Toronto - The UFC tossed around an awful lot of hyperbole leading up to Saturday night’s UFC 129 show at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The fight company called it “the biggest event in UFC history” (a claim that in its most literal sense couldn’t be argued with) and even “the future of sports.”
That last one seems a bit more dubious.
Amazingly though, the show itself lived up to the hype. UFC 129 was the rarest things in mixed martial arts – a highly publicized, highly charged mega-event that didn’t disappoint once the opening bell rang. Naturally, there has been some post-fight kvetching (always is, in this sport) but for the most part, the UFC’s first venture into Ontario and first extra-large stadium show can only be considered a massive success.
As always, there were lessons to be learned. Here are the five most important storylines to emerge from UFC 129 …
1. Is Georges St. Pierre’s amazing dominance over the welterweight division lessened because he’s not always that fun to watch?
Yes and no. There is no small measure of irony in the fact that St. Pierre’s bouts sometimes feel a little ho-hum simply because he is so overwhelmingly dominant. Since his fluky 2007 loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69 we’ve seen GSP steamroll nine consecutive opponents with seemingly increasing ease. Headed into UFC 129 he’d lost just one round during that four-year stretch and even though two ringside judges scored a pair of stanzas for Shields on Saturday night, it was clear almost from the opening bell that the former Strikeforce middleweight titlist had no real chance of winning. Same as ever, St. Pierre appeared capable of doing whatever he wanted to Shields, whenever he wanted to do it.
So, why does it sometimes feel like GSP is just coasting, content to ride out 25-miunte scorecard verdicts? Well, because he is. Ever since that loss to Serra, St. Pierre has become one of MMA’s most conservative fighters. His game plans – always perfectly crafted and executed -- focus on avoiding his opponent’s strengths, choosing the path of least resistance and taking few (if any) chances. This weekend St. Pierre soldiered on through an early eye injury while thoroughly outclassing a guy who’d not lost in nearly seven years, hasn’t been finished in more than 11 and until very recently held a major championship at the weight class immediately above St. Pierre’s. So, whose fault is that GSP competes in a sport where that’s not good enough?
2. Winning a decision always underwhelms when every other fight on the card ends in some kind of crazy stoppage.
That some fans are bothered that St. Pierre’s current nine-bout win-streak includes six decisions (now four straight) says more about the culture of MMA than any flaw in the champion’s character. Still, you have to admit his win over Shields felt a bit anticlimactic after the rest of evening’s action. From Pablo Garza’s flying triangle to Jon Makdessi’s spinning backfist to Ivan Menjivar’s standing elbow strike to Lyoto Machida’s crane kick, it seemed like something (maybe the 55,000 screaming fans, per chance?) got into many of the other fighters on the card. Again, not St. Pierre’s fault, but it admittedly made the evening’s main attraction seem a little tepid.
3. People, people, do NOT continue to encourage Steven Seagal.
May 2, 2011: Lyota Machidao talks about his KO of Randy Couture; a bout that ended with Couture announcing his retirement from MMA.
For the record, the aging action movie star has now accompanied two Black House fighters (Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva) to two different fights against opponents from Xtreme Couture (Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort) and each has ended in an amazing front-kick KO. First Silva blasted Belfort in the face during the first round of their fight at UFC 126 and then Machida’s stunning jumping variation of the kick on Couture during the second frame on Saturday. More maddeningly, both victorious fighters gave some measure of credit to the creepy, leather-jacket-and-shooting-glasses clad Seagal after the fights. It’s enough to make a journalist of actual, legitimate fighting throw up his hands in exasperation.
So long as this keeps up, it doesn’t look like we’ll be rid of MMA’s new celebrity trainer any time soon.
4. Couture didn’t look totally out of place out there … and that’s exactly why it’s time to hang up the gloves.
5. Even sick (and with seven months worth of ring rust) Jose Aldo is still the best.
If you thought featherweight champion Jose Aldo didn’t look quite himself against Mark Hominick on Saturday night, you were right. After Aldo ground out his own decision over the plucky Canadian – who remained game even as an enormous hematoma erupted from his forehead – the Brazilian’s camp revealed he was battling a sickness prior to the bout. That, coupled with the seven months he took off to rehab a neck injury, could explain why the usually dynamic Aldo slowed so quickly and appeared to have nothing left during a fifth round that almost saw Hominick steal the victory.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
Can anyone top the big three of Silva, Jones, and GSP as the best pound-for-pounder fighter?
Aldo on the toughness of Hominick
May 2, 2011: Jose Aldo on how he gameplanned for his successful UFC 129 featherweight title defense against Mark Hominick.