TORONTO — Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre used his standup superiority to win a unanimous decision over Jake Shields at UFC 129 on Saturday night in a fight that lacked fizz.
The mixed martial arts victory was the ninth straight for the 29-year-old champion from Montreal, who came in as a 5-1 favourite in some quarters. Shields (26-5-1) saw the end of his 15-fight win streak that dated back to 2005.
The bout was contested almost entirely on the feet, with St-Pierre (22-2) offering an array of exotic kicks when not sticking out his jab or launching an overhand right. He wanted no part of Shields in the clinch, where the American could try to get it down to the ground to use his jiu-jitsu.
The 32-year-old California challenger had no answers for the more well-rounded St-Pierre in a title showdown that did not dazzle. But the champion looked like he had been in a fight and his performance will not answer critics who want him to finish fights.
The judges scored it 50-45, 48-47, 48-47 for St-Pierre, who suffered an eye injury in the second round.
“I can’t see with my left eye right now. I can see a blur,” he said
St. Pierre did see an end to his string of 30 straight rounds won.
In an under card fight Red Deer’s Jason MacDonald (23-13), who broke his tibia and fibula and tore ankle ligaments in a gruesome injury at UFC 113 in May 2010, celebrated his return by stopping Ryan Jensen (16-7) by triangle choke at 1:37 of the first round.
In the co-main event before a UFC-record 55,000 at the Rogers Centre, featherweight champion Jose Aldo won a unanimous decision over a gutsy Mark (The Machine) Hominick of Thamesford, Ont.
Former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida knocked out Randy (The Natural) Couture with a devastating front kick, ending the UFC’s Hall of Famer’s farewell fight at 1:05 of the second round.
The crowd was chanting “GSP, GSP” before the champion entered. He entered the cage and reached out to Shields, who put his hand out in response.
The former Strikeforce champion was soundly booed in contrast to St-Pierre’s ovation.
The Rogers Centre crowd was a record for a North American mixed martial arts card. The fight bonuses were also a UFC record at $129,000, which went to Aldo and Hominick.
Like the UFC itself, the supersized Toronto show was big and loud. And ran smoothly. It also featured an impressive smorgasbord of knockouts and big finishes that lived up to the hype.
Canadian fighters were 6-4 on the night.
St-Pierre used his jab in a first round that saw Shields catch attempted kicks twice, but couldn’t pull the champion down.
It was more of the same in the second but St-Pierre got Shields’ attention with a solid right to the head. He repeated that shot in the third and stuffed a Shields takedown. St-Pierre, his right eye showing damage, then dumped the challenger on his back as the round ended.
St-Pierre started the fourth with another brief takedown, before settling into more striking. At one point, St-Pierre staggered Shields with a kick to the head and the challenger grabbed a leg for dear life but could not take the champion down.
Both men were bloodied in the fourth and fifth.
“His striking was much better than I thought,” St-Pierre said. “He closed my eyes.”
St-Pierre looked to the clock in the fifth as blood tricked off a cut on his nose.
Hominick (20-9) was game but outmatched for the first four rounds against Aldo and his face showed it, with cuts and a mouse the size of a muffin on his forehead. But he came on strong in the fifth round, battering the tired champion from above to the delight of the crowd.
Aldo (19-1) won but the Brazilian looked human for the first time in a while. The judges scored it 48-45, 48-46, 49-46 for Aldo.
“He’s a hell of a fighter,” Aldo said of Hominick.
A smooth Aldo softened Hominick up with kicks and punches then took him down twice in the first round, doing damage from above.
Hominick’s face was bloody in the second round as they stood and traded. Then Aldo took him down twice again.
After some good striking exchanges, the third round turned ugly for Hominick as Aldo put him down with a left to the head and then laid into him from above. But Hominick survived.
Aldo knocked Hominick down with a right in the fourth and attacked with elbows, causing a giant welt on the Canadian’s forehead that had the crowd groaning when it was shown on the video screens. The doctor came into the cage to have a look but let him continue.
Hominick was examined again before the final round. He later thanked referee John McCarthy for not stopping the fight.
Hominick, whose wife Ashley is due to give birth May 7, said in the cage afterwards: “I hope I didn’t put you into labour.”
Aldo, who appeared gaunt at the weigh-in, said his weight cut was more complicated this time because he had put on extra muscle during a layoff extended by shoulder and back injuries. Hominick, with a Hamilton Tiger-Cats logo on his shorts, ran out into the home of the Argos to Coming Home by Diddy and Dirty Money.
The 47-year-old Couture, a former multiple light-heavyweight and heavyweight title-holder, looked confident as he walked out to “Lunatic Fringe by Canada’s Red Rider and chants of “Randy Randy.”
But the 32-year-old Machida (17-2) proved too young and too quick, nailing the UFC Hall of Famer with punches and knees. Couture’s face was showing damage by the time the end came quickly and viciously.
“He’s a hero,” Machida said of Couture, who for once looked outmatched.
“This is it,” said Couture (19-11).
Machida’s finish was reminiscent of the way middleweight champion Anderson Silva stopped Vitor Belfort at UFC 126.
The Rogers Centre was transformed into cage fighting central and looked pretty good. Size does not seem to matter for the UFC when it comes to production., it appears.
But judging from the fans’ reaction to the large screens, the bigger the ring girl the better.
A giant centre-hung video cube hung above the Octagon, with eight more video screens suspended from the ceiling in the 500 level. The stadium’s giant screen at the north hotel end was matched by another screen on the south side.
Fans in the 500 level needed them. They were a long way away from the cage even if the sightlines were good.
The crowd seemed to be using the screens as a point of reference, reacting to what was being shown on them — cheering the Canadians and booing the visitors.
A 1.4-million watt stereo system pumped out music. From Rob Zombie to War, it was loud, teeth-rattling stuff for the UFC’s first foray into Ontario.
Earlier, former WEC lightweight champion Ben (Smooth) Henderson (13-2) scored a unanimous 30-27 decision over Mark Bocek of Woodbridge, Ont., in a fight that saw Bocek (9-4) unable to fully showcase his jiu-jitsu skills against the tenacious, well-rounded Henderson.
“Sorry guys I tried my best,” tweeted a forlorn Bocek.
Canadian welterweight Rory (The Water Boy) MacDonald dominated Nate Diaz en route to a unanimous decision. Diaz (13-7) never really got untracked and was slammed to the canvas like a rag-doll twice in the third round.
It was an impressive, controlled performance by the 21-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., who now fights out of Montreal. The judges scored it 30-26, 30-27, 30-26 for MacDonald.
“It was awesome,” MacDonald (11-1) said of the crowd. “I definitely heard them when I hit the slams and then on the ground-and-pound. It was like a big wave of noise.”
Light-heavyweight Vladimir (The Janitor) Matyushenko (26-5), proving he can still hurt people at 40, knocked out 35-year-old Nebraska firefighter Jason Brilz with a clinical right-left combination.
“What happened?” a dazed Brilz (18-4-1) said as the referee knelt over him.
The card opened with a bang as featherweight Pablo (The Scarecow) Garza (12-1) pulled off a flying triangle to stop Montreal’s Yves (Tiger) Jabouin (14-7) at 4:31 of the third round.
Montreal’s John (The Bull) Makdessi then knocked out lightweight Kyle Watson with a stunning spinning back fist.
The third bout featured a comeback win via slick submission for middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald of Red Deer, Alta.
Canadians went 4-1 in the first five fights. But late injury replacement Jake Ellenberger (25-5) took the steam out of the partisan crowd by knocking out welterweight Sean Pierson (11-5) of Pickering, Ont., with a sledgehammer-like left at 2:42 of the first round.
Makdessi (9-0) produced an even bigger finish.
A bloody Watson (16-8-1) had been getting the worst of the striking, but he was caught completely unaware as Makdessi pivoted and nailed him. Watson crumpled to the canvas at 1:27 of the third round.
“That’s gonna be tough to beat for knockout of the night!!,” tweeted UFC president Dana White.
Jason MacDonald (23-13), who broke his tibia and fibula and tore ankle ligaments in a gruesome injury at UFC 113 in May 2010, celebrated his return by stopping Ryan Jensen (16-7) by triangle choke at 1:37 of the first round.
Montreal bantamweight Ivan (The Pride of El Salvador) Menjivar made short work of Charlie Valencia, flooring him with a nasty elbow strike from a standing clinch. Menjivar (22-8) then finished Valencia (12-6) on the ground at 1:30 of the first round.
Menjivar, who appeared to break Valencia’s nose with his elbow, celebrated the win with a cartwheel in the cage.
Welterweight Claude (The Prince) Patrick of Mississauga, Ont., took it to Daniel (Ninja) Roberts en route to a 29-28 unanimous decision.
The show was the sixth for the UFC in Canada, following four in Montreal and one in Vancouver.