UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields goes down tomorrow night from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and promises to be a landmark card for the promotion. With a record attendance of 55,000+ for their first foray into the province, the UFC are under pressure to deliver the excitement and — with two titles fights and a beloved Hall of Famer’s last ride on the top of the card — they’ve set the stage for just that.
FightLine.com owner Raj Giri and head writer Mark Wayne preview the top fights and offer their predictions for the show. You can also enter your picks in our “Comments” section below this article. Also, don’t forget to check back at FightLine.com Saturday afternoon for our live, ongoing coverage of UFC 129.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields
Only pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva has surpassed St. Pierre’s run of championship dominance and, as a result, very few are giving “Rush’s” current challenger — Jake Shields — much of a chance to stage a successful coup. However, St. Pierre and those in the know realize that the grappling specialist, who hasn’t lost a fight since 2004, presents a very real and unique threat to the French-Canadian’s throne.
Shields is known for thriving as an underdog and finding a way to win and he has the aggressive grappling and submission chops to give the champion problems, but St. Pierre looks more complete each time out and simply has more ways to win than Shields.
Mark: Shields will be able to give St. Pierre trouble in a very interesting way, but it’s hard to pick against “Rush” these days. Playing it safe and calling: St. Pierre defeats Jake Shields via unanimous decision.
Raj: I agree with Mark. I just don’t see anywhere that Shields can beat St-Pierre. St-Pierre has superior stand-up, wrestling and takedown defense. Unless Shields is able to catch GSP like he did Robbie Lawler in 2009, St-Pierre should be able to dominate Shields for five rounds en route to taking home yet another unanimous decision victory. St-Pierre via unanimous decision.
José Aldo vs. Mark Hominick
Young and dynamic Brazilian champion José Aldo carries his belt to the big leagues in this bout; he earned the featherweight title while still competing in the WEC and will make the first defense of the newly-promoted UFC strap against Canadian fighter Mark Hominick. Though just 24-years-old, Aldo has established himself as a pound-for-pound great by putting together an eleven-fight winning streak marked by the unrivaled destruction of his opponents. Hominick, a well-established veteran, sports an incredibly technical striking arsenal and a very competent ground game to boot.
Hominick believes that Aldo will be unprepared to face as technical a striker as himself and is prepared to take the fight wherever it goes. Aldo has looked downright fearsome while staking his claim over the division and hasn’t yet met a top-tier 145-pounder that he hasn’t been able to dispatch.
*Side note: It should be kept in mind that Aldo is returning from an eight-month layoff due to a neck injury.
Mark: Hominick is as tough and skilled as they come, but it’s hard to see him overcoming the vicious assault that Aldo throws at his opponents. Aldo defeats Hominick via third round TKO.
Raj: Once again, I’ve got to go with Mark, Aldo should be able to wrap it up by the third. Hominick is no joke and can definitely pull off an upset if Aldo slips, but the featherweight champion is too disciplined. Aldo via third round TKO.
Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida
This is a battle between two former UFC light heavyweight champions with seemingly opposite styles. Couture, also once a heavyweight champ and one of the most respected veterans in the game, takes it to his opponents with a hard-nosed grappling/dirty boxing offense backed up by thoroughly-researched and well-implemented gameplans. Lyoto Machida is a karate expert who has layered offensive techniques from boxing and muay Thai on top of his elusive footwork and married that with a very effective grappling/anti-grappling clinch game to keep his opponents confused and off-rhythm until he finds his time to strike.
At 47-years-old, Couture has maintained that this bout will be his swan song and that he wants nothing more than to go out with a win over “The Dragon.” Machida has unending respect for Couture and believes netting a victory over “The Natural” will only boost his own legacy.
Mark: The smart pick here is likely one in favor of Machida, but fortune favors the bold, so: Couture defeats Machida via unanimous decision.
Raj: For even money, I’d lay it down on Machida. However, this is the fight that is most likely, in my opinion, to end in an upset. If Machida doesn’t alter his game, he’s in trouble as Couture is a master of creating and executing game plans and has spent his time studying “The Dragon’s” technique. I believe we’ll see a more aggressive Machida this Saturday, who will take the bout via unanimous decision. Machida defeats Couture via unanimous decision.