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Falling Action: Best and Worst of UFC 129

For those of us who tuned in all the way from the Facebook prelims to the Spike prelims to the pay-per-view card, UFC 129 made for a long and sometimes repetitive night.

There's not necessarily anything wrong with that. A good knockout is still a good knockout the second (and third) time you see it, just like 'UFC Central' is still an 'MMA Live' rip-off whether you're watching on a laptop or a TV. But am I alone in feeling just a tad overwhelmed by it all?

When you attend a live UFC event, it's a full evening's worth of entertainment to begin with. But when you sit through it all from home and still end up rewatching several of those fights again later in the night, at some point they all blur together in the mind. Granted, the UFC can't assume that its entire audience is hardcore enough to tune in early, but at a certain point it becomes difficult to keep straight who did what to who, and when. Or maybe I'm just easily confused.

Now that we've all had a while to digest and decompress Saturday night's action, let's look at the big winners, losers, and everything in between after UFC 129.

Biggest Winner: Lyoto Machida
Okay, so there wasn't a title on the line. And yes, he did knock out a 47-year-old man, which just seems sort of mean in retrospect. But the rules of Falling Action demand that anybody who wins a fight with a kick that came straight out of "The Karate Kid" automatically get the top spot. That's just how it works. This win over a declining Couture may not be the thing that rockets Machida back to the top of the division, but it does help him score some style points, which a hit-and-run artist like himself could always use. Now he'll likely get a chance to fight someone his own age, and there's no shortage of tough challenges in that division. Let's see if he can wax on and wax off against an opponent who doesn't already have one foot out the door.

Biggest Loser: Jake Shields
You know what's worse than getting booed in a winning effort? Getting booed in a losing one. This is the fight Shields has been working toward for pretty much his entire career, so how did he manage to look so lost during the first three rounds? His most significant offense might have been what, in slow-motion replay, looks like a pretty obvious eye-poke. You hate to think any fighter would do something like that on purpose, but at the same time, did he think the open-handed slap was the key to victory? Because of Shields' fighting style, and because of the way the fight with GSP went down, it will probably take some doing for him to get a second shot at any UFC title. Maybe by then he'll be able to get some offense going before the fight is more than halfway over.

Least Impressive in Victory: Jose Aldo
The heaviest favorite on the card seemed to be in cruise control for much of the fight, yet still did more or less whatever he wanted to do to Mark Hominick for the first four rounds. When he felt like a takedown, he got it. When he was in the mood for shredding Hominick's thigh with leg kicks, no problem. Even when he wanted to simply stand flat-footed in the center of the cage and bob and weave, he managed to avoid more punches than he ate. But when he completely took his foot off the gas (or just ran completely out of it) in the fifth, his performance ended on a sour note. Rarely have we seen any champion so content to lay on his back and absorb punches until time runs out. Most at least have the good sense to hold on, or else get up and spend the final minutes circling out of danger. Aldo picked the most painful way to run out the clock, and he very nearly gave away a victory in the process.

Most Impressive in Defeat: Mark Hominick
Every time Aldo turned it on, Hominick seemed like was never more than one or two strikes away from being finished. But he hung in there through all manner of physical punishment, still firing off punches even as his head grew to twice its normal size. It takes more than physical toughness to endure all that and still have it in you to go on the attack in the final minutes of the fight. Most fighters would have had their spirits broken long before that point. The shots of a deformed Hominick swinging away on an exhausted Aldo in the final seconds will be enduring images for years to come in MMA. If only it had been a six-round fight, he might have a championship belt to go with that forehead lump.

Most Underappreciated: Georges St. Pierre
He successfully defended his title for the sixth consecutive time, winning almost every round against one of the most formidable men in the welterweight division. And, as if that weren't enough, he did it mostly with the use of one eye. And still he gets booed? It wasn't the greatest performance we've ever seen out of him, and no, it wasn't much fun to watch. But still, it was a clear-cut, gutsy win from the man who is undoubtedly the best 170-pound fighter on the planet. The fact that this alone isn't enough anymore just speaks to how dominant he's been as UFC champion.

Most Frequent Flier Miles Earned: Nate Diaz
I'm still not sure how much credit Diaz deserves for continuing to get up just so he could be thrown down again and again by Rory MacDonald. On one hand, he was down on the scorecards and couldn't afford to just lie there. On the other hand, at a certain point it almost seems as though you're offering yourself up to be thrown, like a child who has just discovered a fun and kind of scary new ride. Diaz was thoroughly outworked and overpowered by MacDonald, which makes you wonder how bright a future he really has at welterweight. That's two fights in a row at 170 pounds where he's been positively manhandled. Might be time to rethink that move up in weight.

Most Surprising: Vladimir Matyushenko
When "The Janitor" said he wanted to stand and trade with Brilz in order to show off his newly developed striking skills, it sounded like either a cagey bit of pre-fight gamesmanship or else a bad idea born out of questionable motivations. Then he went out and KO'd Brilz in 20 seconds, and suddenly it seemed like a brilliant decision. Apparently working with Antoni Hardonk has paid off, because Matyushenko has never been a particularly big puncher on the feet before. As surprised as we may have been to see him come up with a killer one-two combo right out of the gates, imagine how Brilz must have felt. When he woke up and had "Big" Dan Miragliotta explain it to him, that is.

Best Decision: Randy Couture's retirement
Even before his tooth went flying into the Toronto night, he looked like a man on borrowed time. The ageless Couture has been so good for so long that it's hard to envision him as anything but a fighter, but this is absolutely the right time to walk away. He's still relatively healthy (even if he won't be eating corn on the cob for a while), and he doesn't need the money any more. He can serve MMA so much better from outside the cage at this point, and the sport needs that kind of advocate. Let's just hope the retirement sticks this time. All the fame, glory and money doesn't mean much if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it.

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