UFC 129 was an evening full of great stories. Randy Couture retired from the sport. Jose Aldo conceived a baby on the forehead of Mark Hominick. Ben Henderson proved the WEC's best can hack it in the UFC. Vladimir Matyushenko graduated from "piss break" to "must-see". And Georges St. Pierre didn't impress many fans with his win over Jake Shields. The talk will last for weeks.
But one of the stories that hasn't received a lot of attention is that of the comeback trail. Lyoto Machida, Rory MacDonald, Ivan Menjivar, and Jason MacDonald all came up big when it mattered the most... with their backs against the wall.
The most inspirational story is Menjivar's return to prominence in the sport. He is a former welterweight and lightweight fighter who has fought some of MMA's most recognizable stars over the course of the last decade. He was Georges St. Pierre's first opponent back in 2001, and he has since battled notable veterans Jeff Curran, Vitor Ribeiro, Matt Serra, Joe Lauzon, Urijah Faber, Hideo Tokoro, and Caol Uno.
He retired from the sport in November of 2006 after a loss to Bart Palaszewski under the IFL banner, citing that injuries and additions to his family were making it difficult for him to continue to compete. As you can imagine, both require money, and the sport wasn't producing the purses that it does today during those times. Menjivar was also a victim of battling in weight classes not suited for his frame to get those bigger paydays.
Those times are long gone for Menjivar. Since his return in 2010, Menjivar, who is only 28 years of age, is now fighting at 135 pounds. Believe it or not, Menjivar was fighting at 170 pounds at one point in his career with a 5'6" frame. The level playing field along with the ascension of the bantamweight and featherweight divisions to the UFC make Menjivar's rebirth an inspiration to us all. And he took full advantage of the free Facebook stream last night, dispatching of Charlie Valencia in brutal fashion with a short elbow.
Lyoto Machida was also on the comeback trail, although I doubt the UFC would be releasing him had he lost to Randy Couture last night. His impressive crane kick finish of Couture was the highlight of the evening, and it likely kept him in the hunt for the UFC light heavyweight title. Interestingly enough, I would not mind seeing Machida take aim at Jon Jones, mainly due to his elusive striking style and newfound ability to finish opponents.
Rory MacDonald entered the Octagon for the first time following his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 115 in June of last year. Ring rust and the gameness of Nate Diaz were concerns for him, but he persevered and dominated Diaz for the entire fight. He continues to prove he's the future of the sport, and the division should be taking notice that he will be relevant at the top of the division in the coming year.
And finally, Jason MacDonald returned to action last night, submitting Ryan Jensen at the 1:37 mark of the first round. He took roughly a year off due to a gruesome leg break he sustained at UFC 113 against John Salter. Not only did he get a standing ovation from fans as he entered the cage, but he delivered in a big way by taking full advantage of Jensen's poor grappling skills. Canada should be proud.
More Bloody Elbow UFC 129 Results and Analysis after the fold...