Welcome everyone to sunny (for a change this week) Toronto, Ontario, Canada for UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields. I am coming to you from the Rogers Centre football press box, which is
practically in Mississauga the best seat in the house, as Bryan Alvarez (front) and Todd Martin (tiny speck to the right of the Octagon) can attest:
To make navigation easier, commentary on the most recent match will be posted at the top of the page.
It's Time! Jake Shields enters to "Renegades of Funk" by Rage Against The Machine (of all the Rage song to choose from? Argh!) while Georges St. Pierre enters to "Ne Compare Pas" by Youssoupha & Arsenik & Mam's Manioloy. I enjoy French language rap because I have a French roommate and her sister once brought a friend to visit Los Angeles who LOVED it. My enjoyment came not so much from the music, but the fact that my roommate could not hide her contempt for it even though she once wrote for a French hip hop magazine Fond memories.
Round one is over. Crowd is for GSP and the press box is for GSP (that will by my last ridiculing of this press crew, at least for this article). Shields had a time or two where he had the beginnings of a takedown, but was never really that close. GSP looks comfortable standing, but almost to a worrisome degree. You always worry about a wrestler falling in love with his boxing. Definitely GSP's round.
This fight is peculiar. First of all, there are 55,000 people sitting on their hands like they're watching a WrestleMania match featuring Randy Orton. Secondly, Shields is so tentative that it's hard to describe. He throws these little strikes but has no commitment. I wonder if he's spooked by the event or saving himself for later rounds or something else. Whatever it is, the narrative has settled into GSP picking Shields apart with punches in a methodical way.
Round 3 is over and things are getting interesting. GSP probably landed more punches, but left eye is showing damage from a jab by Shields. They also finally went to the ground, with GSP on top but Shields hitting more strikes and generally looking more comfortable. It could be 2-1 right now.
GSP landed a left kick to the head early in round 4, but never came close to finishing. Shields later got a leg as part of a takedown attempt and hit a nice right that further damaged GSP's eye, but it was far from being enough to win the round. I'd have it straight 3-1, but I could see the case for anything between that and 5-0 entering round 5.
Fight's over. GSP won. Let's move on.
This was sort of a bizarro 1998 Over the Edge. On that show, a hot crowd was treated to one of the most banal pay-per-view undercards to come from the WWF, but a sizzling Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love main event saved everything. Tonight, the undercard had everything you could want from a showpiece event, but the main event was so uninspiring that the crowd is tired and uninterested even though their hero won.
St. Pierre won either 3 or 4 rounds, depending on your judge's opinion. In the post-fight interview, St. Pierre said that he can't see out of his left eye and that he will have to go to the hospital. He complimented Jake Shields and he demurred when asked about a possible match with Anderson Silva.
Well, that was a downer. It did remind me why I liked GSP in the first place, that being that he is a thoughtful fighter who cares about the art of fighting and competition. Jake Shields also comes off well for his defense and craftiness, but he may have been damaged by a performance that had a better result (narrow decision loss with 1 or 2 rounds won) than most expected.
As a last note, it will be interesting to see where this leaves UFC. Any entertainment property is built to some extent on star power, and GSP is still a star. So are Brock, Anderson, Jon Jones and probably Cain. They have lots of reasons to be happy and 55,000 reasons to look towards booking another dome show in the near future. It will be interesting to see if that happens, or if the flat finish to this show causes things to slow down a bit.
Mark Hominick gets the big red & white entrance with "Coming Home" by Diddy-Dirty Money featuring Skylar for his featherweight championship challenge to Jose Aldo, Jr. (entering to "Run This Town" by Jay-Z, featuring Rihanna and KanYe West). I cannot link to videos for either of those songs, but Aldo did win the "Fastest Channel Change" award for his entrance music tonight. Hominick may have been second.
Aldo takes round 1, and there was little surprising there. Aldo quicker? Check. Hominick game? Check. McCarthy calling fast stand-ups? Check. The one interesting thing to me is that Aldo seems uncomfortable standing with a man who is taller than him. That could mean trouble if the expected future move to Lightweight happens someday.
Same for round 2. This is turning into GSP vs. Alves, though. Champion is facing unanticipated skill from his challenger standing, so he is getting to top guard and controlling a less explosive fight. In this case it could mean a 5 round sweep, or it could mean that Hominick will solve his takedown defense problem and gain even more confidence standing. We shall see.
I was all set to write, "imagine if GSP decided entered round three against Alves and said, 'hmm, I think I'll stand with this guy that is giving me trouble on my feet,'". That's what the round was for two and a half minutes, but then Hominick got caught in an awkward position and took a short right cross to the side of the head that wobbled him and then a left hook to the temple that felled him. Also tried for the finish, but couldn't close the deal. The trouble is that it gave Aldo a third round and makes it so that Hominick has to hunte for a finish if he's going to take the title.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Hasim Rahman-style hematoma over Hominick's right eye. The doctors have cleared him to continue, but that thing is nasty.
Round 4 is over and Hominick has survived. In a way it's a shame, because his reach and height have given Aldo problems all fight. The trouble is that Aldo is a hell of a wrestler and has more power in his punches. One more round to shock the world for Hominick.
That was one dramatic final round. Hominick got on top of Aldo's guard for at least the last three minutes of the round and just pounded him. He never threatened a finish and Aldo never even looked worried, but Hominick landed enough clean shots and had such a vociferous crowd behind him that you could taste the energy.
Aldo won, as expected, but there was a 50-43 score in there, which had to be a mistake. I mean, there is no way Aldo won round five. No way.
Bryan Alvarez had a 47-47 draw, which is hard to justify in my opinion. Hominick controlled the last round and did a good amount of damage, but he never came within shouting distance of finishing. I also have a tough time giving Hominick any other rounds, frankly.
One extra note is that UFC should start being careful about who they give press credentials to (pot/kettle cliche is duly noted). It may feel good right now to have a bunch of cheerleaders in your press box, but coveting professionalism rather than boosterism in the press does protect you when the public inevitably turns against you. People who cheer from press boxes are quick to abandon a cold product and even quicker to launch irrational criticism based on loose or unbalanced reporting of events. I hope they see tonight as a turning point.
Heeeeeeeeere we go. Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (w/ Steven Seagal) vs. Randy "The Natural" Couture. Man. This fight feels like it has gained supernova momentum this week. Randy's entrance is as good as Jeremy Botter and Oliver Copp advertised it to be. It's "Lunatic Fringe" by Red Rider. And there is only one link that can go with that song. It is this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRfeK7jtvq0.
Wow. Say what you will about Bruce Buffer, but that intro was outstanding. Let's see this fight.
Round 1 had to be scored for Machida. The fight is fascinating. It's clear that Randy saw Machida's defense as something his clinch could penetrate. And it probably is. But Machida is so quick and so strong that even when Randy gets into the position he needs to be in, he can't trap Machida against the cage.
Couture gets a standing ovation, including from the unprofessional UFC press after losing in spectacular fashion. The finish, which you will see at least a dozen times, was a crane kick, a la The Karate Kid.
Couture retires at 19-11, and he has a career to be proud of. After the big kick, he fell and curled into the fetal position, similar to the ending of the Lesnar fight. The man is an amazing fighter and quite the executioner when controlling a fight, but comebacks are not his forte.
The championship fights are next.
Now I remember why I like Jason Brilz. He enters to "Bro Hym by Pennywise. Back when I was in college in the late 90's, I socialized a lot with the Latino Business Student Association (LBSA) at USC (the real USC, that is) and DJs at their parties frequently added that to the typical hip hop playlist towards the end of the night. I have fond memories of that song. Matyushenko enters to "Deaf Forever" by Motorhead. That is appropriate, because another Motorhead fan" also has experience working dome shows where the crowd barely cares about the match.
Short TKO win for Matyushenko and it was quite impressive (and possibly orchestrated). Matyushenko went in with what initially was the motion for an overhand right, but when Brilz ducked his head Matyushenko circled his arm down to the uppercut position and landed right in the jaw. Matyushenko then followed with a left hook to finish the combo and send Brilz down. To be clear, when I say, "orchestrated," I mean that Matyushenko planned that as a set piece of punches, not that the fight was fixed. When it comes to orchestrating a punch combo like that, it is impressive that he was able to pull it off, but to me it does not necessarily mean that he is improving his overall striking skills to the point that he is ready to take on top light heavyweights. Then again, I thought Ninja Roberts was ready to be elevated and he narrowly lost tonight.
Uh oh. Ben Henderson (facing Mark Bocek of Woodbridge, ON) has ditched the gospel music and enters to "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi. Even if that song means a great deal to you and has some resonance with the events of your life, entering to a Bon Jovi song from the 00's is a no-no. If you're going to enter to Bon Jovi, just think, "What Would Kalib Do?". Bocek chooses the generic "My Time" by Fabolous, featuring Jeremih.
Man, Henderson is one tough dude. He may not be strong enough or quick enough to ever win the championship in UFC, but he has stamina for days and he's slippery as heck when it comes to eluding submissions. He's controlling this fight after two rounds with strikes and grappling, even though Bocek did have a half-chance on a d'arce choke/guillotine try.
Henderson should win in a sweep and this was a forgettable fight. Both guys tried, but nothing stood out to make it memorable. That makes Canada 5-3 tonight, which means that a winning record is not yet guaranteed.
Baba O'Riley (teenage wasteland). No exclamation point, because it just ain't the same. The montage is still cool and the beginning still gives me goosebumps, but they killed the Griffin/Bonnar bridge montage. They still emphasize that TUF Season 1 finale fight, but they shortened it and put it in black and white, killing its emotional resonance. I get that the sport has moved on and I get that neither guy is considered a championship contender anymore, but that fight and the montage they made of it for the Baba O'Riley montage was something special and now it is less so.
The main card is up next. Before that, I just must make the comment that judging is very inconsistent in MMA. I know that may be obvious, but you get these shows where the man who pushes the action gets a huge amount of sympathy from the judges and then these other shows (like tonight's) where the only thing that matters is damage. I like the idea of scoring based on damage in theory, but that is a slippery slope because it gives too much of an edge to counterpunchers. I plan on asking Mr. Dana White about that at the press conference (assuming I get a question in).
Prelim fight #2 is Ellenberger vs. Nate Diaz (that inclusion of a Christian name may become necessary in UFC if Dana White gets his way in Stockton next week). I had a whole post written about Diaz' fine choice of 2Pac for his entrance music, but a login timeout sent it into the ether. C`est la Internet. Instead I'll say that we are two rounds in and Diaz is getting frustrated when attempting takedowns. Diaz probably deserves the nod so far based on Octagon control. If I'm right, MacDonald may need a submission because Lord knows that you can't knock stop a Diaz brother with strikes unless you're Jeremy Jackson or the doctor assigned by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Wow, what a third round. MacDonald had two big back suplexes onto Diaz' shoulder, but Diaz has the heart of a warrior. Crowd went bonkers for those moves and even more bonkers when the fight finished with a flurry of punches by both men. As a full fight, you judge it for MacDonald without a second thought. This has been a superb card so far.
Between fights we get "Walk" by Kilgore over the loudspeakers. And that, my friends, deserves it's own Whole F8ckin' Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kGRuze3AdM.
Prelim fight #1 is ready to go. Jake Ellenberger (heel) vs. Sean Pierson (Toronto) starts us off and there is a "let's go Pier-son" chant already. In fact, that is our second "let's go" chant heard in our area following a "let's go Red Wings" during the undercard. (And if you residents of the GTA ever wondered why Toronto has only one NHL team, listen to that [or a "let's go Sa-bres" chant] and you'll understand why.)
Whoa, it's over. Ellenberger with a short left hook to the eye. That is such a dangerous punch in boxing, but it is seen less frequently in MMA. The boxing skills of MMA guys are getting a lot better and I expect that we'll see more left hook counterpunches lead to the end of fights in the future.
There is only one more fight scheduled before 9 p.m., EDT, so we may have a significant break before there is any more action.
Little bit of a break there so that we don't have too long a delay before the Spike/SportsNet version of the show starts.
Our fifth and final undercard/Facebook match is Daniel Roberts (entering to "Death Rides a Horse" by Enrico Morricone) vs. Claude Patrick (entering to "All Of The Lights" by KanYe West, featuring 7 other bubblegum pop stars) in what Rampage might call a Black On Black Violence match. I have been at each fight during Roberts' three-fight winning streak and I really like this guy. Arianny Celeste gets a big pop when shown on the screen, as always.
First round was Patrick's and he hit the better strikes in round two as well. Roberts is tough as nails and a great grappler, though. He might have took round two. I am impressed with Patrick's ability to prevent Roberts from getting mount or back and his ability to stand up. I still like Roberts in a major way to pull this out against the crowd's wishes.
Welp, that may not happen. Third round was close, but I think Patrick probably got it. My man-crush Roberts raised his hands after the fight (to a round of boos), but the look on his face was one of disappointment. And he has to be crushed. He got the fight even after a bad first round and pushed the action more in the third round, but he took more damage and that's what spelled the difference.
Spike TV/Rogers SportsNet fights are next, so we are now on an 11 minute break.
While we wait for undercard match #4, check out The Score's (Canada's equivalent of Versus) most popular video (featuring This Very Site's Bryan Alvarez) talking about tonight's show.
Ontario's (the California version, not the Canadian one) own Charlie Valencia vs. Ivan Menjivar (Montreal) is up next. Valencia enters to "Low Rider" by War, which draws a laugh from many members of the crowd. Maybe they were expecting Cheech & Chong (or George Lopez, even). Menjivar enters to "Chevere" by Volito, featuring Notch. Chevere is reggaeton.
Menjivar wins in the first round with a hard short elbow from the clinch. He did break Valencia's nose, but this finish went by the basic Valencia script of him going down from shots that many other fighters manage to survive. Menjivar did the ol' Ken/Ryu (or, Carlos Newton, for those MMA fans who aren't into Street Fighter II) fireball celebration. That's 3-1 for Canada, which, if we go by Canada's favorite American NHL team, means that Canadian fighters are about to lose their next 3 fights.
Undercard match #3: Ryan Jensen (heel) vs. Jason MacDonald (Edmonton) is up next. MacDonald not only has the best entrance music so far (Metallica's remake of Turn The Page, a Bob Seger song), but he is also the most over babyface thus far.
MacDonald gets the win in the first round with a triangle from his back after getting Jensen's back and making a great transition. Joe Rogan loved it, the crowd loved it and MacDonald did a massive fist pump and looked like he is really living the dream right about now. Good for him.
We are already one match in and Canada is already 0-1. Pablo Garza beat Yves Jabouin with a cool flying triangle in the first round. Up next is Kyle Watson (heel) vs. John Makdessi (Montreal).
First round uninspiring to the crowd, but the positive energy picked up when Brittney Palmer's rack was shown on the big screen. She's the ring card girl you'd have to look up, if you didn't know. Also, Bryan spotted a bird soaring around what would be the left-center field seats. Big one, too.
Round two picked up with Watson getting in a nice shot and Makdessi landing a couple of left jabs towards the end of the round. Crowd is filling in exceptionally well considering the fact that we are two and a half hours from pay per view start time. Gotta be at least 60% full, maybe more. The pricey seats are emptier, natch.
Shonie Special (spinning backfist) wins the fight in spectacular fashion for Makdessi and the crowd goes wild. There is a serious pro-Canada vibe to the whole show. I wonder how that will affect the buyrate in the U.S. Expectations are that Canada's buys could approach 200,000. I'm figuring that would mean about 750,000 total in North American.