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UFC 129: Preliminary Bouts Preview

By on April 29, 2011

UFC 129 will be notable for a number of reasons: the card itself, the staggering number of tickets sold, and the fact that fans can literally watch every one of the 12 fights on the card from their couch. Previously a luxury only afforded to ticket holders (who, ironically enough, usually don’t bother to show up until the main card starts), the rest of us will actually get to see all of the prelims tomorrow, no matter what happens in the main card. Well, if you’re going to watch them, you may as well know what to look for. Here are my thoughts on the seven preliminary bouts.

Pablo Garza vs. Yves Jabouin

WEC fans will remember both men, particularly Jabouin for his memorable war with Mark Hominick, who will challenge Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship in the co-main event. Garza has the more impressive record, and you may be able to goad your less-knowledgeable friends into an ill-advised bet while watching the fights as a result. However, while Garza lost to the likes of Tiequan Zhang, Jabouin’s been in there with Hominick, Sam Stout, Raphael Assuncao, and so on.

Jabouin will want to keep this fight standing and should be able to piece up Garza pretty bad in the stand-up. I think Garza will have difficulties taking Jabouin down and keeping him there, and his mounting frustration and the consistent damage he’ll absorb from Jabouin while standing will be too much.

Prediction: Jabouin by KO/TKO

John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson

You may remember Watson from The Ultimate Fighter 12, or you may say, “How the hell am I supposed to remember 13 seasons worth of fighters, most of which failed to distinguish themselves in any way whatsoever over the course of the show?” To which I would say, “I see what you’re saying.”

Watson is typical of what we’ve seen over the last few years of The Ultimate Fighter: good in one area in particular (on the mat), pretty poor elsewhere, and not likely to make a real splash in the division he’s in. The question: can Makdessi keep this one vertical long enough to display his striking prowess? I think so, and Watson’s chin is ripe for the hitting.

Prediction: Makdessi by KO/TKO

Ryan Jensen vs. Jason MacDonald

No set of UFC preliminary bouts would be complete without at least one (or several) “pink slip fights” where the loser is likely to be seeking employment elsewhere after the final bell sounds. This one fits the bill, as Jensen has lost three out of his last five UFC fights and MacDonald is 0-1 in his latest UFC stint.

I would favor Jensen slightly in the standup, and he’s got a little power to go with his decent technique, but I really think this fight will be predominantly fought (and ultimately decided) on the mat. There, MacDonald has the better overall game on top and on the bottom, and Jensen has holes in his submission defense to be exploited.

Prediction: MacDonald by submission

Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia

It’s hard to believe that Menjivar, who’s fighting at bantamweight, once faced Georges St. Pierre, who may be moving up to middleweight. MMA was a funny sport several years ago, though, and now that there are more opportunities for smaller fighters, we’ll get to see what guys like Menjivar can do against similarly-sized opponents. So far, Menjivar has done quite well, although like many fighters who put a lot of miles on the odometer at a young age, he seems to be past his prime already at age 28. He’s lost three of his last four, frequently looking like a shadow of his former self in the process.

Meanwhile, Valencia has some power to his striking and a good all-around game, but is too small to fight at 135 pounds. I think this could be a close fight, and Menjivar’s gameplan may be a big factor. If he can get opportunistic takedowns, he can take this by decision.

Prediction: Menjivar by decision

Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts

The last Facebook-aired fight of the evening is an intriguing one, as these two are both very gifted on the mat. That could make for a lot of stalemates or an entertaining chess match, depending on how things go. I tend to think it’ll be a little bit of both, which makes me think that I should look elsewhere for a tie-breaker of sorts.

Patrick’s standup is better in my opinion, but Roberts has a much clearer edge when it comes to wrestling, and he can and will land takedowns regularly. This will help him to dictate the fight and score points with the judges that will come in handy when the two fail to finish one another during the fifteen-minute fight. If Patrick does win, it’ll be his thirteenth straight victory.

Prediction: Roberts by decision

Jake Ellenberger vs. Sean Pierson

Pierson’s UFC debut against Matt Riddle was a very entertaining standup fight that showed that he has solid cardio, good striking and a lot of heart. It also showed that he can be sucked in to a brawl when it may not be in his best interests, which could be his undoing against Ellenberger. Ellenberger is an extremely strong welterweight with powerful punches and great wrestling, and he’ll be happy to take advantage of any decision on Pierson’s part to keep the fight standing.

Ellenberger will not only have the edge when it comes to tools, but also when it comes to the ability to stick to a solid gameplan, and both will benefit him if the fight should get to the judges. I’ll go ahead and say that it won’t, however.

Prediction: Ellenberger by KO/TKO

Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald

The other MacDonald on the prelims will face Nate Diaz in the second of two Spike TV-aired bouts. It’s the same old story with Diaz: he’s got a good guard but is vulnerable to being controlled en route to a decision, just as his brother Nick often was in his own UFC days. Will MacDonald be willing and able to follow that blueprint to victory? We’ll see.

Diaz will try to use a similar standup style to Nick’s when the fight is vertical, landing a high volume of punches and keeping the pressure on while using his reach when possible. However, MacDonald is no slouch in the striking and Nate is not nearly the striker that Nick is. Furthermore, his guard doesn’t seem to be quite as dangerous, though he is active with his submission attempts. Nate could very well catch MacDonald, but I think it’s more likely that he doesn’t and drops another frustrating decision.

Prediction: MacDonald by decision

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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