Here’s a riddle for you: what do you get when you set up the Octagon in a 55,000-seat stadium in Toronto, pit Canadian superstar Georges St. Pierre against jiu-jitsu dude Jake Shields in the main event, have featherweight champ Jose Aldo face Canuck striker Mark Hominick in the co-main event, and stuff a representative from the Land of the Maple Leaf in nearly every other bout on the card? You get UFC 129, which, thanks to what promises to be a sold-out crowd, will likely be the biggest and most boisterous UFC installment ever. Excited? You should be. Confused? Understandable, so here’s a handy-dandy preview to help you keep track of who will win and who will get killed and fed to the herd of caribou that grazes in the Rogers Centre parking lot.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields – St. Pierre hasn’t lost in a really long time, and that’s due in no small part to his smothering wrestling, unmatched conditioning and some of the best coaches around coming up with flawless game plans for him to execute flawlessly. Shields hasn’t lost in an even longer time – although getting rocked by Dan Henderson in Strikeforce and looking flat against Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut has him appearing far from invincible. So who will prevail? Odds are, if Shields can’t get his foe down to grapple with him, St. Pierre is going to peck him to death with the same jab he used against Josh Koscheck. But you never know. Shields could submit him.
Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick – As the WEC’s resident 145-pound “Bringer of Destruction”, Brazilian Muay Thai machine Aldo was claiming souls before it was even cool. But now that his WEC belt has magically transformed into UFC hardware, he’s faced with an interesting challenge in precision striker Hominick: should he wreck the Canadian with knees, leg-kicks or punches? Hey, I’m not saying Hominick doesn’t have a chance… No, wait, I am.
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz – Ah, yes, the classic “old wrestler versus young wrestler” match-up. Based on youth alone, Brilz should take this once Matyushenko’s arthritis, gout and other old-people afflictions start acting up.
Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida – Yeah, so “The Natural” says he’s going to retire after his bout against “The Dragon”. Dana White doesn’t believe him, and the UFC honcho has got a suitcase full of unmarked U.S. currency to sway the aging legend. You know what everyone is forgetting in all this, though? The fact that Machida can be a killer when he wants to be, and if he wants to be on Saturday night, Couture might be leaving the Octagon for good regardless of how much money is thrown at him. Couture could pull this one off with his dirty boxing and smashing-ness, but expect the karate man to employ just the right amount of kata to end it.
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson – Henderson may have lost his WEC belt via Matrix-style kick to Anthony Pettis at the last WEC event ever, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of the organization’s best lightweights. In his Octagon debut, Henderson gets as his welcoming committee jiu-jitsu master Bocek – a man who’s never been able to beat top competition. Can Henderson be considered top competition now that he’s in the UFC’s deep swimming pool? Probably. And Bocek is probably going to get smashed.