UFC 129: Preview and Predictions

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Previewing the biggest live event in UFC history

By this time, you’ve already heard all the superlatives you need to hear about UFC 129.

The card is loaded, the event is going to be epic and if you’re not staring at the clock counting down the minutes until Fight Day hits the airwaves to start your Saturday MMA marathon, there is something wrong with you.

If you’re still hedging your bets about ordering this event or just need another analysis fix to tide you over until the first fight streams live on Facebook, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s our preview of UFC 129, from the opening bout of the evening to the climactic clash that will end the night, delivered hot and fresh to get your Friday off to a good start.

Yves Jabouin (15-6-0) vs. Pablo Garza (10-1-0)

People might laugh at me, but the fact that this is the opening fight on of the night should be an indication of the awesomeness that will follow. No, I’m not joking; I really like this fight and think it will set the tone for an entertaining evening.

When you see that Jabouin went 1-2 in his three WEC appearances, you don’t get the full picture of what the Canadian actually brought into the little blue cage.

For starters, I had him ahead of Raphael Assuncao on the scorecards in his debut, though two of the three judges thought otherwise. He followed it up by earning Fight of the Night honors with fellow Canuck Mark Hominick at WEC 49 in a bout that should have gotten more Fight of the Year consideration. The two went back-and-forth at full throttle for just over eight minutes.

Jabouin finally got into the win column at WEC 52, earning a unanimous decision win over Brandon Visher, and looks to start a winning streak in front of his fellow countryman in this one.

Garza holds the distinction of being the first featherweight to earn a win in the UFC, and it came on a bad-ass, Knockout of the Night-winning flying knee to the dome of Fredson Paixao back in December. Oh yeah, it took him just 51 seconds.

“The Scarecrow” is a nightmare pairing for anyone in the division because of his size. Standing 6’1″ tall, Garza will have a five-inch height and six-inch reach advantage on Jabouin.

John Makdessi (8-0-0) vs. Kyle Watson (13-6-1)

A product of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Makdessi made his UFC debut in December and showed no signs of nerves, sweeping the scorecards against Pat “Awesomely Awesome” Audinwood. The win extended the Shotokan Karate black belt’s unbeaten streak to eight.

TUF 12 veteran Watson is the kind of savvy veteran who could give Makdessi problems, which makes this bout intriguing, at least to me. He’s got a solid ground game and the experience to not get flustered if things go astray at any point.

Though he earned a win over Sako Chivitchian at the Season 12 Finale, the lightweight division is so deep that a single loss could bounce a thirtysomething veteran like Watson from the big leagues. Win or lose, expect Watson to leave it all in the cage.

Jason MacDonald (24-14-0) vs. Ryan Jensen (15-7-0)

You’ve gotta be happy to see MacDonald back in the Octagon. He was cut by the UFC following a 5-5 run that ended with back-to-back losses to Wilson Gouveia and Nate Quarry, then broke his leg in the opening round of his bout at UFC 113 against John Salter after taking the fight on short notice.

After a long recovery period and some time in the gym, the Nova Scotia native fighting out of Red Deer, Alberta returns, and faces Jensen in what will probably end up being a “Loser Leaves Town” match.

Last time out, Jensen looked like he was on his way to an upset win over TUF 11 winner Court McGee through the first round. He came out strong, worked good combinations and kept McGee off-balance, but then it all went to pot. Jensen tired, McGee found his range, and the 33-year-old from Omaha eventually tapped to a third-round arm triangle, dropping his record to 2-5 in seven UFC appearances.

If he’s figured out how to manage his cardio and keep up the pace from the first round against McGee, Jensen could keep himself off the unemployment line and get back into the win column, especially since MacDonald is coming off an 11-month layoff. While I’m kind of surprised he’s managed to get another shot, this is surely the last one, so Jensen better make the most of it.

Ivan Menjivar (21-8-0) vs. Charlie Valencia (12-6-0) – Streamed Live on Facebook

In his return to major competition (sorry W-1 MMA) for the first time in four years, Menjivar put on one helluva show opposite Brad Pickett at WEC 53 in December.

The veteran Canadian came out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision, but in the process, he showed why he’s been in the cage with the likes of GSP, Jeff Curran, Urijah Faber, and Joe Lauzon over the years. He should get a chance at an encore performance – and one that people will actually see this time — here, as Valencia is a high motor competitor who should compliment what Menjivar brings to the table nicely.

After nine appearances with the WEC, Valencia makes his UFC debut here and is equal parts excited for the opportunity, but unfazed by the step up to the big stage. At least that’s what he told us earlier in the week before he stepped out in front of 55,000 fans, many of whom will be rooting against him.

Though he’s come out on the losing side of battles with former champions Faber, Brian Bowles and Miguel Torres, as well as current 135-pound champ Dominick Cruz, he’s as scrappy as the come and rarely takes a backwards step.

Don’t be surprised if this one kicks off the night of televised fights in exciting fashion.

Claude Patrick (13-1-0) vs. Daniel “Ninja” Roberts (12-1-0)

We’ve tabbed this tilt as our Under the Radar fight of the night; the contest no one seems to be talking about that we’re dying to see.

What to know why we’re excited about it? Check out the debut of our latest feature, then come back and enjoy the rest of this bad boy.

Sean Pierson (11-4-0) vs. Jake Ellenberger (24-5-0)

I feel bad for Pierson.

After grinding it out over the last decade, he finally gets a chance to fight at home for the first time, on the biggest stage in the sport. Two weeks before the event, his opponent, Brian Foster, can’t get cleared to fight due to hemorrhage in his brain, leaving him twisting in the wind for a day or two.

When the UFC finds a replacement, it’s Ellenberger, a top 20 welterweight riding a three-fight winning streak, which could be four depending on how you saw his UFC debut against Carlos Condit. He knocked Mike Pyle for a loop at UFC 108, made John Howard’s face double in size on the second Versus show, and won a tentative battle against Carlos Eduardo Rocha in February. Not to knock my countryman, but all three of those guys are higher up on the food chain than Brian Foster.

That’s not to say the 35-year-old Toronto native can’t come away with a win this weekend; he’s got good hands and will surely get a boost from 55,000 screaming fans inside the Rogers Centre. Maybe the change is for the better, now that I think of it, because a win over Ellenberger would provide a bigger push up the rankings than beating Foster would have for Pierson.

Either way, the second of the four welterweight bouts on the bill should be a pretty good scrap and a great way to kick off the Spike TV Prelims Live show.

Nate Diaz (13-6-0) vs. Rory MacDonald (10-1-0)

The third straight 170-pound pairing has all kinds of interesting elements to it, at least for me.

Both guys are coming off losses, though they were very different fights. Diaz got grappled to death for the first two rounds of his UFC 125 meeting with Dong Hyun Kim before pouring it on and nearly finishing him in the third. Conversely, MacDonald was up two rounds to none on Carlos Condit at UFC 115 before “The Natural Born Killer” woke up and unleashed on the young Canadian, earning a stoppage with just ten seconds remaining in the contest.

I’m curious to see how both respond to those defeats, as Diaz, like his brother, has voiced his displeasure with the way fights are scored, while the loss was the first of MacDonald’s promising career.

Additionally, this is a chance to gain another measurement of where these two stand within the welterweight division. The 21-year-old form Quesnel, British Columbia got a huge jump up in competition for his second fight, going from “Joker” Guymon to Condit, and now gets Diaz, while “The Kid from Stockton” needs to show what he can do against an future contender, not just fighters who get released after he beats them.

For me — and not just because I’m Canadian – MacDonald is the one to watch here. We know what Diaz brings to the table, and while he’s talented and entertaining, “The Waterboy” is one of the next generation of fighters who has been training MMA his entire career, instead of working from one discipline and adding elements from there. He is the complete package and a fighter you should definitely keep an eye on from here on out.

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