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April 16, 2014

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UFC 129: Breakdown & Picks

It was long referred to as only a matter of time before the UFC invaded stadiums to hold mega-shows. As of this weekend at UFC 129 in Toronto, the time has arrived. The Rogers Centre will host 55,000 fans, which more than doubles the UFC’s previous attendance record. UFC has put together a card to match the stature of the event. UFC 129 features two title fights, for the welterweight and featherweight belts, and the final appearance from MMA legend Randy Couture. Our prediction panel — consisting of Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer, KSNV’s Kevin West, ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield and ESPN’s Brett Okamoto — will try to pinpoint the winner in those three bouts as well as the other nine fights on the card. West has the best record at 28-16-2 followed by Cofield at 25-19-2 and Keefer at 23-21-2. Okamoto got off to a blistering debut at UFC 128, going 11-1. Odds are courtesy of the Venetian/Palazzo sports books and subject to change.

Jake Shields

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 26-4-1
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: +350

Georges St. Pierre

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 15-2
  • MMA record 21-2
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -500

Welterweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Split decision victory over Martin Kampmann at UFC 121.

Punch list: St. Pierre says Shields is the best contender he’s ever faced during his reign as champion. Many would argue against that, but Shields has certainly compiled a record for the statement to merit consideration. The Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter has won 16 straight fights, last dropping a bout in December of 2004.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Shields

Cofield: St. Pierre

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory against Josh Koscheck at UFC 124.

Punch list: St. Pierre wants to be regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts. If he’s not already there, he’s awfully close. Anderson Silva is the only man ranked ahead of St. Pierre in most polls. A win over Shields should bring a Silva vs. St. Pierre matchup even closer to happening.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: St. Pierre

Okamoto: St. Pierre

Mark Hominick

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’8''
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 3-0
  • MMA record 20-8
  • Out of: London, Ontario, Canada
  • Betting line: +375

Jose Aldo

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’7''
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 18-1
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: -550

Featherweight Championship Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: First round knockout over George Roop .

Punch list: Hominick proved he could thrive under pressure in the Roop fight. UFC President Dana White announced before the bout that if Hominick won, he would get a shot at Aldo. That didn’t affect Hominick’s focus as he knocked out Roop 1:28 into the match.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Aldo

Cofield: Aldo

Last fight: Second round win via knockout over Manvel Gamburyan at WEC 51.

Punch list: Aldo’s octagon debut is a long-awaited one. The feared striker has turned the MMA world upside down in the last seven years without ever fighting in the sport’s premier organization. That changes Saturday as Aldo makes his first UFC appearance after an injury forced him to withdraw from a UFC 125 bout with Josh Grispi earlier this year.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Aldo

Okamoto: Aldo

Lyoto Machida

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 8-2
  • MMA record 16-2
  • Out of: Belem, Brazil
  • Betting line: -360

Randy Couture

  • Age: 47
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 16-7
  • MMA record 19-10
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +280

Light Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: Split decision loss to Rampage Jackson at UFC 123.

Punch list: Two years ago, Machida had a perfect record and looked indestructible. A lot has changed since then. Machida lost his last two bouts and eked out a controversial decision win over Shogun Rua three fights ago. He needs a win here to stay near the top of the 205-pound class.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Machida

Cofield: Couture

Last fight: First round win via submission over James Toney at UFC 118.

Punch list: Couture has not looked in his age in winning his last three fights. But his last two victories were against boxer James Toney and 46-year old Mark Coleman. Machida is Couture’s toughest test since encountering Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Machida

Okamoto: Machida

Jason Brilz

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 3-2
  • MMA record 18-3-1
  • Out of: Omaha, Neb.
  • Betting line: -130

Vladimir Matyushenko

  • Age: 40
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 6-3
  • MMA record 25-5
  • Out of: El Segundo, Calif.
  • Betting line: Even

Light Heavyweight Bout

Last fight: Split decision loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 114.

Punch list: He was on the wrong side of one of the most controversial decisions of 2010. Everyone who watched his fight against “Lil Nog” at UFC 114 had Brilz winning — except two of the judges. The full-time firefighter injured his back after the bout and had to take nearly a year off.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Matyushenko

Cofield: Matyushenko

Last fight: First round victory via TKO over Alexandre Ferreira.

Punch list: Don’t be fooled by his nickname, The Janitor can fight. Matyushenko is a former IFL champion and actually fought for the UFC 205-pound belt 10 years against Tito Ortiz at UFC 33. Matyushenko rebounded nicely his last time out after current champion Jon Jones steamrolled him in August 2010.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Brilz

Okamoto: Matyushenko

Ben Henderson

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 12-2
  • Out of: Glendale, Ariz.
  • Betting line: -140

Mark Bocek

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 5-3
  • MMA record 9-3
  • Out of: Toronto
  • Betting line: +110

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: First round win via submission over Dustin Hazelett at UFC 124.

Punch list: Bocek should be amped to fight in front of his hometown for the first time ever. He’s an elite grappler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. He’s 4-1 in his last five fights with all of the victories ending in a choke submission.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Henderson

Cofield: Henderson

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Anthony Pettis at WEC 53.

Punch list: Henderson held the WEC lightweight belt for a little more than a year and two defenses before running into Pettis at the WEC’s final event. He has a wrestling background, but his striking has continually improved during his five-year mixed martial arts career.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Henderson

Okamoto: Henderson

Rory MacDonald

  • Age: 21
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 10-1
  • Out of: Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
  • Betting line: -115

Nate Diaz

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 8-4
  • MMA record 13-6
  • Out of: Stockton, Calif.
  • Betting line: -115

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Third round loss by TKO to Carlos Condit at UFC 115.

Punch list: Prepare for a war as MacDonald is known for putting on just as much of a show as Diaz. The prospect dropped his first career fight his last time out, but by the closest of margins. The referee pulled Condit off MacDonald at 4:53 of the final round. If MacDonald could have held on for the last seven seconds, he would have scored a decision win.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Diaz

Cofield: Diaz

Last fight: Unanimous decision defeat against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 125.

Punch list: Diaz never holds anything back and this bout should be no exception. He lost his first fight in nearly a year three months ago and accepted this shot at quick redemption. He needs a win to keep up with the recent tear by his Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu teammates — Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Diaz

Okamoto: MacDonald

Jake Ellenberger

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 24-5
  • Out of: Omaha, Neb.
  • Betting line: -190

Sean Pierson

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 11-4
  • Out of: Toronto
  • Betting line: +160

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: Split decision victory over Carlos Eduardo Rocha at UFC 126.

Punch list: Ellenberger is a late replacement for Brian Foster, who had to withdraw because of a brain hemorrhage. Ellenberger looks to continue his upward rise in the 170-pound division as he’s won three straight fights after dropping his UFC debut to Carlos Condit in 2009.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Ellenberger

Cofield: Ellenberger

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Matt Riddle at UFC 124.

Punch list: Getting to fight Ellenberger is either a bad break or blessing in disguise for Pierson. He’s a much tougher opponent than Brian Foster, who Pierson was originally slated to fight. But a win in front of his hometown would help his standing in the division immensely.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Ellenberger

Okamoto: Ellenberger

Daniel Roberts

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: San Francisco
  • Betting line: +120

Claude Patrick

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 13-1
  • Out of: Toronto
  • Betting line: -150

Welterweight Bout

Last fight: First round submission victory over Greg Soto at UFC 125.

Punch list: Roberts is on a three-fight win steak. Another triumph here should give him a shot to move into the upper part of the weight division. He’s teammates with both Nate Diaz and Jake Shields, who he will precede on the card.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West:Roberts

Cofield: Roberts

Last fight: Unanimous decision win over James Wilks at UFC 120.

Punch list: Most of Patrick’s camp took place in Las Vegas this time around. He should be fresh as he hasn’t fought in six months. Patrick put on a wrestling clinic against Wilks, scoring a takedown in each round.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Roberts

Okamoto: Patrick

Charlie Valencia

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 12-6
  • Out of: Los Angeles
  • Betting line: +140

Ivan Menjivar

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 21-8
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -170

Bantamweight Bout

Last fight: Second round loss via submission to Miguel Torres at WEC 51.

Punch list: Valencia worked his way to the top of the WEC 135-pound division twice before suffering losses against the organization’s elite. In addition to the Torres defeat, Valencia has also lost to the likes of Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Valencia

Cofield: Valencia

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Brad Pickett at WEC 53.

Punch list: Menjivar lost in his only career Zuffa fight, meaning he likely needs to win this fight to keep his UFC contract. He has the experience as Menjivar bounced around Canadian promotions for more than 10 years before landing a Zuffa deal.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Menjivar

Okamoto: Valencia

Ryan Jensen

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 2-3
  • MMA record 16-6
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -110

Jason MacDonald

  • Age: 35
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 5-6
  • MMA record 25-14
  • Out of: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Betting line: -120

Middleweight Bout

Last fight: Third round defeat by submission to Court McGee at UFC 121.

Punch list: Jensen, who trains with Greg Jackson’s fight team in New Mexico, is best known for his striking. But his recent results show that could be inaccurate. He’s gotten each of his last two victories by submission.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: MacDonald

Cofield: Jensen

Last fight: First round knockout loss to John Salter at UFC 113.

Punch list: This is the definition of a must-win in MMA. A loss would be MacDonald’s fourth straight in the UFC and likely result in the organization cutting him for the second time. Third chances are hard to come by.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Jensen

Okamoto: MacDonald

Kyle Watson

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 16-7-1
  • Out of: Granite City, Ill.
  • Betting line: +120

John Makdessi

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 8-0
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -150

Lightweight Bout

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Sako Chivitchian at The Ultimate Fighter 12 finale.

Punch list: The Ultimate Fighter season 12 semifinalist is known for having a vicious ground game. Ten of his 16 career victories have come by submission. That doesn’t include his two submissions while in the ‘TUF’ house, as those fights are considered amateur bouts.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Watson

Cofield: Watson

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Pat Audinwood at UFC 124.

Punch list: Makdessi will look to counter Watson’s grappling with striking. “The Bull” is a karate specialist who won his first six MMA bouts by knockout. He’s scored his last two wins by unanimous decision, though.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Makdessi

Okamoto: Watson

Pablo Garza

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 11-1
  • Out of: Fargo, N.D.
  • Betting line: +140

Yves Jabouin

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’3’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 14-6
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -170

Featherweight Bout

Last fight: First round win by knockout over Fredson Paixao at The Ultimate Fighter 12 finale.

Punch list: If for nothing else, remember Garza’s name for UFC trivia purposes. His win over Paixao made him the first man to ever win a featherweight bout in the octagon. The win took all of 51 seconds as Garza caught Paixao with a knee.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Garza

Cofield: Garza

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Brandon Visher at WEC 52.

Punch list: Jabouin worked in 3D animation before turning to professional fighting full time. He felt he was too good of a kick boxer not to. Before a win in his last fight, he was knocked out by tonight’s co-Main Event challenger Mark Hominick.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN

Keefer: Jabouin

Okamoto: Jabouin

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