TORONTO – Mark Hominick looked like the loser. He had a baseball-sized hematoma on his forehead. His cheeks were swollen. His eyes were cut and his nose and mouth were bleeding. He looked like guys do when they owe the mob some money and don't pay.
There was, however, no bigger winner at UFC 129 on Saturday than the gritty featherweight who is due to become a father any day now. The record crowd of 55,724 which filled the Rogers Centre watched in awe as a thoroughly battered and beaten man nearly fought his way back into a fight he had no business being anywhere near winning.
After watching Hominick somehow manage to get Jose Aldo onto his back in the fifth round and then improbably crack him with big punches, how can you not want to see him fight again?
He lost a unanimous decision – for the record, the judges had it 48-45, 49-46 and 48-46 in Aldo's favor – but seemed to make himself a star in the process. This is a guy people are going to be clamoring to see again.
One of them is his boss, UFC president Dana White. When a reporter asked White if Hominick went to the hospital, White beamed.
"If we sent him home looking like that, we should never be able to put on a fight again," White cracked.
Despite his appearance, Hominick began to rain blows down upon Aldo, the third-ranked fighter in the Yahoo! Sports ratings. Aldo had a difficult weight cut to make the 145-pound featherweight limit and at Friday's weigh-in, the champ looked like he needed an IV. True to form, he seemed to tire in the third and fourth rounds on Saturday.
But Hominick made him work throughout the fifth. Aldo missed on a guillotine attempt and Hominick attacked him as he was on his back. From the top position, Hominick was throwing big shots. Aldo was blocking some of them, but quite a few landed.
At first, the highly partisan crowd wasn't too excited, because it had seen Aldo do just about everything but finish the fight in the first four rounds. But as Hominick began to land one punch, and then another, and another, and another, the crowd began to believe that this small guy with the ever-present grin might be able to pull this off against one of the elite fighters in the world.
"He's a tiny guy with a huge heart," White said. "It was an awesome performance. I thought the doctor did a great job checking him and making sure he had peripheral vision and not stopping the fight. And then Hominick went out and went after it in the final round. It was awesome. I loved it."
Aldo, one of the world's foremost strikers, mixed things up on Saturday because Hominick's forte is striking. So Aldo, who hadn't shown off his ground game much before, took Hominick down several times in each round.
Aldo was also planting elbows to the face and one of them caused the hematoma to grow to an abhorrent size.
Hominick's wife, Ashley, is pregnant with their daughter, Raeya, and is due on Thursday. When the fight ended, he was able to joke about his appearance.
"First off, I just want to say to my wife that I hope I didn't put you into labor," he said. "I know you're due any minute. I love you, babe and I hope that you're OK."
Then, seconds later, he spoke the words that will forever define him, words that make you want to watch him.
"I just want to thank (referee) John McCarthy for not stopping the fight (because) I was never going to give up," Hominick said.
There are a lot of guys who would have given up in Hominick's shoes and it would have been difficult to blame them. But Hominick fought on and not only made himself the star of the night, he earned an extra $129,000 as part of the Fight of the Night bonus he was awarded.
You think that won't come in handy with a baby due in five days?
Aldo insisted he was never in danger when he was on his back and Hominick was firing away from the top. He used the opportunity to try to catch his breath and said he was clear-headed the entire time.
"I was very comfortable in that position," Aldo said. "I knew I'd won the first four rounds. I tried to secure a guillotine and when I was unable to do that, I was holding on to finish the fight."
Hominick was trying to finish it too, and that's why he became such a star in defeat. He poured his heart out trying to bring home a title belt for his soon-to-be-born little girl.
Aldo got the victory to improve his record to 19-1. Hominick, though, didn't go home a loser.
And you can be sure of one thing after Saturday night: Whenever and wherever Hominick fights in the future, I won't miss it.
- Mark Hominick