This Saturday night (Nov. 16, 2013), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight kingpin George St. Pierre seeks to defend his title once more against NCAA D-I wrestling champion, Johny Hendricks, at UFC 167, which will take place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It's a 170-pound colossal clash for the mixed martial arts (MMA) world and an even larger milestone for the most successful promotion in the history of the sport. That's because UFC will turn 20, and in celebration, MMAmania is taking a look the more momentous events in its history all week.
That's right, it's time to look back at UFC 129.
UFC 129, which took place at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 2011, was a historic event before a single punch was thrown. The pre-sale tickets sold out within minutes of being available. In response, UFC hurriedly made more tickets available, which were promptly snatched in record time.
With a total of 55,000 tickets sold, North American gate and attendance records for an MMA event were smashed. Canada had proven its loyalty to its beloved Welterweight champion, and fans from around the world hustled to arrive at the biggest UFC event ever.
Luckily for the 55,000 fans in attendance, the fighters delivered an electric card, starting with the very first "Prelims" under card bout. Pablo Garza, looking as tall and lean as his "Scarecrow" moniker implied, was not doing very well against kickboxing specialist Yves Jabouin.
"The Tiger" has vicious leg kicks, and Garza's height was not working to his advantage. It was soon apparent to the North Dakota native that an act of desperation was quite necessary, as a technical knockout finish seemed imminent. Wrapping up a clinch, Garza throw a knee and then leaped into the air.
As he fell, Garza trapped the Tristar-trained fighter in a triangle choke. Jabouin tried to roll multiple times, but could not escape the hold, eventually tapping out to the triangle. Or, more specifically, the flying triangle.
Just four minutes into the card, a clear favorite for the "Submission of the Night" award had arrived.
In the next bout, karate striker John Makdessi took on Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt Kyle Watson in a classic striker vs. grappler match up. For the first two rounds, it appeared that the striker was well on his way to a smooth unanimous decision victory in a mildly entertaining bout.
However, Makdessi turned up the heat in the third round. Feinting with a leg kick, "The Bull" quickly spun, extending out a fist, which promptly greeted Watson's bloodied cheek. The American crumbled to the mat and Canada claimed its first victory of the night. It seemed likely that the "Knockout of the Night" bonus had been claimed, too.
In the next three bouts, Canada took over. Canadian veterans Jason MacDonald and Claude Patrick easily defeated their opponents, with MacDonald securing a triangle finish. In addition, Ivan Menjivar -- who trains out of Tristar --finished with a rare standing elbow. After five fights and four finishes, the Facebook "Prelims" were over.
The next two bouts of the evening took place on Spike TV. The first, a Welterweight scrap between Jake Ellenberger and Sean Pierson, had the barn-burning potential. Instead, Ellenberger skipped all of that nonsense and brutally knocked out "The Punisher" in the very first round.
Afterward, Tristar-trained product Rory MacDonald looked to recover from his first career loss against Stockton bad boy Nate Diaz. The Canadian very much looked the part of the rising prodigy, rag-dolling Diaz with a series of powerful suplexes.
UFC 129, which at this point had yet to have a boring fight, opened up its PPV main card with the debut of former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion -- and eventual UFC champion -- Ben Henderson. He took on Canadian jiu-jitsu ace Mark Bocek, dueling with the veteran for three scramble-filled rounds. At the end of 15 minutes, Henderson was the clear winner and had proven himself UFC caliber.
The next fight, which had little divisional relevance, threw grinding wrestler Jason Brilz against former Olympian Vladimir Matyushenko. Unfortunately for Brilz, "The Janitor" was unimpressed with his ability and quickly knocked him out in just 20 seconds.
Not incredibly important, but entertaining nonetheless.
Moving on, the legendary Randy Couture was in the midst of his final title run. To get back to the belt, he had to go through former Light Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. If he succeeded, a 205-pound title shot was likely in his immediate future.
In the first round, Machida was being Machida. As Couture looked to close the distance, "The Natural" would circle, feint and land shots from the outside. Whenever "The Natural" got too aggressive with his clinch attempts, the Brazilian would fire off a hard left hand or stepping knee to the body.
This was not the opening round Couture desired.
Entering the second round, Couture was hesitant. The master game planner had yet to find a way to safely get in range for a takedown and was stalling for time to figure out this mystery. While he thought, Machida acted, leaping through the air with a flying front kick. It connected with Couture's jaw, shot a tooth across the cage and ended "Captain America's" professional combat sports career for good.
Couture gave his second, and most likely final, retirement speech, before walking away from the UFC. Meanwhile, Makdessi's hold on the "Knockout of the Night" bonus had slipped a bit, too.
In the co-main event (and first title fight) of the evening, Jose Aldo debuted against Mark Hominick. "The Machine" had the support of the crowd, but few other variables were in his favor. Early on, "Junior" battered Hominick with fierce leg kicks and dropped him with hard punches. Then, as Hominck began to land a few shots of his own, he was repeatedly taken down and carved up by elbows.
By the fifth round, Hominick's left eye was swollen shut and his face hosted a selection of small cuts. Even worse, a hematoma had risen on the right side of his forehead. In 20 years of Octagon action, this is likely the largest hematoma ever seen in UFC (see pic here).
Despite the ugly new additions to his face, Hominick was the fresher man in the fifth and final round. Aldo, suffering from a poor weight cut and fever, had little left to offer and was quickly taken down. For nearly five straight minutes, Hominick attempted to even out the damage done, pounding on "Scarface" with every ounce of energy he had left.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for him to get the win, but that hardly mattered. Hominick had given the performance of a lifetime and the crowd appreciated every second of it. In fact, all 55,000 audience members applauded both Hominick and Aldo for delivering one of the best fights of the year.
The main event had a lot to live up to after such a battle. And it ultimately failed, as St. Pierre easily picked apart Jake Shields, who -- apart from some eye pokes -- landed very few effective strikes or scored any takedowns.
Despite the fairly dull bout, the audience was still overjoyed that their champion held onto his title. This event proved St. Pierre was -- and remains to this day -- one of UFC's biggest money-makers, featured exciting finishes throughout the card, and contained one of the best title fights ever, making it more than worthy of MMAmania's Top 10 All-Time list.