UFC 129: ST-PIERRE VS. SHIELDS Predictions


After long wait, UFC comes to T-Dot, Canada, one of their biggest pay-per-view markets. As such, it only makes sense to book as much of a “Canada vs. the world” as possible (all but two matches – Matyushenko vs. Brilz and Couture vs. Machida, features a Canadian). And who better to headline that show than the 2008 and 2009 Rogers Sportsnet Canadian Athlete of the Year, Georges St-Pierre?

For the first time in UFC history, every match on the card will be broadcast in one form or another, with five fights airing on the company’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ufc); you must ‘like’ them before being able to access the live video application, two on Spike TV (check local listings, and of course the five matches on pay-per-view.

145 lbs. – Yves Jaboin (Canadian) x Pablo Garza: Garza was a lightweight who failed to win his way onto season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, but then dropped down to featherweight and is 1-1 in Zuffa cages. His only loss is to Chinese star Tiequan Zhang. Jaboin was on the short end of a barnburner against fellow countryman Mark Hominick in his home country of Canada at WEC 49 (which took place in Edmonton, Alberta), and bounced back with a decision win over Brandon Visher. Garza will have a satirical height and reach advantage on Jaboin, but if Jaboin can stay in the pocket, or attack from the outside, he could possibly do some damage. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: Garza via submission (round three)

155 lbs. – John Makdessi (Canadian) x Kyle Watson:  Makdessi puts his undefeated record on the line against the eight-year, 20-fight veteran Kyle Watson. Makdessi is a solid all-around fighter, with Muay Thai experience and a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He handled Pat Audinwood solidly in his last fight, blocking attacks and striking with unconventional kicks. Watson trains with Matt Hughes’ H.I.T. Squad. He was one of the more experienced fighters on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter (GSP vs. Koscheck), and went to the semi-finals before facing teammate (and eventual winner) Jonathan Brookins. He’s slowed down in recent years, with one fight in 2008 and two in the first five weeks of 2009, before joining the TUF cast in the last half of 2010. My gut feeling is that Watson, though riding a wave, is peaking at this point in his career, while Makdessi is on a rise that won’t stop on this night. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction:  Makdessi via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Jason MacDonald (Canadian) vs. Ryan Jensen: Both have submission losses to Wilson Gouveia, Jensen via armbar and MacDonald due to elbows. MacDonald has the reach advantage, and always brings a competitive fight. He’s coming off a nasty broken leg from last year. Jensen is a bit of a  journeyman who’s been alternating between wins and losses since 2008. At another point, Jensen was more competitive, with six finishing wins in 2006-2007, but since then, has struggled to recapture the momentum. MacDonald notched up three wins before his broken leg. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: MacDonald via TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Charlie Valencia x Ivan Menjivar (Canadian): Both men made their pro debuts over a decade ago. In his heyday, Menjivar was the more traveled of the two, first competing in the UFC in 2004, then fighting in Pancrase, K-1, and the IFL, before taking a three-and-a-half year hiatus from the sport in 2007. He went 1-1 in 2010, with a first-round submission win in his first match back and losing a competitive split decision to Brad Pickett in December. Valencia was inactive in 2005, but is 5-4 in the WEC since then. This match won’t necessarily answer whether either man has what it takes to be a champion in 2011, but it could be a competitive match to gauge where each is in their respective careers. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: Valencia via split decision

170 lbs. – Daniel Roberts x Claude Patrick (Canadian): Look for this battle of welterweight jiu-jitsu experts to stay on the feet. Patrick’s only loss took place back in 2002. He’s stayed competitive since 2005 (except for 2007), with six guillotine choke wins over 10 matches. Roberts has nine submissions over his 12 wins, and his only loss coming from a John Howard KO almost a year ago. Patrick trains with Mark Bocek and Sean Pierson, who fight right after him. Of the three teammates, I think Patrick has the best chance of winning. This match will be broadcast on the company Facebook page.

Prediction: Roberts via unanimous decision

170 lbs. – Jake Ellenberger x Sean Pierson (Canadian): Ellenberger replaces Brian Foster, who withdrew due to injury. Ellenberger . . . . Pierson is on a six-match winning streak.   This match will be broadcast in the US on Spike TV.

Prediction: Foster via TKO (round one)

170 lbs. – Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald (Canadian):  MacDonald dominated King of the Cage Canada over the past several years, going undefeated until losing via TKO in the third round against Carlos Condit. Diaz, the younger brother of Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, won season five of The Ultimate Fighter at lightweight. He moved up to welterweight at UFC 111, and has since gone 2-1 at that weight class. Generally, Diaz has stayed competitive / victorious at welterweight at tougher competition than MacDonald. Likewise, MacDonald has only gone into the third round twice in 12 matches, whereas decisions are nothing new to Diaz. In the irrelevant trivia department, the always dangerous Diaz has lost via decision every January for the past three years. This match will be broadcast in the US on Spike TV.

Prediction:  Diaz via submission (round one or two)

155 lbs. – Ben Henderson x Marc Bocek (Canadian): Bocek introduces Henderson to “The Show” in this battle of jiu-jitsu experts. Henderson of course was on the receiving end of 2010’s infamous “Showtime Kick” in the last round of the last match of the last WEC ever. What gets overshadowed is that Pettis-Henderson was a back-and-forth match that was a challenge to call even going into that last round. In Pettis, Cerrone, Varner, and Shane Roller, Henderson’s opponents have been a level above Bocek’s (notwithstanding Jim Miller). Donald Cerrone was the first to address the question of whether WEC lightweights could hang in the UFC. Expect Henderson to confirm Cerrone’s answer. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Henderson via unanimous decision.

205 lbs. – Randy Couture x Lyoto Machida: If Machida was fighting someone other than Couture, I’d say the story here was two fighters at crossroads in their careers. However, Couture has been at these crossroads for the past four years, and now very confidently states that win, lose, or draw, this is his last hurrah. Machida won the UFC light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans almost two years ago and everybody said “Karate is back,” but he didn’t have the long-term reign that people expected. He won a unanimous decision over Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua which was close enough that UFC decided to book a rematch – which Rua snatched emphatically with a first-round KO. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Machida lost a close split decision to Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson that even Jackson thought Machida won. Subsequently, Machida looks bad in some ways that he doesn’t deserve (Jackson), and better in other ways that he also doesn’t deserve (the first Rua match). But more than any of this, Machida’s style hasn’t evolved since he got to the UFC (or to America, for that matter). Couture is a master strategist of deconstructing a fighter’s style and finding the backdoors and loopholes. The worst thing for Machida is to fight the same fight he’s done since 2006. Clearly, Machida has knockout power (ask Rashad Evans). And at Couture’s age, a chin isn’t something that gets better with time. But if Couture can push Machida into the later rounds, that’s where Couture will be better and Machida will be weaker. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Couture via TKO (round three) or unanimous decision.

205 lbs. – Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz: Brilz comes off almost a year-long layoff after his impressive-but-denied effort against Antonio Rogerio ‘Minotoro’ Nogueira. Most felt the Nebraska wrestling coach won that fight. At 25-5, Matyushenko is a veteran whose rep is largely unknown by modern fans. He’s in his third stint in the UFC, with a current 3-1 record to show for it. Both fighters have impressive college wrestling pedigrees. Against someone of Matyushenko’s experience and current streak, the time off is a very real factor in Brilz’ come back. As the wrestling somewhat cancels itself out, we could see an awkward, unconventional striking match. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Matyushenko via unanimous decision

145 lbs. UFC Featherweight Title– Jose Aldo x Mark Hominick (Canadian): As a part of Team Thompkins, Hominick had a great first-round TKO win against George Roop. He hasn’t lost since 2008. That said, Aldo hasn’t lost since 2005, and has finished all eight of his matches from 2008 to now. I’d like to say this is Aldo’s time, although it’s time (i.e. ring rust) that could be the single determining factor in this match. Aldo has been on the shelf since a neck injury in November 2010 sidelined him off UFC 125. In the end, I expect Aldo to show up ready. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: Aldo via TKO (round one)

170 lbs. UFC Welterweight Title – Georges St-Pierre (Canadian) x Jake Shields: In interviews, GSP has chastised MMA media for writing Shields off. Nicely promoted, Champ. Indeed, this is Shields’ last kingdom to conquer, and his own personal mix of wrestling and jiu-jitsu is unique and effective. Moreover, when it comes to examples of fighters keeping their tunnel-vision focus on a goal, you couldn’t find many better examples than Shields. However, Team GSP knows how to build a strategy to ensure not losing. Georges prevented Josh Koscheck from shooting in by closing his eye early in the match, and although GSP may not land the same shot on Shields, I think the only way this match goes to the ground is if GSP decides to take it there. If Shields is able to get GSP to the ground, I wouldn’t expect it to be for long. This match will be on pay-per-view.

Prediction: St-Pierre via unanimous decision

The Finish

I picked these matches one by one, without thinking about home field advantage. In that I’m predicting only three wins for the Great White North out of 10 matches, I apparently don’t have much faith in the Canadians. In my defense, they have won fewer matches in recent events, but this being Toronto’s UFC debut, things could be different.

Past Canadian UFC events:

UFC 58: USA vs. Canada (in Las Vegas) (Canadians went 4-for-8 in eight matches)

UFC 83: Serra vs. St-Pierre 2 (in Montreal) (Canadians went 4-for-6 in 11 matches)

UFC 97: Redemption (Anderson Silva x Thales Leites) (in Montreal) (Canadians went 4-for-6 in 12 matches)

UFC 113: Machida vs. Shogun (Montreal) (Canadians went 1-for-7 in 11 matches)

UFC 115: Liddell vs. Franklin (Vancouver) (Canadians went 1-for-3 in 11 matches)

UFC 124: St-Pierre vs. Koscheck 2 (Montreal) (Canadians went 4-for-7 in 11 matches)

Canadian fans love their MMA, and, more impressively, they KNOW their MMA. Coupling this with the fact that this is the UFC’s debut in Toronto, expect the crowd heat to only bolster this already stacked show. With two fiercely strong champions defending and an imaginative match like Couture-Machida, there’s a little something for everybody here. Between the matches and the crowd excitement, expect this to be one of the UFC’s most historical nights.

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