“UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields” takes place Saturday, April 30, at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is the first UFC card ever to be held in a stadium, and with over 55,0000 fans in attendance, will mark the biggest card in UFC history.
Headlining the historic event is a welterweight title fight featuring the man UFC President Dana White calls the most famous Canadian athlete, reigning champion Georges St-Pierre, as he puts his title on the line against grappling specialist and former Strikeforce middleweight champ Jake Shields.
UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture enters the Octagon for what he claims will be the last time as he takes on former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida. Canada’s Mark Bocek will face Ben Henderson in lightweight action, and “The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko will take on Jason Brilz at light heavyweight to round out the Pay-Per-View.
Appearing live and free on Spike TV is a welterweight bout between Canada’s Sean Pierson and Jake Ellenberger, and another welterweight match-up between Nate Diaz and Canada’s Rory MacDonald. Here are our UFC 129 predictions.
Sean Pierson (11-4) vs. Jake Ellenberger (24-5)
ODDS: Sean Pierson +160 vs. Jake Ellenberger -200
BRIAN FURBY: I think this is the dark horse for one of the “Of the Night” awards. Both guys have solid KO power and are ready to impress the bosses and make that jump to the pay-per-view section of the card. Ellenberger could grind out a good decision win or overwhelm Pierson early. I’m leaning towards the former. Ellenberger by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: Pierson will be fighting in front of his home crowd and has won 6 consecutive including his UFC debut against Matt Riddle. Ellenberger takes the fight on just a couple of week’s notice, but will be ready to go. Ellenberger’s aggressive style will pay off, and his strategically timed takedowns will earn him a unanimous decision victory.
JACK BRATCHER: Both guys are on win streaks but Ellenberger has beaten the tougher competition in the UFC, scoring wins over Mike Pyle and John Howard, both via TKO. Pierson’s biggest win is a decision over Matt Riddle. Ellenberger should add one more knockout to his resume by stopping Pierson.
JOSH CROSS: I think both of these guys are going to come out swinging, which will make for an exciting and quick fight. I think this fight could go either way, but I feel like Ellenberger has the heavier hands and will end up with the win. Ellenberger def. Pierson via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: I like Ellenberger as a fighter…he’s strong with his wrestling base and has good power in his punches. I expect him to put Pierson away via TKO late in the fight.
RICHARD MANN: I favor Ellenberger, but this fight will be a lot tougher than people are predicting. Elleberger should be able to get takedowns, and that should be enough for him to score a victory. However, Pierson was also a strong collegiate wrestler, and, on the feet, he is a much better technical striker. Ellenberger has uncanny power, but Pierson should be able to score from the outside. Pick = Jake Ellenberger.
Nate Diaz (13-6) vs. Rory MacDonald (10-1)
ODDS: Nate Diaz -115 vs. Rory MacDonald -115
BRIAN FURBY: Don’t be scared homie. 209! MacDonald only has one loss on his record right now, and it’s not a submission loss, but Diaz will change that. Diaz by sub in Round 2.
DENNY HODGE: MacDonald has admitted that his first career loss at the hands of Condit still stings, and that he can’t wait to get back in there and get a win. He has a tough task against the younger Diaz brother. Diaz will stay busy with his rapid-fire punches, but MacDonald will still get the best of the stand up. He likely learned a lot in his loss to Condit, where after dominating the action, he opened up too much trying to finish the fight. Hopefully we won’t be gun shy in this one, and if they both engage (as we know Diaz will), this could be the “Fight of the Night.” MacDonald is just young enough and confident enough to try to put Diaz away on the ground, and it will cost him. Diaz by submission.
JACK BRATCHER: With a total of 23 wins between the two fighters, only one of those wins came via decision. These guys like to finish fights. The odds are dead even on this one which is rare. MacDonald came damn near beating Carlos Condit in his last fight and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back. Diaz is also coming off a loss. I think MacDonald’s wrestling and takedowns will prove the difference here. He should be able to control from top and grind out a decision. Diaz could certainly catch him with a submission in the process but I’m thinking he should be able to defend it. MacDonald via decision.
JOSH CROSS: Diaz and MacDonald have shown that they are comfortable no matter where the fight goes. With both of guys having a very good ground game, I think what is going to be the deciding factor is how good they are on their feet. To me, Diaz will be at least slightly better standing and will pull out the win. Diaz def. MacDonald via decision.
KELVIN HUNT: I’m soooo excited for this fight. Anytime a Diaz brother is fighting I’m there. This is a tough fight to call. MacDonald gave Condit all he could handle and if he’s able to put Diaz on his back I think he’ll be able to win a decision. Macdonald via split decision.
RICHARD MANN: Nate Diaz is extremely similar to his brother Nick. They both have weak takedown defense and strong submission games. However, Nate is not as effective as a striker. In this fight, look for MacDonald to get takedowns and work from the top. Diaz will be able to defend and make it to the final bell. However, will not be able to work enough offense to overcome being stuck on his back. Pick = Rory MacDonald.
Mark Bocek (9-3) vs. Ben Henderson (12-2)
ODDS: Mark Bocek even vs. Ben Henderson -130
BRIAN FURBY: Bocek is scrappy, but Henderson is the better wrestler and more well-rounded fighter. Henderson by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: Henderson has proven to be very durable and almost impossible to submit. If anybody can submit him at this point in his career, it is Bocek. This bout won’t be flashy on the feet, but it probably won’t be there long anyway. Henderson will get his take downs and while being cautious of the dangerous guard of Bocek, will look to scramble his way to dominant positions. Henderson will win most of the fight, until he gets caught and choked out. Bocek by submission.
JACK BRATCHER: Interesting match up between two skilled submission fighters. Henderson won’t have to worry about any “Showtime kicks” in this one, instead, he will just have to fend off a fighter who just submitted Dustin Hazelett with a triangle choke which may even be more impressive. I see Henderson pulling out the decision in this one. He’s athletic and skilled enough where he should avoid the submission, but I don’t see him pulling it off against Bocek either. Henderson via decision.
JOSH CROSS: I’m sure we’ve all seen the wall kick that Pettis landed on Henderson’s chin numerous times. I’d also say that if Henderson hasn’t watched it on TV just as much, the scene still plays in his head from time to time. In this fight Henderson is going to be looking to distance himself from that moment, which sealed his fate in that fight and took the title away from him. While Bocek is definitely a threat, most of his wins have come via submission, and I don’t see Henderson tapping anytime soon. Henderson def. Bocek via decision.
KELVIN HUNT: If Bocek doesn’t get the sub early it’s not going to be a good look for him. I look for Henderson to dictate where the fight takes place and grind out a decision win.
RICHARD MANN: It is amazing what a little game-planning can do for a fighter. Henderson is not an exceptionally skilled fighter. He can wrestle a bit, but he is clearly not Sean Sherk. However, the fact that he uses a clearly defined and grappling based strategy has led him to several quality wins. However, Bocek has improved at a dramatic rate and is probably the better grappler. If Henderson can get takedowns, he could take the decision. However, I trust in Bocek’s wrestling ability. The former WEC champion will be left defending takedowns the whole time. Pick = Mark Bocek.
Randy Couture (19-10) vs. Lyoto Machida (16-2)
ODDS: Randy Couture +240 vs. Lyoto Machida -300
BRIAN FURBY: Toughest fight for me to pick on this card. Machida is a huge favorite, but Couture often finds a way to win when people count him out. Machida is coming off back to back losses, and Couture has stated this is final fight. I’m going with the underdog on this one and taking Couture – unless Machida catches him early, I think Couture stands a good chance to grind out a decision and end his fighting career on a high note. Couture by Split Decision.
DENNY HODGE: The Legend against the once-seemingly invincible Machida. Is there ever a secret to Randy’s gameplan? He will come out and throw just enough to get inside, clinch, and put Machida on the cage. Shogun showed the world that to be effective against Machida you have to put pressure on him, and that’s exactly what Randy will do. Machida will get off in the stand up early as Randy feels him out on the feet, but once Randy puts him on his back, it will be over. Couture by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: Couture hand-picked this fight because he saw something in Machida’s style that he thinks he can exploit. And I see the same thing. He’ll use his patented Greco style to close the distance, get his hands on Machida, put him down and beat him up on the ground. Rinse and repeat for a three round decision and a farewell win for Captain America. We’re going to miss you Randy! You should be ashamed of yourself if you pick against Couture in his retirement match!
JOSH CROSS: Just looking at this fight on paper, I feel like Machida wins, but then as time goes on, I think back to some of Couture’s previous fights and think about how I thought there was no way he could win, but somehow he did. Couture’s last two fights against Toney and Coleman were more special attractions than challenging fights for “The Natural,” but I still can’t find myself to pick against Couture. My mind tells me Machida, but I know Couture’s history of pulling out wins when he is the underdog. That’s why I have to go with Captain America on this one, against my better judgment. Couture def. Machida via decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Couture’s magic is going to run out here. Machida’s too fast and has just enough power to tag that weary old chin of Couture. I think Machida hits Couture ala Chuck Liddell and finishes him via TKO in the second after finding his range in the first round.
RICHARD MANN: In his last fight against a UFC level fighter, Couture got gift decision over Brandon Vera. If you really think about it, Vera should still be cut from the promotion, so is he really UFC level? Machida is a better fighter than Vera. He is better in the clinch and better at a distance. Couture’s gameplan will be the same, he will look to press Machida into the fence. Machida will make it difficult for him with his footwork, and even if Couture gets it there, he will have very little offense at this age. I am expecting a lot of people to go with Couture for sentimental reasons, but he is literally over twice the age of the UFC light heavyweight champion.
Pick = Lyoto Machida.
Vladimir Matyushenko (25-5) vs. Jason Brilz (18-3-1)
ODDS: Vladimir Matyushenko even vs. Jason Brilz -130
BRIAN FURBY: Brilz is better on the feet than Matyushenko, and if Matyushenko gets him down, Brilz should be able to get back up fairly quickly. Brilz by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: Brilz will have a slight advantage on the feet, but you can never count out the crafty Matyushenko. This bout will be ugly and grinding. Look for both guys to go for takedowns and get their fair share, but it will be Brilz who does enough to earn the decision in this one.
JACK BRATCHER: At 40-years-old, how much longer will Matyushenko be able to hold his own in the big leagues? Some are wondering why this fight is on the main card. I’m one of them. Some fights they say, “don’t blink.” This is the kind of fight where you will want to blink quite a few times, in fact you may just take 40 winks, and wake up just in time to see Brilz get his hand raised for a decision victory.
JOSH CROSS: I feel like ring rust is going to be an issue in the fights seeing as how Brilz hasn’t had a fight in nearly a year. Going up against someone with as much experience as Matyushenko, Brilz is going to need to be at the top of his game if he wants to win this fight. That being said, I don’t think Brilz is going to be at his best and therefore I think Matyushenko will pull off the win. Matyushenko def. Brilz via submission.
KELVIN HUNT: Ehh…two fighters past their primes with very similar styles. Brilz has been out over a year so I’m go with Matyushenko via ugly UD.
RICHARD MANN: I favor Brilz in this fight. He has actually made strides with his boxing game, while Matyushenko has been the same fighter for years. On paper, the “Janitor” has the better wrestling credentials, but Brilz is the younger fighter and employs his wrestling better in MMA fights. Pick = Jason Brilz.
José Aldo (18-1) vs. Mark Hominick (20-8)
ODDS: Jose Aldo -575 vs. Mark Hominick +375
BRIAN FURBY: Hominick’s striking is good, but Aldo’s is off the charts. Hominick may make it competitive for a minute or two, but then Aldo takes over. Aldo wins by TKO in Round 2.
DENNY HODGE: This could very well be “Fight of the Night” and have “Knockout of the Night” or both. Hominick has very nice stand up, and can submit his opponents as well, but he will not even try to get this one on the ground — and wouldn’t be able to if he wanted. Instead, he will oblige Aldo in a stand up war. Aldo measures distance as well as anybody, and uses the range that he creates to get off a myriad of punch/kick combos. Look for Aldo to slice and dice the lead leg of Hominick as the challenger tries to close the distance, and then the champ will put him away with a flurry in the 2nd round.
JACK BRATCHER: Fun, fun, fun. Now this is one of those, “Don’t blink” fights I just mentioned. Aldo will win this fight, it’s just a question of how. Aldo has knocked out seven of his last eight opponents. The only one he didn’t finish of those was Faber and it took all Faber had just to survive. Hominick believes he can stand and trade with Aldo. Coach Tompkins will even make him believe it. And he will even do it for maybe a round or two at the most. But make no mistake, Jose Aldo is going to pick Hominick apart like a raven pecking out the eyes of a dead cowboy. Aldo via TKO in round three.
JOSH CROSS: For me, there’s not much to say about this fight. Hominick is an exciting fighter, but he just is not on the level of Jose Aldo. I think this very well could be an exciting fight, but in the end, barring a fluke, Aldo retains his championship. Aldo def. Hominick via TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Yes, Hominick has very good stand up skills, but I suppose that everyone has forgotten that he’s prone to submisisions and that Aldo definitely has the edge there. He’s also much larger than Hominick and should be able to dictate where the fight takes place. If Aldo chooses to stand with Hominick it could be an exciting fight, but if Aldo fights smart he should have no problems taking Hominick out via submission. Aldo via rear naked choke.
RICHARD MANN: Sometimes fights are extremely easy to predict. Despite being mostly a striker and a student of a famous striking coach, Hominick rarely check low kicks. If he employs that same strategy here, he will simply get his leg kicked off. On top of that, Hominick has never been able to land with very much power. If these two get into a close-range fire fight, Aldo will certainly come out on top. Pick = Jose Aldo.
Georges St-Pierre (21-2) vs. Jake Shields (26-4-1)
ODDS: Georges St-Pierre -350 vs. Jake Shields +275
BRIAN FURBY: I think the odds are overly in GSP’s favor, but I have little doubt he’ll win this fight. Also, with his newfound gymnastics training, maybe he’ll be able to stick his post-win backflip without looking like he’s going to break his ankles. GSP by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: There is no secret as to what Jake Shields will have to do to win this fight. He will have to get takedowns, which he is adept at doing against most of his opponents, but GSP is on a whole different level with his take down defense. That will be his biggest obstacle in this fight. GSP will determine where this fight goes and he may be patient in the early rounds, and will likely punish Shields with his jab early to not risk giving up an early take down in the bout. After he gets his rhythm, he will test the cardio of Shields who will use a lot of energy trying to secure take downs to get to his ground game. I believe he will get a couple, but GSP will stifle that aspect of his game and run away with an easy, one-sided decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Hahaha, I’m getting pumped for this fight. See, I used to be one of those who doubted Jake Shields. I never thought much of him. Even considered him a bit boring until I sat ringside and saw him make Dan Henderson look like a complete amateur. I made a mental note then to never doubt this guy. He has an animal drive and determination in him that is very rare. Never underestimate a man’s hunger to achieve. It’s been a long time coming for Shields. He’s worked longer and gone through more than most to earn this shot and I don’t see him letting that slip away. I think he will get his hands on GSP, put him on his back, mount him and put him where we have never seen. Then he’s going to try and rip an arm off or choke the champ out. Jake Shields via submission.
JOSH CROSS: It has been nearly four years since Jake Shields has gotten a win via anything other than a decision or a submission, and we all know how the stigma of not finishing his fights has plagued GSP in recent fights. That being said, I think that this fight is going to spend most of it’s time on the ground. Shield’s cardio has to look better than it did in his last fight, and I think it will, but I still see GSP coming out of this with the title. GSP def. Shields via decision.
KELVIN HUNT: The UFC has done there best to make Shields seem like a threat to GSP…but this fight isn’t going to be close. GSP will dictate where the fight will take place and punish Shields standing and take him down if he wants. For everyone harping about Shields and his submission game…he couldn’t submit a gassed out Dan Henderson who Shields had mounted several times or Jason Mayhem Miller who actually had Shields in a rear naked choke and got saved by the bell in their Strikeforce snoozefest. Shields is resilient, but the only thing that’s going to do is allow him to take a beating for 5 rounds. GSP via UD.
RICHARD MANN: I know it is the insider thing to say stuff like “this fight is a lot closer than people think,” but it really is not. Shields’ game is a strong top-control grappling system. He will not be able to get takedowns, and he will not be able to hang with the champion on the feet. People have been saying “he took down Dan Henderson,” but so did Murilo “Ninja” Rua. If St. Pierre wants to work his nasty knee-pick takedown, he can. Shields is a world-class grappler, but he has never been the type of guy to lace up a submission from his back. Pick = Georges St. Pierre.
NOTE: All UFC 129 fight odds provided by ProMMAnow.com site sponsor LinesMaker (www.linesmaker.com).