It was almost an event for the ages. All week long the UFC and media proxies had been telling fans just how historic UFC 129 was. How they would pack 55,000 into the Rogers Centre. How it would be the biggest UFC of all time. And I'll be damned if it didn't almost deliver.
Call me a cynic. I scoffed at the idea this would be a card worthy of verse and song. And the more the event was pumped up, the harder I rolled my eyes. It was unlikely to be one of the UFC's top five grossing events ever I told friends, barely able to contain my scorn. It will hardly come within 20,000 of the worldwide MMA attendance record I said, donning my PRIDE t-shirt with a smile. What, I wondered, was the history that was being made?
And then the event started. From top to bottom, every fight seemed to deliver and not just in a standard "well, that was kind of fun" way. But in preposterous ways. Unthinkable ways. Pablo Garza channeled the great Rumina Sato with a jumping triangle for a finish. John Makdessi erased Shonie Carter from the history books by landing the best spinning backfist in UFC history against Kyle Watson - only to be outshined by Lyoto Machida's Steven Seagal inspired crane kick that knocked out Randy Couture (and knocked out one of his teeth).
There were no bathroom breaks on this card. If you did the sensible thing and went during the Vladimir Matyushenko fight, you missed a rare knockout from the Russian journeyman. There was no reprieve. It was fight after fight of exciting action. Ben Henderson and Mark Bocek had a spirited three round battle. Jose Aldo and Mark Hominick one upped them, if only because they had ten more minutes to shine in the UFC's first featherweight title bout.
I told my twitter audience this was shaping up to be the best UFC of all time. And then Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields stepped into the cage for the main event. The fight went much as I expected. St. Pierre was content to fight on his feet, never challenging Shields's vaunted American Jiu Jitsu. Shields, in turn, seemed content to allow it, never seriously committing to a takedown attempt and battling St. Pierre on his feet.
St. Pierre and his team had figured Shields out brilliantly. He landed the jab whenever he threw it and followed it with an exaggeratedly looping right hand that hit Shields time and time again. Only a third round punch and what may have been an inadvertent finger in the eye on a rare GSP takedown attempt made the fight remotely interesting.
With St. Pierre unable to see out of his left eye, Shields was able to land the occasional right hand. Even then, St. Pierre dropped him with a big head kick in the fourth round and won every round on my scorecard. Somehow two of the judge's saw the final two rounds for Shields, who taunted St. Pierre like he was winning the fight, but acted like a loser throughout. Shields never made a concerted effort to take the fight to the ground and instead of discussing with his corner how he might time a shot, he wondered if he should pull guard. A telling lack of confidence.
In the end what might have been the show of the year was marred by a dull decision in the main event. For all the talk of Georges St. Pierre leading mixed martial arts into uncharted mainstream waters, it's something that is never going to be accomplished by a fighter who doesn't excite emotions in the cage. St. Pierre has turned into Bernard Hopkins or Ronald "Winky" Wright. He's a brilliant tactician and an excellent fighter. But if he fights the way he did tonight, he's not the fighter to take the sport to the next level.
- Georges St. Pierre Holds Back UFC's Canadian Coming Out Party at UFC 129 - Jonathan Snowden
- Is Steven Seagal Secretly a Martial Arts Genius? - Jonathan Snowden
- UFC 129 Post-Fight Press Conference Video
- Play by Play and Live Commentary - Brent Brookhouse
- Georges St. Pierre Slips Past Jake Shields
- Jose Aldo Holds Off Mark Hominick
- Lyoto Machida Clouts Randy Couture
- Vladimir Matyushenko Mops the Floor With Jason Brilz
- Ben Henderson Whips Up On Mark Bocek
- Rory MacDonald Ragdolls Nate Diaz
- Jake Ellenberger Brutalizes Sean Pierson
- Claude Patrick Edges Daniel Roberts
- Pablo Garza Submits Yves Jabouin
- John Makdessi KO's Kyle Watson With Spinning Back Fist
- Jason MacDonald Triangles Ryan Jensen
- Ivan Menjivar Clocks Charlie Valencia