MMA: UFC 129
“He suffered a cut on his toe [on April 23] and it got infected with bacteria,” said Pederneiras. “He went through heavy medical treatment with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pills from Sunday to Tuesday. He took the heavy dosage so that he wouldn’t have to take more drugs closer to the fight.” More »
Any trauma to the tissues of the body can result in a hematoma. If only the low-pressure capillaries in the skin are disrupted, the hematoma that develops is usually no more than a simple bruise. A larger and potentially more serious hematoma develops if veins are damaged. Hominick’s injury appeared to be an even more significant form of hematoma: one caused by arterial bleeding. More »
“The Dragon” seemingly ushered in a new era of MMA after taking the light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans at UFC 98. At that point, Machida was unbeaten in 15 bouts, with a stellar ledger of victims, including Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva. His vexing style was MMA’s version of the knuckleball.
Nobody knew how to hit him, and he operated on such evasive lines of attack that opponents froze up and were dissected alive.
Mauricio Rua changed all that, and, after a close decision loss to Quinton Jackson at UFC 123, “The Machida Era” was dismissed as a mere quirk in the MMA timeline.
Against Couture, Machida looked exactly like his old self. And while “The Natural” was 47, there is no question he remains a dangerous guy in tie-ups. Yet during the few instances in which he grabbed Machida, the slick Brazilian expertly slipped away.
Machida notched a big win regardless of Couture’s age, showing his inventiveness and ability to stay baffling and effective at the same time. A great leg kicker or counter-fighter may well be the best style to defeat him, but you can bet plenty of light heavyweights sighed heavily after seeing Machida work his magic again. Nobody wants to deal with a guy like that. Getting your butt kicked is part of being a professional -- fighters accept that -- but getting embarrassed while getting it kicked takes it to a whole different level.
In the months leading to the fight, Shields devoted a chunk of training working on his stand-up -- boxing in particular.
“I’ve been working on it a lot for a while,” Shields told ESPN.com. “The last couple of months I’ve been working with a lot of pro boxers. I wish I’d done it sooner.”
If only he had a few more months to fine-tune some things, especially his jab.
St. Pierre is years ahead of Shields in the striking department. The difference in their level of striking skills was evident immediately once they commenced to fighting.
Both fighters use left jabs regularly in the opening round, but the champ’s was more accurate, much quicker and more forceful. Shields’ jab was more of the pawing variety. This pattern would repeat itself throughout the five-rounder.
“What’s so good about the jab is that when you throw it, you take very little risk,” St. Pierre’s striking coach Firas Zahabi told ESPN.com before the fight. “You don’t shift your body weight very much, and you don’t expose yourself for very long.
“Also, it’s the punch that travels the fastest. It travels in a straight line. Therefore, it's the most important strike [in St. Pierre's arsenal]. It offers the perfect blend of attack and defense.”
St. Pierre dropped Shields with a stiff jab in the first round -- partly assisted by Shields’ poor footwork.
The fight rarely went to the ground, where Shields could have best worked his magic. When they did hit the ground, it was only because St. Pierre wanting to go there.
St. Pierre would retain his title by scores of 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47. Shields didn’t need to hear the official tally to know he wouldn’t be taking the 170-pound title with him back to California.
He also knows why: His boxing skills weren’t up to the task.
“Now that I’ve lost I’m going to work a lot more on my boxing,” Shields said. “My goal the next six months is to really learn how to box, because if someone [else] finally stops my takedowns they'll beat me.
“If I can catch my boxing up with my ground skills, hopefully before I retire I can get another shot at Georges and I’ll be able to do things a little differently.”
"Fight of the Night" honors went to Jose Aldo and Mark Hominick for their five-round title fight, which Aldo won by unanimous decision. "Knockout of the Night" went to Lyoto Machida for his win over Randy Couture and Pablo Garza secured "Submission of the Night" with a nifty flying triangle against Yves Jabouin.
The event set new records in attendance and live gate revenue for a North American mixed martial arts show, drawing 55,724 and $12.075 million.
The co-main event fight between Aldo and Hominick particularly stole the show, as the Canadian challenger nearly pulled off an upset in the final round.
Hominick was checked on several times by the ringside physician due to an enormous amount of swelling on his forehead. On top of it all, Hominick is expecting the birth of his first child this week.
“First off, I just want to say to my wife that I hope I didn’t put you into labor,” said Hominick, following the fight. “I know you’re due any minute. I love you and I hope that you’re OK.
“Second, I want to thank [referee] John McCarthy for not stopping the fight. I was never going to give up.”
For Garza, it was the second time in as many UFC appearances he’s taken "Fight Night" honors. He claimed "Knockout of the Night" in his UFC debut with a one-minute knockout over Fredson Paixao via a flying knee at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale in December.
What Cruz didn’t say during the Joe Rogan-hosted Q&A session is that he sees a champion everyday when he trains with Phil Davis in San Diego -- a "coming to a theater near you champion," that is.
“I absolutely see Phil being champion in that division, and one day soon,” Cruz said after a whirlwind day at the Fan Expo. “You know, Phil, he’s just one of those guys who knows how to win. Even if he’s not supposed to, he figures it out. He’s a gamer, and he knows how to win in dire circumstances. You can’t count out a guy like that. He’s a beast.”
While the civil war between Rashad Evans and Jon Jones for the light heavyweight strap was called off with Jones taking time to heal his hand, Davis again willingly jumped at the chance of a marquee fight against a guy with a far more accomplished résumé than his own.
The difference is Davis had four weeks to train for the last fight that accelerated his standing at 205 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (whom he beat by decision), while against Evans he gets a full training camp. That fight is set to take place at UFC 133 in August.
“I think Phil Davis is more than ready for that fight,” Cruz said. “Styles make fights. I think that Rashad, while he has knocked people out, he’s knocked people out because they walk into their punches. Rashad is a backwards fighter -- he fights going backwards. Phil fights going forward. So he’s really the type of fighter on his feet that fits into Phil’s style. On top of that, Rashad likes to mix in a lot of wrestling to set up his punches. He isn’t going to outwrestle Phil Davis; let’s keep it real.
“I think it’s an awesome match-up, and it’s great for Phil because he has eight or more weeks to prepare for this fight, rather than the four he had with Nogueira -- and anytime he has eight or more weeks, he’s an animal.”
As people begin to whisper about a future mega-clash between Davis and Jones, Cruz says he’s no different than the fans in wanting to see it. But at the same time he thinks that, should Davis get by Evans, there’ll be another challenge for “Mr. Wonderful” before he would find himself in that top contender’s position.
“Phil will have Rashad, and then a couple of tests -- one, maybe two tests before he gets a shot at Jones,” he said. “Jon Jones has been walking through people. But you never know. It could happen [if he beats Rashad]. But as teammates, we’re planning on him fighting Rashad, and then having another fight after that before Jones.
“We’re worried about -- and I say 'we', but I know Phil, and when I say 'we' I’m speaking for him -- I know all he’s thinking about is Rashad, and nobody else matters on the planet.”
When it opened in 1989, the Rogers Centre was a marvel of modern architecture -- the first major sports arena in North America with a functional and fully retractable roof. Held together by 250,000 bolts, the roof weighs 11,000 tons and can open or close in 20 minutes. Built by Rod Robbie at a staggering cost of $570 million, the facility fell into financial trouble in less than a decade. In 1998, Sportsco International LP bought Skydom out of bankruptcy for $85 million. Six years later, Rogers Communications, parent company of the Toronto Blue Jays, acquired the arena for $25 million, roughly four percent of the original cost of construction.
The Rogers Centre features LED video displays capable of displaying 4.3 trillion colors. The largest of these stretches 110 feet wide by 33 feet tall. To date, more than 2,000 events have been staged at the Rogers Centre, with more than 60 million visitors. It remains home to the MLB's Toronto Blue Jays and the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.
The Rogers Centre has twice hosted Wrestlemania: Wrestlemania VI on april 1, 1990 and Wrestlemania XVIII on march 17, 2002. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior headlined the first, Chris Jericho vs. Triple H the second. The 2002 show attracted the venue’s largest-ever paid crowd at 67,678. The Rogers Centre also played host to the 1991 MLB All-Star Game in which Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. was named MVP.
Speculation about Couture’s impending retirement first grew loud when he lost his second consecutive UFC heavyweight title fight, to Ricco Rodriguez, in 2002. When Couture steps into the Octagon for what will likely be the final time on Saturday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, he will have fought a full half of his career under the specter of imminent retirement.
Fans by now know well the story of the fighter who went all five rounds with Father Time. They remember the shocking upset of Chuck Liddell, the spanking of Tito Ortiz and the returning triumph over Tim Sylvia. Couture’s career is as well-documented and analyzed as any in the young history of the sport.
With Couture announcing that his final MMA bout will take place against Lyoto Machida before some 55,000 fans at UFC 129, it is not time for yet another career retrospective. It seems most appropriate to do what Couture has been doing for quite some time: accept and appreciate the fight on its own terms. The fight is the thing. More »
Shields has not lost since 2004, and he has never been submitted in a career spanning over 10 years. The Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter is widely regarded as the best grappler in the 170-pound division, having outworked Dan Henderson in a recent Strikeforce outing. More »
Jason Brilz pulls his weight, just like any true family man. He does chores, cooks meals and participates in group discussions when there are lessons to be taught or learned, all while he is on the clock.
In addition to being a light heavyweight contender in the UFC, Brilz has been a full-time firefighter for the Omaha Fire Department in Omaha, Neb., for more than four years. He will step into the Octagon against former International Fight League champion Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 129 on Saturday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, but he plans to be back at work the following week, putting out fires and saving lives.
Brilz and his co-workers also serve as emergency medical personnel for the city -- a part of the job that makes up the majority of their runs.
“Just recently, a lady had a heart attack at her work,” Brilz tells Sherdog.com. More »
Of course, Hominick doesn’t think Aldo has fought anyone with his striking prowess, though.
“He’s definitely fought the best of the best, and he’s taken them out, but I don’t think there’s anybody in the division with my kind of striking skills,” Hominick said recently on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “I think I present a lot of problems.” More »
Jake Ellenberger, hovering in the top welterweight periphery, enters this territory at UFC 129 in Toronto. He is stepping in on short notice to fight an Ontario local -- Sean Pierson -- in a fight he’s a clear-cut favorite to win. What Ellenberger stands to gain should he win is not equal to what he stands to lose if he doesn’t.
Those stakes are completely reversed from Pierson’s perspective -- here’s his chance to make a name for himself at Ellenberger's expense.
Add to that the fact that both men like to mix it up, and you have the crux of the trap.
But you know what? Ellenberger, who retains his dogged wrestler’s mentality from his days at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, isn’t really worried.
“I think it would be a trap fight if I hadn’t been training,” Ellenberger said just before heading to Toronto. “Mentally I feel stronger than I’ve been, and I feel ready. I just think [Pierson] has a lot more to worry about than I do. There’s not a lot of stress on my part.”
Ellenberger is standing in for Brian Foster (who was forced to withdraw with a brain hemorrhage) on just over two weeks' notice. Pierson, a one-time Toronto cop who decisioned Matt Riddle in his UFC debut in December, is riding a six-fight winning streak. In other words, he’s pretty far from being a can. The advantage is still Ellenberger’s, but we’ve seen recent examples of how far odds-makers are off in patchwork bouts, and just how speculative it all becomes when literal force is in play.
Wasn’t Evan Dunham supposed to mop the canvas with Melvin Guillard (who was standing in for Kenny Florian), just the same as Chris Lytle was supposed to drop stalwart Brian Ebersole (who filled in for Carlos Condit)? Dustin Poirer (replacing Jose Aldo) was nothing more than pabulum for No. 1 contender Josh Grispi, yet Grispi took a giant leap backwards after getting completely worked over for three rounds.
In thrown-together fights, with the abrupt change of focus and recalculated circumstances, it can become the simple equation of one man’s hunger versus another man’s willingness. Intangibles can’t help but get dragged into an impromptu fight setup, psychological and otherwise.
For Ellenberger, this is the part he likes.
“Actually, it’s sort of nice to be a late replacement,” he says. “You get to avoid the whole 8-10 weeks of mental stress. I feel better for this fight than I have for any of my fights with the UFC. I actually just met with one of my coaches -- Dr. Jack Stark, who's also a sports psychologist -- and he talks about the advantages I have. He calls it the laser-point focusing. I don’t have a lot of distractions. I’m just having more and more fun each time I get in there. Pierson’s fighting in his hometown, his family is there, his friends -- he has a lot more outside distractions.”
No matter the forum and throughout his life, Hominick has been able to recognize a big moment, an opportunity waiting to be seized. So, he was a baseball fan that October night and cheered when Carter ripped an unforgettable home run to clinch the series.
“The Joe Carter home run was definitely an iconic moment for Ontario,” Hominick says in a telephone interview from his home in Thamesford, where he was raised. “[SkyDome] is an iconic building for Ontario, and [UFC 129] is going to be a historic event. To be on the biggest UFC in history, fighting for the inaugural 145 belt, you couldn’t paint a better picture. This is what I’ve worked towards for the last 15 years.”
It may be a short distance from Hominick’s hometown to SkyDome, which today is the Rogers Centre, but the road to the venue is long on significance for the veteran. He will challenge featherweight champion and pound-for-pound ace Jose Aldo in the UFC 129 co-main event on April 30, hoping to extend his lifetime of overachievement and draw the explosive cheers of 55,000 fans under the Rogers Centre’s retractable roof.
It would be Hominick’s “Joe Carter” moment, a chance to captivate his home province and introduce to it a new point of sports pride.
From hockey to MMA
Hominick was born to a father who sold high-end kitchen and bath products and a mother who worked admitting patients at the hospital where he was born. Thamesford is a community of about 2,800 nestled amidst the Great Lakes.
“Small town; the same guys I grew up with are the same guys I’m buddies with still now,” Hominick says. “It’s one of those towns, you know. There’s one gas station, one Tim Hortons, you name it.”
There is also hockey in Thamesford -- lots of it; in the street, every day after school with friends or on the ice as part of organized league play. A right wing and goal scorer, Hominick was not much of a fighter on the ice, but he was not afraid of getting into corners or taking and administering open ice hits. He remembers freezing the first time an opponent dropped the gloves on him, despite regularly practicing the time-honored invitation to a hockey brawl with a friend on his farmland.
Hominick was never the biggest player on the ice. He was less than 130 pounds in high school; other kids were reaching 185. It was the first hint for Hominick that his size would complicate his quest to be recognized as the best at what he did. The Ultimate Fighting Championship did not host its first fight in his ideal weight class until December 2010. To capitalize on an opportunity, Hominick fought at 155 during his first UFC stint in 2006.
In ninth grade, Hominick’s class visited a local martial arts studio for orientation classes. He signed up under instructor Brad Hudson, a tae kwon do stylist who had also dabbled in Jeet Kune Do and jiu-jitsu.
This was like the stuff Hominick saw on a UFC 3 video he had watched covertly to dodge parental disapproval.
“[Hudson] basically trained everything, so it was a good introduction to the sport,” Hominick says. “It definitely took over my life.”
At 13, Hominick began competing in grappling tournaments. Later, he would take part in Pankration meets, essentially MMA bouts sans strikes to the head. He traveled to Greece for a Pankration tournament, fighting on the same Canadian team as former UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton -- a teenage idol of Hominick’s -- and opposite American MMA luminaries like Shonie Carter.
It was pretty amazing. Even before the UFC, I was fighting at the Bell Centre.” -- Mark Hominick on his career's fast start
“I was definitely the youngest on the mat,” Hominick says. “Even as a 16-year-old, I was always competing in the adult division, and I always felt I was ahead of the game there. I was always the smallest [and] youngest on the team.”
After four years with Hudson, Hominick met and began working with noted Canadian striking trainer Shawn Tompkins. It was not until that meeting that Hominick, a renowned striker his entire career, actually began to develop his bent toward kickboxing. He competed in muay Thai, racking up a 25-0 amateur record, and on the traveling kickboxing circuit in the American Midwest.
“We’d do kind of like weekend trips; we’d rent a van and bring a team of eight,” Hominick says. “It would always be Canada versus USA.”
Tompkins remembers when the two first met. Hominick had recently gotten his driver’s license, and the trainer was impressed by his maturity.
“He’s always been way ahead of most of the kids his age, growing up with a maturity,” Tompkins says. “Mark has never been the ordinary guy to walk into the gym. He always sets his expectations very high, and Mark’s not a guy to get involved in something to be second place. It was always a very natural thing for him to be at that level and to maintain that level.”
Tompkins shepherded Hominick into amateur mixed martial arts. In that arena, Hominick mostly discarded his leg kicks, which he had used to great effect in kickboxing, but too often set up opponents’ takedowns. He focused on developing his boxing and footwork.
By 2002, when the perennially boyish-looking Hominick made his professional debut, a solid MMA infrastructure had sprouted in Montreal. The Universal Combat Challenge was putting thousands in arenas, had a television deal and was making stars out of local talent.
Hominick, then 19, got the call to fight as an injury replacement against veteran Richard Nancoo for the Canadian super lightweight title at UCC 10 on June 15, 2002.
“My first pro fight was for the Canadian title. It was in front of 6,000 people. I did a prefight interview that was up on the Jumbotron. It was filmed by the sports channel in Quebec,” Hominick remembers. “You were in the big show already. It was pretty amazing. Even before the UFC, I was fighting at the Bell Centre, where the UFC had their first [Canadian] show.”
Hominick beat Nancoo to take the title via third-round TKO. Also debuting and claiming a title that night was Georges St. Pierre, who won his fight via submission. Hominick notes the parallel with UFC 129, where the countrymen will once again fight for titles on the same bill.
“It brings it back to that moment,” Hominick says. “We’re both fighting for the belt.”
St. Pierre may have gotten higher billing at UCC 10, but the young striker was seen by promoter Stephane Patry -- who also promoted Hominick in the TKO organization -- as an equally bright star.
“Honestly, Mark meant everything to TKO,” Patry says. “Mark was by far the most exciting fighter in the history of the UCC and TKO. If you ever see a boring Mark Hominick fight, go for a checkup, because he is never boring. Even if you put him against a boring fighter, he’ll find a way to make it exciting. It’s his time now. It’s his time to shine, and it’s his time to prove what he was thinking and what I was seeing back when he was our champion.”
St Pierre, it turned out, took a cue from Hominick in those formative days on the Canadian MMA scene. Patry remembered Hominick, a university business major with a plan to work for his father’s sales company, showing up to his first pro fight in a suit.
“Do you know when GSP starting wearing his suits at press conferences? After he saw Mark Hominick do it,” Patry says. “The next press conference, St. Pierre was wearing a suit, telling the other guys [on his team], ‘We should always wear a suit.’”
At that stage of his life, Hominick had no choice but to be businesslike in his approach. His fight career was blossoming while he was pursuing his business degree, and he did not want to half-ass either pursuit. So, he would get up at 5:30 a.m. to train at a boxing club in Windsor, go to class and study in the afternoon, rest, train again at 6 p.m., study more, sleep and do it again the next day. On the weekends, he hopped a bus home to train with Tompkins.
“It was crazy. Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through those four years,” he says. “This training camp has been very similar to that. I’m training for this huge fight, the biggest fight of my life. All the extra media demands have been going on. My wife’s due within five days of the fight. It’s just one of those times where there’s no down time. Everything is on the schedule. Nothing can be missed and nothing can be put aside. I like being structured like that, and I feel I perform best on that.”
Tompkins, who came to Ontario from Las Vegas for Hominick’s latest training camp so Hominick could keep his domestic responsibilities, is confident that his longtime charge is on point for Aldo.
If it were a boxing match, Tompkins claims, analysts’ view of the fight would be speed versus power.
“I believe Mark has the fastest hands in the sport,” Tompkins says. “You could maybe say Vitor Belfort, but you’d have to go to Vitor back when he was 19 years old. If anything, [Hominick] has gotten more precise with his speed. Mark probably throws six punches to Aldo’s two, but Aldo’s punches are very dangerous because he throws with power.”
Hominick believes he has built off of each of his losses, particularly his swift submission defeat to Josh Gripsi in February 2008, which he followed with his current five-fight win streak. The key, he says, was in concerning himself less with defending his opponents’ strengths and more with visualizing what he was going to do in a fight.
“This is the best, physically and mentally, that I’ve ever been,” Hominick says. “I just needed the string of wins to remind people. I’ve been fighting since 2002, professionally, and I just think this is my time.”
Hominick and his wife, whom he met in high school, bought a house in Thamesford last year and are expecting their daughter to be born within a week of the fight. His father passed away four and a half years ago after a battle with cancer. His mother is ready to retire from her job at the hospital this year and lives around the corner with Hominick’s grandmother. His older sister still lives in Thamesford. He opened a gym, Adrenaline Training Center, in nearby London with Chris Horodecki and Sam Stout.
Now 28, Hominick is taking the helm on the home front, where he scrapped in street hockey, fell in love with MMA and defied the odds as a small kid in a developing sport.
He has earned many more accolades than he could have expected to back when he was sitting in university lecture halls with marks on his face from the past weekend’s fight.
To date, it has been all scrapping and hard work and perseverance for Hominick. But the beauty, the poetry, comes in the Joe Carter moment, when Mark Hominick enters what used to be SkyDome, 90 minutes from his home, with much more than just his individual aspirations riding on the outcome.
“I can say whatever I want. I’ve got to go out and prove it; that’s it,” Hominick says. “I know what I’m capable of doing.”