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The After Party – “UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields”

It was the biggest UFC event of all time and it was very close to being the best of all time too if not for a rather disappointing final fight. Toronto fans were probably upset by the main event because they’re used to seeing the hometown guy losing, not essentially dominating top competition. Despite the lackluster headliner, UFC 129 was an outstanding event that featured an entertaining opener, the return of the karate kid, and a spectacular co-main event title fight. Plus there were plenty of close ups of Brittney Palmer, much to the delight of the crowd and myself.

Georges St. Pierre defeated Jake Shields by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 48-47, 48-47) to retain the UFC Welterweight Title

Georges St. Pierre once again showed why he’s the best welterweight in the world by out-classing Jake Shields for 25 minutes en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Even though this fight went 25 minutes, I feel like very little happened. The majority of the fight was St. Pierre jabbing and looking for his overhand right. He was landing it early in the fight and stumbling Shields a couple of times but he never really followed up with it. As the fight went on, GSP’s overhand right came slower and slower, which allowed Shields to easily evade it. To his credit, Shields didn’t do terrible in the stand up department, as he was able to establish a jab of his own and tag up the left side of St. Pierre’s face. In the second round Shields caught GSP with a jab that blurred the vision of the champ for the rest of the fight. St. Pierre scored with a couple of takedowns throughout the fight but almost immediately let Shields up when he did so. Early in the fight Shields caught the leg of St. Pierre a couple of times but could never drag the champion to the ground. In the fourth round St. Pierre dropped Shields with a beautiful head kick but once again really failed to follow up with it and let Shields off the hook. By the fifth round, the crowd really turned on this fight and there were a smattering of boos as St. Pierre and Shields engaged in sparring contest. I thought St. Pierre won all five rounds but two judges decided to give Shields two rounds, I guess on the basis that he turned the crowd against a GSP fight and “Crowd Control” is a new judging criteria. Luckily the three guys who can screw up fighter’s futures got the overall winner correct and St. Pierre once again defended his UFC Welterweight Title.

I hope anyone that picked Shields based on a “gut feeling” took plenty of Pepto Bismol this past Saturday night. Not to discredit Shields but I think everyone knew that if he couldn’t get the fight to the ground then he’d be pretty much screwed. Well he was able to survive 25 minutes on the feet with St. Pierre but I think more of that had to do with St. Pierre than it did with Shields. It seemed like Shields had an odd game plan as he didn’t go for many takedowns, didn’t work hard in the clinch, and never pulled guard like he talked about in the corner between rounds. While he did tag GSP on the feet, he had very little power behind his punches and wasn’t really putting together combinations outside of your basic one-two. Now is when we find out just how good Shields is. There’s no shame in losing to one of the best fighters in the world, even if you hadn’t lost in 15 fights, but now he’s going to be facing other top welterweights who, on paper, are bad match ups for him. I’d love to see Shields face Thiago Alves next but first Alves needs to get past Rick Story later this month.

It’s tough to criticize a guy who once again dominated the 2nd best guy in his division but here goes: St. Pierre is soft and content. I’ve never heard someone complain about being injured so much in the middle of the fight. Listen, I’m sure it sucks to fight a guy with blurry vision out of one eye but I don’t need to hear you say it after every round in the corner. Fighters get injured all the time in the middle of fights but they fight through it, change their game plan if they have to, and put it in the back of their mind. My all-time favorite, “I hurt myself early in the fight but continued and didn’t complain” performance was Urijah Faber at WEC 41. He broke his right hand in the first round, went back to is corner and told him it was no good, and then fought for another 20 minutes without mentioning it. Not only that but he changed things up and started throwing elbows since his hand was no good. If St. Pierre couldn’t see Shields because he was moving a moving target then he should have put Shields on his back and roughed him up. And I know Shields has great jiu-jitsu but he’s never been a threat off his back and St. Pierre wasn’t afraid to grapple with BJ Penn and Matt Serra so why was he so afraid of Shields, unless he bought into all the hype? And as great as St. Pierre is, he’s far too content. No matter what happens in a fight, he won’t stray away from his game plan or take chances. As I wrote in the UFC 129 Walk Out, GSP is a very robotic fighter, which makes him great but it can also make him frustrating to watch as a fan. With the way St. Pierre has been packing on muscle, one would think that he would be heading up to 185 but if all this muscle is going to negatively affect his speed, he would be better off losing some of that muscle and staying at 170. Of course that begs the question of, who does he fight next? Unless UFC is willing to bring Nick Diaz over from Strikeforce, your guess is as good as mine. He’s already beaten the top guys in the division and the guys who are behind them (Anthony Johnson and Carlos Condit) probably need two more wins before they’re considered to fight GSP unless they make a huge statement in their upcoming fights.

Predicted Next Fights: Shields vs. Alves/Story Winner – St. Pierre vs. Johnson or Condit

Jose Aldo defeated Mark Hominick by Unanimous Decision (48-45, 48-46, 49-46) to retain the UFC Featherweight Title

It was the first UFC Featherweight Title fight in history and it lived up to the billing. Hometown favorite Mark Hominick fought his heart out and gave champion Jose Aldo all he could handle but it wasn’t quite enough as the Brazilian retained his belt.

Aldo came out guns blazing in this fight, lighting up Hominick with quick flurries and chopping leg kicks before taking Hominick down and roughing him up with elbows. Hominick hung tough but he looked to be having trouble with the speed of Aldo and he couldn’t stuff the takedown, which made it seem like we were on our way to another highlight reel performance by Aldo. And then after the first round, Aldo lost some steam while Hominick kept his composure. Despite slowing down in the second, Aldo still went toe to toe with Hominick on the feet and tagged him as many times as he got tagged. Hominick started to find his rhythm on the feet though and established a good jab that Aldo was having trouble with. Unfortunately for Hominick, he once again failed to stuff the takedowns and ended up on his back twice in the round, which cost him the second frame. Hominick really started to turn things up though in the third round. The jab was there for him all round, he was displaying beautiful head movement, and landing a good counter straight right. Not only that but he was finally able to stuff the takedowns of Aldo. Momentum seemed to be shifting Hominick’s way until Aldo dropped him with a right hand late in the round and ended the round on top. It was a huge blow to Hominick’s momentum and in hindsight, a moment that may have cost him the fight. The fourth round was once again back and forth until Aldo again dropped Hominick. On the ground, Aldo ended up impregnating Hominick’s forehead with his elbow. Somehow Hominick was able to continue despite having an oversized blood pimple on his head. It looked like Hominick would be left for dead in the fifth round but, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friends.” Hominick got an early takedown and proceeded to rain down punches in Aldo’s guard for the rest of the round. It reminded me a lot of the first four rounds of Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva as I never felt like Aldo was in serious trouble but Hominick never stopped working and it was amazing to see Aldo actually look human for a round. It was too little too late for Hominick though as Aldo had done enough in the first four rounds to pick up the decision victory and make the first defense of his new title.

Some fighters wear their heart on their sleeve. Hominick wore his heart on his forehead at UFC 129. It was an extremely gutsy performance by a guy who many people wrote off. He had his chances in this fight, especially in the later rounds, but Aldo was just too skilled for the majority of the 25 minutes. Maybe Hominick should have tried some more takedowns after the second round but I think he felt that Aldo was slowing down, which he was, and that he would eventually take over in a striking battle. And while he was trading strikes and landing his fair share of punches, Aldo proved to have a great chin and more power. Hominick is going to be a tough out for anyone in the 145 division because he is a relatively well-rounded fighter and he’s tough as nails. Now he needs some well-deserved time off. He just went through a war and now he has another war on his hands as he’s about to (or already has) a newborn baby.

It’s easy to talk about the heart of Hominick but lets give Aldo a lot of credit as well. Not only did he fight through some conditioning problems but he stood the majority of the fight with Hominick and won for the most part. I would have liked to see him throw even more leg kicks than he already did, especially in the middle rounds when he went away from them for long stretches, but he proved to be just as good as advertised. His cardio wasn’t where it usually is but I buy the excuse of gaining muscle during the layoff and having a tougher than usual weight cut. If anyone expects Aldo to gas out in the second round of his next fight, then they’d be making a huge mistake. It looks like Aldo will face Chad Mendes next, which is a very interesting match up. Mendes is the heir apparent at featherweight to Urijah Faber, although he’s a better wrestler. Hominick was able to get Aldo down (again, Aldo was gassed) so maybe that gives Mendes and fans a glimmer of hope in their upcoming battle.

Predicted Next Fights: Hominick vs. Elkins/Omigawa winner – Aldo vs. Mendes

Lyoto Machida defeated Randy Couture by KO (Front Kick) at 1:05 in Round Two

Fans that forget about just how good Lyoto Machida is were quickly reminded this past Saturday when he retired UFC legend Randy Couture with a highlight reel kick.

Even though many fans wanted one last hurrah for “Captain America,” it was obvious early that Machida was the superior fighter. Couture had a tough time dealing with the speed of Machida and getting inside. When he eventually did get inside, Machida quickly spun off him and re-established his distance. Machida hit Couture with some stiff straight punches and very good knees to the body but Couture was able to withstand the onslaught and make it out of round one. He wasn’t able to make it out of round two though as Machida, after landing a couple of early leg kicks, landed a beautiful jumping front crane kick that essentially knocked Couture out cold. It was done right, Couture had no defense. It was a huge win for Machida and a sad ending for “The Natural.”

Even though some will criticize Couture for hanging around too long and say that he should have never taken this fight, I can’t help but admire and respect the man. He wanted this fight against Machida, he looked to be in great shape and moving well for a man his age, but Machida is a top fighter for a reason. I’m sure Couture didn’t want to be part of Machida’s highlight reel but in the end, does it really matter? Couture went out on top. No, he didn’t win, but he competed in front of the largest UFC audience in history against a former light heavyweight champion. I’d always rather go out losing on the biggest stage against a top fighter than winning on a smaller stage against an unknown. And it’s better to be part of a one shot highlight reel than taking an ass kicking for 10 minutes to really hammer home that you just can’t compete anymore. Couture has nothing to be ashamed of and anyone who found his performance pathetic should see what Ken Shamrock is doing with his career right now. With Couture officially retired, I really hope he finds his way back to the commentary booth, at least for the main event fights. I always enjoyed his insight during the fights, he was rarely bias, and he had great chemistry with Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg.

Newsflash: Machida is still a very good fighter. You can say that Couture wasn’t stiff competition for him but Machida still did what he needed to do, and that’s take Couture out in devastating fashion. He wasn’t tentative and it looked like he had that “swagger” back that he lacked in the Quinton Jackson fight. The crane kick KO was just a great Executive Decision. Speaking of Jackson, I hope we get the Machida vs. Jackson rematch that I thought should have immediately happened following UFC 123. Of course Jackson has to first get past Matt Hamill and should he be able to do so, UFC and Jackson owe Machida that rematch since even Jackson thought Machida won following the bout.

Predicted Next Fights: Couture vs. The Boadcast Booth – Machida vs. Jackson/Hamill winner

Vladimir Matyushenko defeated Jason Brilz by KO (Punches) at 0:20 in Round One

It was supposed to be a long and boring affair but Vladimir Matyushenko didn’t get the memo as he took out Jason Brilz in just 20 seconds.

The fight opened with a quick flurry and then another quick flurry where Matyushenko rocked Brilz with an uppercut and then followed up with a left hook that put him down. On the ground Matyushenko pounded Brilz out with some hammerfists and forced the ref to stop the fight. To use a pun that you’ve probably read 100 times in the past 48 hours, “The Janitor” mopped the floor with Brilz.

I thought people were overrating Brilz coming into this fight but a 20 seconds loss doesn’t really prove that point. Anyone can get caught in the opening moments of a fight. It doesn’t really say anything about the loser. The unfortunate thing for Brilz is that it does mean that he’s now lost two straight fights and really needs to pick up a victory next time out. I’m sure he’ll take a step back in competition and someone like Igor Pokrajac would be a good fight for him.

Just like a quick KO doesn’t prove much about the loser, it doesn’t prove a lot about the winner other than that they have power and it looks good in video packages. Luckily Matyushenko has been around long enough that we know pretty much all we need to know about him. He’s a stiff test for anyone in the division but at 40 years old, he’s not likely going to challenge for the title. I would like to see him move up in competition though and I’m not talking about being thrown to the wolf named Jon Jones. The winner of Ryan Bader vs. Tito Ortiz would be an important fight for both men, and if it’s Ortiz, maybe we’ll actually see the fight on PPV.

Predicted Next Fights: Brilz vs. Pokrajac – Matyushenko vs. Ortiz/Bader winner

Ben Henderson defeated Mark Bocek by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

The unsubmittable Ben Henderson faced the self-proclaimed best grappler in the division, Mark Bocek and in the end defense beat offense.

This was a high-energy fight from the get go. Henderson did a good job early with jabs and kicks to keep Bocek at bay but Bocen constantly pressed forward, looking for the takedown. Bocek finally got the fight to the ground in the closing moments of the first round but didn’t have enough time to really work his ground game. The second round was a little different as Henderson really started to work his clinch game and roughed up Bocek with huge knees and elbows. Bocek seemed to have a good grip on a guillotine choke late in the round but it obviously wasn’t good enough as Henderson was able to wiggle free and continue his onslaught in the clinch. The third round was more back and forth action with Henderson again getting the better of things on the feet but Bocek staying in the fight thanks to a couple of takedowns and good positions. Just like in round two though, Henderson really poured it on late in the round to swing things in his favor. It was a solid performance by Bocek but a better performance by Henderson. The end result was Henderson picking up his first career UFC victory by winning the decision.

I’m hoping this loss humbles Bocek a bit because he really seemed to buy into his whole “best grappler in the division” hype. He’s an excellent grappler with some very good submission victories but he was talking way too big of a game for a guy whose best win came against the skeleton of Dustin Hazelett. And for a guy who is supposed to be a grappling wizard, he sure didn’t seem to know the first thing about leg locks. There’s no shame in not being able to submit Henderson and while I hope the fact that he couldn’t submit Henderson doesn’t discourage Bocek, I also hope that he realizes where he’s truly at from a talent standpoint and works even harder for his next bout.

Henderson was one step backwards from avoiding the “showtime kick” and possibly fighting Clay Guida next month. I think the loss was actually good for him though because now he can really work his way up the division and improve along the way. He striking looked much improved and a lot less tentative and his work in the clinch was outstanding. His takedown defense still needs some more but he’s great at getting up and in the scrambles that it hasn’t really come back to haunt him in his fights. I’d like to see Henderson take on the George Sotiropoulos vs. Evan Dunham winner next because I think the fight would be highly entertaining and the winner would be right in the thick of things in the lightweight division.

Predicted Next Fights: Bocek vs. McKenzie/Palaszewski winner – Henderson vs. Sotiropoulos/Dunham winner

The next big UFC event isn’t until late May but keep it locked to 5OZofPain for all your MMA needs.