The city of Toronto is a perfect microcosm of Earth. There’s the Italian neighborhood, one for the Portuguese, a nook for gays. And the majority is Chinese, but maybe I miscounted.
There’s something of everything amid this friendly people. We can see inhabitants dead set on burning of the bits of chub accumulated over winter – GSP, the middleweight champion and star of this Saturday’s UFC, is on the cover of a magazine for muscle heads. There is, by the same token, a portly population that just can’t keep from scarfing down the deliciously sugary stuff on offer around here. Irresistible – if your mind is weak. (One time an overweight inhabitant bought up ten donuts and ten coffees. Nine coffees were chucked in the trash. It was all for him, but the cashier didn’t need to know that.)
MMA is not, of course, the only quirky sport in the city. There are billboards announcing a pillow-fighting contest, but I couldn’t figure out how to sign up. Some months ago there was an international rocks-paper-scissors championship. It seems there’s a guy who is two-time champion of the event, so there’s some technique going on there. And in the grounds surrounding Queen Street someone’s got to be promoting a craziest-tattoo competition.
In the midst of all this healthy madness, all anyone wants to hear about is the UFC. “I think St-Pierre’s going to lose on Saturday,” abruptly spurts a trolley operator near where the press conference was held, at the banks of Lake Ontario. I ask why, breaking the protocol of not talking to the driver. “Because the last three guy’s he fought weren’t as good as this guy (Jake Shields), and even so he wasn’t convincing to me.” I skirt the debate, but what I take to be the superpower possessed by GSP (21w,2l) is precisely his ability to reshape his game to shut down any opponent, even the savvy Thiago Pitbull, Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck. Shields (26w, 4l, 1d), I agree, has been having a more impressive run, having faced Jason Miller, Dan Henderson and Martin Kampmann – but my head is telling me that’s where it will end.
Of the ten Canadians on the card (GSP, Mark Hominick, Mark Bocek, Rory MacDonald, Sean Pierson, Yves Jabouin, Claude Patrick, Ivan Menjivar, Jason MacDonald and John Makdessi), the lad from London, Hominick, is in my eyes the biggest underdog of the night. He also proved to be one of the most talented and mindful.
I greeted him at the end of the press conference, with the UFC press adviser impatient to usher him out of there, and he was dying to give GRACIEMAG.com whatever it wanted to know. He gained a fan – but not just yet. All because the deft-boxing Canadian faces, on Saturday, José Aldo the demolisher, the most ballyhooed first-timer in UFC history. Does anyone out there disagree?
To me it’s Aldo’s presence at UFC 129 that makes an excellent card into a stellar one. And judging by Dana White’s cackles at the press conference, when queried by Brazilian TV’s Ana Hissa, Aldo is the big boon that will make UFC Rio 134 go from being just a cool card to a can’t-miss one.
Back to Saturday night, Hominick knows the Amazonas native is all that: dangerous and complete. But he’s confident in the quality of his technique and especially the speed of his fists. To keep the fight standing, where he hopes it stays, he says: “I think Aldo’s instinct is to fight fire with fire, to prove he’s the best at whatever aspect. But I’ll be ready wherever it goes.”
I’m not so sure, champ. GRACIEMAG.com was on the scene for Aldo’s final training sessions, and when ground-training time came around Coach Dedé Pederneiras asked that it not be filmed. Mystery? Secret strategy? No. I think it’s just that the Nova União fighter is going to remind Jiu-Jitsu fans how he is one of the few men to have beaten Rubens “Cobrinha” – something readers tuned in to GRACIEMAG won’t forget.
And Hominick believes that if 55 thousand fans make their noise, that may help him psychologically for the battle. Let’s see how the Chinese conduct themselves.
Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
April 30, 2011
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields
José Aldo vs. Mark Hominick
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz
Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson
Preliminary card on Spike TV
Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald
Sean Pierson vs. Jake Ellenberger
Preliminary card (Informal Canada versus USA)
Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza
Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts
Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia
Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen
John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson