If you missed UFC 129: St. Pierre vs. Shields, you missed something special. I don't mean the record crowd or fantastic set-up or even the main event. I'm talking about the co-main event between Jose Aldo and Mark Hominick for the UFC featherweight title. It was the sort of bout that exemplifies what combat sports are uniquely special exercises. More particularly, the loser in that effort, Mark Hominick, turned in a performance that should be described as nothing short of a profile in athletic courage. Down essentially four rounds and with a growing, ugly hematoma on his foreheard, Hominick stormed back in fifth round to dominate the champion and win an arguable 10-8 round. He didn't win the title, but nevertheless earned something that has been absent throughout his athletic career.
To wit: Hominick's countryman Georges St. Pierre won his fight and retained his title, but few would argue his image or standing in the sport received the same boost from his UFC 129 performance as Hominick. St. Pierre suffered a debilitating eye injury that affected performance, but it was the spirit of how Hominick fought that is forcing fans and experts to reevaluate how they view featherweight striker.
First, let's talk the hematoma. As this doctor indicates, the fight deserved to continue. That we're even having a question about it, though, should tell you everything you need to know about how perilous the situation appeared to be:
Once again, as I have stated many times, there is a significant medical difference between injuries that are visually compelling (and even grotesque) as opposed to those that may be life, limb, neurologically (paralysis) or sensory (vision, hearing etc.) threatening.
Visually compelling injuries (many cuts/lacerations, abrasions, contusions, hematomas/bruises etc.) need to be properly inspected by properly trained and seasoned cageside medical staff, observed by vigilant referees, and managed by well-trained, experienced corner men. These injuries can provide amazing theater and crowd reaction, but when properly handled, they pose minimal risk to the affected athlete. These types of injuries are minor and do not put the fighter at a significant increased risk.
In these instances, the fight should continue.
An enlarging forehead hematoma (bruise or collection of blood) that does not significantly affect an athlete's vision is not dangerous. The ring side physician made the proper call on a huge stage. Job well done, sir!
Now, onto Hominick. Sports Illustrated's Steven Marrocco takes inventory of how Hominick improved his stock:
Hominick could be mistaken for the Elephant Man for all the damage he took from Jose Aldo. But while he didn't manage to wrest the title from the Brazilian, Hominick took the unofficial title of the toughest guy at UFC 129. Aldo dropped him multiple times and added elbows on the ground, leaving Hominick's face a swollen and bloody mess. Yet he hung in there and kept walking into the pocket. He had moments where he was winning. In the final moments of the fight, it looked like he might pull it off when he pounded Aldo on the mat. He just needed a little more time.
Before this fight, "The Machine" was a talented guy who had been around the block several times and caught some tough breaks. Had the WEC not been there to provide him a platform on which to develop, we never would have seen the type of gutsy performance we did on Saturday. But we're glad it was. The lighter guys are a jolt of energy to their new home. And Hominick is loving one perk: a $129,000 bonus he received for "Fight of the Night."
Jason Probst over at Sherdog.com also sings Hominick's praises:
Hollywood could not have scripted it any better. Hometown challenger takes on a great champion, absorbs a beating early, becomes horribly disfigured, and, then, after being waved clear to continue in a tense-as-tense-can-be doctor exam, rallies huge down the stretch to put the champion on his heels.
Mark Hominick is truly worthy of being nicknamed "The Machine," but what’s next for Jose Aldo, the still-amazing but now-human featherweight king?
Honestly, with Hominick’s performance at UFC 129 on Saturday in Toronto, I’d rather see Aldo and him fight later. That’s because Hominick performed so impressively that a loss in the short-term will not hurt his long-term marketability for a title shot, especially against Aldo. Hominick might be wrestled and held down against tough contenders like Chad Mendes, but in a five-round standup battle, he is bad news for anyone. I’m not sure there is anyone else who can say that presently.
Hominick's fight exemplifies why people respond to combat sports.
What combat athletes sacrifice on the altar of athletic glory is beyond compare. In order to persevere or even make an account of themselves, combat athletes must have technical expertise, pure athleticism and an unencumbered willingness to trade personal safety for accomplishment.
Hominick transformed a moment of brief audience revulsion into a profile in sporting courage. That is the essence of combat sports. It isn't gore and guts for its own sake. It's the brutal exchange of the corporeal for the incorporeal and you'll find few finer examples than the attempted trade Hominick made last Saturday night.