Monday, 2 May 2011

UFC 129: St-Pierre vs Shields on ESPN - TV Review

It was the battle of the unbeaten streaks as Jake Shields challenged Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title in the main event of UFC 129, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.

The broadcast began with the preliminaries, starting with Sean Pierson against Jake Ellenberger in the welterweight division.

Ellenberger tested the waters early with some strikes, and after Pierson escaped from a take down Ellenberger soon opened up a cut above his man’s right eye.

Seconds later and it was all over, another left sending the Canadian crashing to the mat. Pierson was out before he hit the ground as Ellenberger took the impressive knockout win.

It was down to bantamweight for the next fight as Ivan Menjivar faced Charlie Valencia.

Another quick fight began with a few kicks before both men jockeyed for position in a clinch. Menjivar then connected with a left elbow to Valencia’s nose. The cracking sound was sickening, and moments later the referee stepped in to give Menjivar the TKO win.

Then it was back up to welterweight as Nate Diaz faced Rory MacDonald.

This proved to be a very intriguing three rounder. For the first two periods the fight looked pretty even. Both men had their moments but neither could take overall control.

That was until the third round. MacDonald really upped his game, taking the fight to Diaz and taking him down with three suplexes, adding some crisp strikes and nice grappling to the equation.

All three judges gave the fight to MacDonald, and rightfully so. But I’m left to wonder what happened to the brash and cocky nature the Diaz boys normally display.

Middleweight action followed as Jason MacDonald went up against Ryan Jensen.

This fight went to the ground straight away, with Jensen going for an early guillotine. MacDonald soon escaped and put on a great display of grappling, locking in a triangle choke for the submission win.

The main show began in the lightweight division as Mark Bocek took on Ben Henderson.

This was the first time I’d seen Henderson in action, and he put inv a pretty good performance, especially with his striking.

Bocek had a few good moments, especially on the ground in the second, going for an anaconda choke before switching to a guillotine attempt.

But it wasn’t enough as all three judges gave the fight to Henderson. You know, I think I’m going to have to dig out those old WEC shows I recorded from Extreme Sports so I can take another look at this Henderson guy.

Then it was up to the light heavyweight division as Vladimir Matyushenko took on Jason Brilz.

The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the show. Matyushenko came forward early, a left/right combination sending Brilz down. Matyushenko followed him down for a few more blows before the referee wisely stepped in to give Vladimir the knockout win after just 20 seconds.

Featherweight action in the form of Yves Jabouin against Pablo Garza followed.

Garza looked to use his size advantage early, but it wasn’t long before Jabouin began to hack away with leg kicks, knocking Garza down several times.

But then, from out of nowhere, Garza came back with a flying4 triangle. Jabouin tried to fight it for as long as he could but eventually it was too much as he tapped out to give Garza the great submission win.

More light heavyweight action followed, the battle of the former champions as Randy Couture faced Lyoto Machida.

I think you know who I wanted to win this one. Sadly it didn’t happen. Couture tried to impose his will on the fight, but Machida’s superior striking meant that he couldn’t get a clinch going. Machida kept the momentum going, controlling the remainder of the round.

The end came in the second round. Machida feigned a left but connected with a jumping right kick that sent Couture down. And that was it, Machida had the knockout win, with Couture immediately announcing his retirement, bringing an end to a glittering career.

After another showing of the Menjivar/Valencia fight it was on to the first title fight of the evening as Mark Hominick challenged Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title.

Aldo was another of those guys I’d heard a lot about but never seen before, and everything I’d heard was true.

What we had here were two great performance as Hominick’s display of kickboxing was top notch as he had Aldo on the defensive on more than one occasion.

Aldo put in some good ground work, and it was his ground and pound in the forth that swelled Hominick’s forehead like a balloon.

But despite the swelling and possible problems with his eyes Hominick took it to the champion in the final round, taking the fight down and unleashing with the ground and pound.

But it was too little too late for the hometown challenger, with all three judges scoring in favour of Aldo.

The main event saw Jake Shields challenging Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title.

Once again GSP proved that he is just so far above everyone else in the division.

For the majority of the fight GSP was able to beat Shields in the striking game, and whenever Shields went for a take down the champion easily defended.

However, a jab to GSP’s left eye affected his vision, and more jabs from Shields opened up a cut underneath, so by the time the fifth round started GSP couldn’t see out of that eye. But despite this handicap he did enough to negate Shields once again.

The judges’ decision, not surprisingly, went to GSP, another worthy win for an outstanding champion.

And then, because the show was over-running by 20 minutes, ESPN called it a day, cutting out the remaining filler material.

In conclusion - in front of 55,000 rabid fans (and that’s a term I’ve used to describe Canadians before), the UFC’s biggest show ever certainly delivered.

From the opening match in the preliminaries right up to the main event we were treated to some great performances from the likes of Aldo and Henderson. But the event was also tinged with sadness as we saw Randy Couture fight for the last time.

As for Georges St-Pierre, once again I’m left to wonder who will be able to beat this man. I have a feeling that answer could lie in the middleweight division.

So in all UFC 129 gets the thumbs up from this particular writer, although ESPN gets the thumbs down for the way they abruptly ended their coverage. I guess they couldn’t do without showing the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter for the umpteenth time, could they?

With thanks to big brother Mark for lending me his copy after my Sky box decided to turn itself off two hours into the show. Check out his blog at http://playingtoanaudienceof.blogspot.com/.