guy in Henderson, it was almost just that. There were many attempts to end the fight on the mat by Bocek, as he wore a number of punches and kicks compliments of Bendo. Many of Bocek’s submission attempts such as a third round guillotine looked to be a finishing product, yet later at the post-fight press conference, Henderson confidently claimed that none of them were close to finishing him. Henderson would take the unanimous decision and retain the title as the "toughest guy to submit".
A Hitman would next square up against a Janitor for the second main card fight. Vladimir Matyushenko faced Jason Brillz, in a light heavyweight matchup. Many people knew both men had knockout power, but Brillz is a younger fighter and up until this fight, many had only seen Matyushenko ground and pound his way to victory. It was another amazing finish that had you on your toes for an entire 20 seconds. Yes, 4:40 was left in the first round when Brillz wore a Janitor’s right hand to the top of his head, and fell to the mat giving Matyushenko his TKO victory which was standing, just not for long.
Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida followed this fight with his bout against the legend in Randy "The Natural" Couture. Many speculations surrounded this fight, both about who would take the victory, but more importantly, if this would be Couture’s last fight in his decorated career. Machida has an elusive and precise striking style that originates from his Machida Karate, and when he is at his best he has proved to be just as brilliant as the great Anderson Silva at times. Couture, who had moved back and forth from Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, retaining multiple belts in both divisions, is a strong fighter and is talented at controlling the fight at the ground. Couture, after the fight said he felt like he was "standing still" when fighting Machida, and that is just what it looked like. From the beginning of the fight to the end, Machida was displaying his movement, and in n’ out quickness to pick Couture’s game apart. It was just a minute into round 2 that Machida re-created the impossible, as he brought déjà vu back into the minds of all watching, and front kicked Couture in the face. It brought me to utter disbelief as I watched Couture’s shocked and stiff body plummet to the mat, as it was way too familiarly amazing to witness. This was in a way, emotionally and amazingly bittersweet, as Rogan interviewed the Couture after the fight, and the Natural said that was it for him in the octagon. For a kick that was thought to be one of the best and amazingly executed ever by the spider, to be recreated with such precision on such a stage, against such an opponent is simply mind-blowing.
Mark Hominick was by no means expected to win his championship bout against the great Jose Aldo, but he, as well as all in attendance knew that he was fighting at home and was ready to put on the fight of a lifetime. In watching Hominick battle his way through five exciting, disconcerting, and emotional rounds, I had immediately gained all the respect in the world for the guy, as everyone should have. Aldo was throwing everything he had in his arsenal that had been used to beat all 12 of his previous opponents, and the Canadian continued to wear all of it as he pushed forward. It was a truly inspiring performance by Mark Hominick to continue to live through his determination in the Octagon. He was battered and rocked number of times by Aldo’s lightning quick strikes, and it was in the middle rounds of the fight that one of Aldo’s left elbows landing on Hominick’s forehead forced a hematoma the size of a golf ball to appear. As people watched, they were trying to decide if they could even comprehend the size of the bump on his head, yet it was his undeniable courage, and perseverance that gained Hominick all the respect he could have ever gained with a loss. Mark Hominick’s head was swollen and huge, but not nearly as big as his heart.
Finally the main event; Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields. This was the fight that people had been talking about for months. With the help of the brilliant marketing and advertisement department of the UFC, as well as the hit show UFC Primetime, this fight was pumped up and promoted as much as any big fight in UFC history has been. Shields, known for his version of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, "American Jiu Jitsu" (refer to his right forearm), is a dangerous man on the ground. To quote light heavyweight contender, Phil Davis (who trained with Shields in preparation for this fight), "I take him down, and I lose." Shields has an extremely testing ground game, and has control at many different positions, and he hasn’t lost in 6 years, (although was literally saved by the bell in his decision victory over Jason Mayhem Miller). Despite all this, it is important to remember who St. Pierre is. GSP has strived to be perfect, and has come just as close as any mixed martial artist ever will. He re-creates himself for every opponent he faces, and is a physical specimen. Many people had predicted a wrestling GSP to continue to take down the great Jake Shields, and beat him in his own game. Not only did St. Pierre pertinently stay away from the ground, but didn’t bother with Shield’s guard when he did take him down. Georges St. Pierre, with a few cuts (a rarity) and an irritated eye, had jabbed and overhand right-ed his way to victory to another decision. As GSP will face much criticism for not finishing a fight once again, a win is a win, and if the French-Canadian wants to be perfect, he will continue to be reminded that this isn’t the sport for that, like when he was when he noticeably affected by a few little shots. The important thing to remember is that Georges St. Pierre retained his belt, and didn’t give Shields a chance to win. He was ready for anything his opponent presented, and continues to prove how unpredictable he is, even to the fans.
For someone like me who is simply an educated fan on MMA, I have come a long way in understanding this sport, and every day I appreciate it more and more. It is only a matter of time until everyone respects (doesn’t have to be a fan, but will respect) this sport for what pure competition it is. The fight that I along with millions of people worldwide were privileged enough to witness in UFC 129 was not only a milestone for the UFC, Dana White, and all the participating fighters, but also extremely important for the fans, and for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, and what better way to display it that such a highlight reel packed night of fights.