Thanks to the handy flag icons on Wikipedia’s UFC 129 lineup page, I was just reminded that nine of the 12 bouts at this Saturday’s “St-Pierre vs. Shields” event — all seven prelims and two of the five main card fights — will be contested between an American and a Canadian. In that respect, it’s an unofficial sequel to UFC 58: USA vs. Canada, which took place on March 4th, 2006, in Las Vegas, and featured eight such fights. The Americans took that event 5-3, capped off by Rich Franklin‘s dominant title defense against David Loiseau in the headliner. (Coincidentally, Georges St. Pierre and Mark Hominick were also on that card, scoring victories over BJ Penn and Yves Edwards.)
Now the Canadians have a chance to even the score on their home turf. So how will it shake out? Well, I might have a couple of opinions on the subject…
Surest win for the Canadians: GSP over Shields. No surprises here. Jake’s gameplan will rely on taking St. Pierre down, and then either submitting him or wearing him down from the top. But putting GSP on the mat is a notoriously difficult proposition, and the longer Shields is forced to fight on the feet, the more likely he is to get his orbital bone cracked by high-precision jabs.
Surest win for the Americans: According to the betting odds, it’s Jake Ellenberger, who has much more high-level experience than Sean Pierson, as well as a sick wrestling game. But I’d also pick Nate Diaz to outwork the 21-year-old Rory MacDonald, who has been on injury layoff since his TKO loss to Carlos Condit last June at UFC 115.
‘Fight of the Night’ front-runner: Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson. A jiu-jitsu ace vs. one of the hardest-to-submit fighters in the world. Could be a classic ground-battle along the lines of Sotiropoulos vs. Stevenson or Beerbohm vs. Healy. After his humiliating loss to Anthony Pettis, Henderson will be coming back to make a statement.
‘Win or get fired’ alert: Already released once in 2009, Jason MacDonald‘s return to the Octagon at UFC 113 ended in a horrible injury. The UFC is giving him another chance, but if he underperforms, he’s probably gone. The same goes for his opponent Ryan Jensen, who’s coming off a submission loss to TUF 11 winner Court McGee.
Flip a coin: Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts. Patrick is a Canadian submission specialist who’s now 2-0 in the Octagon and hasn’t lost a fight since 2002. Roberts is on a three-fight win streak and has been sharpening his blades at one of the greatest camps in the world. Whoever wins puts himself on the welterweight map — but I won’t make a prediction on who that will be.
Projected final score: 5-4, USA