Read on for https://mmainsight.com’s full preview and predictions for tomorrow night’s UFC 129: GSP Vs Shields event in Toronto, Canada.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields
The atmosphere is likely to be very special indeed when GSP walks out to the home support of 55,000 fans in Toronto to defend his 170lb title, but he’ll have to keep his focus on the task at hand or risk losing to the hugely experienced Jake Shields who has a knack of winning fights he’s not expected to.
What we can say for sure about this fight is that St.Pierre is the better striker. The champion has always been very good on the feet and he’s improved recently with Freddie Roach adding solid boxing fundamentals, most notably a well executed stepping / power jab, to his game which compliment his flashier high kicks and superman punches well.
His chin could be questioned, but he rarely gets hit and in this particular fight it’s not a concern as the reality is that Shields is neither a devastating striker, nor an effective one. Despite his vast experience the former Strikeforce champion always looks a little uncomfortable standing, and will be looking to use his strikes purely as a means to set up takedowns.
Shields is undoubtedly a force on the mat, and that’s where things could get very interesting, but first he has to get the fight there. That’ll be tough as GSP is quick, has cat-like reflexes and excellent balance. He’s also likely to be sitting behind his jab which will make it difficult for the challenger to close the distance. So Shields may instead have to rely on GSP taking him down, and trying to get on top via scrambles – something he is very good at – or working for submissions from his back which he’s also capable of, though he’s more dangerous on top.
It’s worth mentioning cardio too. GSP’s is second to none so there’s no doubt he can go all five rounds with whatever Shields throws at him. There is a question mark over the challenger though. He looked lethargic in his UFC debut last year after a tough weight cut, and given the pressure he’s now under in the biggest fight of his life and with 55,000 fans likely cheering his opponent, fatigue could become an issue later on in the fight.
You have to respect Shields ground game, but I really do favor GSP here. The champion is very well rounded so he won’t be scared to compete on the mat, but more than likely he’ll be looking to expose Shields weak point – his striking. I’ve always felt this was a perfect fight for St.Pierre to really show his full striking talents and go for a finish, but he’s not the type of fighter to hit the gamble button so I think he’ll still be somewhat cautious and pick Shields apart with his jab, much as he did against Josh Koscheck last time out.
GSP to win by decision.
Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick
It’s great to finally have Jose Aldo making his long-awaited debut in the UFC, and his first featherweight title defence against Mark Hominick has the potential to be one of the most entertaining fights on the card.
So far there’s been nobody at featherweight who can get close to Aldo’s skill-level. His striking is hugely impressive, with all eight limbs providing a knockout threat, while his speed, accuracy and natural killer instinct make him a very dangerous proposition indeed.
Hominick is talented and offensively minded on the feet too though and can piece together fluid combinations of kicks and punches which should make for an exciting stand-up battle.
On the floor it’s a different matter though. While Aldo rarely goes to the ground he is a very highly regarded BJJ practitioner – in fact despite his impressive striking jiu-jitsu was where his journey into MMA began as a teenager.
Meanwhile Hominick has had a weakness for submissions throughout his career, and though he has improved somewhat, the striker will have to be focused on keeping this fight standing if he wants to be in with a realistic chance of coming out on top.
I think Hominick can make this into an entertaining fight on the feet, but I think it’ll become apparent as the bout progresses that Aldo is the superior striker, and he always has the option of taking it to the floor if things start to go awry for any reason. Either way I see Aldo impressing en-route to a stoppage victory.
Jose Aldo to win by TKO in Rd3.
Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida
Lyoto Machida is someone that UFC hall-of-famer Randy Couture has been wanting to fight for a long time, and if this is to be the last time that he competes in the Octagon as he has been claiming this week, then he’ll forever be able to hold on to the fact that he was still competing against top-flight competition.
There’s no great mystery about Couture’s gameplan here. His strategy will be one we’ve seen from ‘The Natural’ before, where he attempts to close down Machida, use the cage to get into the clinch and rough him up on the inside, while looking for the take him down if it presents itself. It won’t be fun to watch, but it’s worked in the past, and it certainly is a decent solution to combat Machida’s elusiveness.
The catch is that to do so he needs to close the distance very quickly without getting tagged – something that’s particularly important considering that at the age of 47 his punch resistance is very low and one decent connection could send him crashing to the canvas.
That’s a major concern as, despite his at time overly cautious approach, Machida has proven in the past that he has KO power, he’s lightning quick on the counter attack, and has excellent reflexes and accuracy.
It’s worth noting that Machida is also good on the ground and has legit BJJ skills. He’s better on top though and it’s hard to see him pulling anything from his back if Couture does get him down. Don’t discount Machida attempting to take him down though as he has some very good leg sweeps that often come from nowhere and surprise his opponents. If he does attempt this it will more than likely be a point scoring exercise rather than with the intent of submitting Couture on the ground however as the veteran has very sound submission defense.
I can see this either being a boring fight with Couture neutralizing Machida against the cage, or one with an exciting finish as Machida connects with something that switches off ‘The Natural’s’ lights. I favor the latter option. Couture’s fight with Brandon Vera is a good barometer – every time Couture was forced to stand and trade for any length of time he got hurt and had to desperately reach for the clinch. Vera couldn’t quite finish him off but should have won anyway. I think Machida has the skills to capatilize on those moments though, marking a sad end to Couture’s career.
Lyoto Machida to win by KO in Rd3.
Jason Brilz vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Not the most glamorous fight to find on the main card of a prestigious event like this, but a series of injuries and fight swaps have nonetheless given Brilz and Matyushenko a chance to shine on one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year.
Both Brilz and Maytushenko come from a wrestling base, with ‘The Janitor’ in particular using that as the focal point of his fighting style and perhaps just edging Brilz in this area of the fight.
I believe Brilz is better in the stand-up however which could be crucial if the two neutralize each other grappling wise. I also think Brilz is the hungrier of the two and is more likely to push the pace which could pose problems for Matyushenko who’s still dependable, but at the age of 40 is undoubtedly starting to slow down.
It’s a close fight that could go either way, but I favor the younger Brilz to be the more active fighter and as such seize a decision victory.
Jason Brilz to win by decision.
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson
Ben Henderson lost his WEC lightweight title to Anthony Pettis just prior to the UFC merger which means he’s not receiving quite the fanfare he may otherwise have had for his UFC debut, but he’s still a quality fighter and will provide an interesting match-up for another fighter with something to prove, Mark Bocek.
This will be an interesting test to see just how good Henderson is. In the WEC he showed he has good wrestling and offensive BJJ, remarkable submission defense and improving striking along with excellent cardio, but of course the level of competition wasn’t as tough as it is in the UFC.
Bocek might not be the biggest name in the division but he’s no pushover and possesses a well-rounded enough skill-set to provide a serious challenge to Henderson. His real asset is his Brazilian jiu-jitsu though, and whether on top or from his back he has the ability to really put Henderson’s ability to resist submissions to the test.
I believe Henderson may have the edge over Bocek in the stand-up, but on the ground is likely to be where this fight will be won or lost. I’m going back and forth on my pick here – I’d like to give Henderson the benefit of the doubt and say he’ll find a way to win, but at the same time the fact that he’s been caught in so many submissions before, regardless of whether he’s survived them or not, makes me cautious given Bocek’s BJJ ability. Given that Henderson just unexpectedly failed to make weight (albeit by half a pound) I’m taking that as a sign to go for Bocek.
Mark Bocek to win by submission in Rd2.
Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald
Sean Pierson vs. Jake Ellenberger
Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza
Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts
Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia
Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen
John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson