It’s been an exciting couple of weeks with loads of free fights for fans to sink their teeth into. But all of those free shows come with the knowledge that eventually it’s back to the land of Pay Per View where the UFC saves the really big marquee matches. Things are no different this week as the UFC returns to the PPV airwaves with UFC 159 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. After spending a season coaching opposite one another on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, supposed rivals, but sometimes frenemies Chael Sonnen and Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones will battle for the title in the main event.
The co-main event of the evening is a Middleweight slugfest between two fighters who really don’t like each other. There have been a number of proposed car and tattoo bets between Alan Belcher and Michael Bisping, as well as several hilarious videos on YouTube leading up to this fight. In Heavyweight action Roy Nelson battles Cheick Kongo. A Light Heavyweight fight between wrestling standout Phil Davis and grappling specialist Vinny Magalhaes is on the main card. Opening the main card is a Lightweight tilt between top Strikeforce Lightweight contender Pat Healy and one of the top UFC Lightweights over the past two years Jim Miller.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh
“Super” Steven Siler is a 26-year-old fighter from Anaheim, California. He is a former The Ultimate Fighter cast member from the final season on Spike TV. He trains with the Pit Elevated Team in Orem, Utah. Siler holds a career record of 21-10. Kurt Holobaugh is a 26-year-old fighter from Independence, Louisiana. He is an import from Strikeforce who will be making his UFC debut. He trains with the Gracie Barra Northshore Gym in Louisiana and holds a professional MMA record of 9-1.
Quick Pick: Kurt Holobaugh via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Nick Catone vs. James Head
Nick “The Jersey Devil” Catone is a 31-year-old fighter from Brick Township, New Jersey. He is a former Middleweight fighter, who has recently made the drop to 170 pounds. Catone is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler for Rutgers University. He trains at his own gym, the Nick Catone MMA Academy in New Jersey. His professional record stands at 9-4. James Head is a 29-year-old fighter from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Head is a grappler who trains at Lovaito’s School of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Oklahoma City. He holds a professional MMA record of 9-3.
Quick Pick: James Head via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie
Quick Pick: Leonard Garcia via TKO in Round Three
Preliminary Card (FX): Bantamweight Bout: Bryan Caraway vs. Johnny Bedford
Bryan “Kid Lightning” Caraway is a 28-year-old fighter from Yakima, Washington. He was a cast member on the final season of The Ultimate Fighter to air on Spike TV but has also fought for a number of MMA promotions including Strikeforce, Elite XC and the WEC. He is a member of the Team Alpha Male Gym in Sacramento, California holding a professional record of 17-6. “Brutal” Johnny Bedford is a 30-year-old fighter from Woodville, Ohio. Bedford was a cast member of the same season of The Ultimate Fighter as his opponent Caraway. He trains with the Fitness Fight Factory Gym in Fort Worth Texas and is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler. He holds a pro record of 19-9-1.
Quick Pick: Bryan Caraway via Submission in Round Three
Preliminary Card (FX): Women’s Bantamweight Bout: Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff
Sara McMann is a 32-year-old fighter from Takoma Park, Maryland. She is a former Olympic Wrestler and was the first American woman to win a Silver medal in Olympic Wrestling. McMann trains at the Revolution MMA Gym in Gaffney, South Carolina. McMann holds a perfect professional MMA record of 6-0. Sheila “The German Tank” Gaff is a 23-year-old fighter from Eschwege, Germany. She trains with the Energy Gym Fight Team in her hometown. This fight will be Gaff’s UFC debut but will also be her first fight in the USA. She holds a professional record of 10-4-1.
Quick Pick: Sara McMann via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Gian Villante vs. Ovince St. Preux
Gian Villante is a 27-year-old fighter from Wantagh, New York. Villante is a former NCAA football player and was once considered a top defensive prospect before leaving football to pursue MMA. Villante trains at the Bellmore Kickboxing Academy in Bellmore, New York but also spends time at Long Island MMA. He holds a professional record of 10-3. Ovince St. Preux is a 30-year-old fighter from Miami, Florida who is of Haitian descent. St. Preux was also a standout football player at the University of Tennessee but made the switch to MMA after failing to make the NFL. He trains with the Knoxville MMA Gym in Knoxville, Tennessee. He holds a professional record of 12-5.
Quick Pick: Gian Villante via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros
Rustam “Tiger” Khabilov is a 26-year-old Russian fighter from Makhachkala, Russia. Khabilov is a former Combat Sambo world champion and is an International Master of Sports in Sambo. Before making his UFC debut in his last fight he made the switch to Greg Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He holds record of 15-1, with the lone loss coming in the form of a controversial split decision. Yancy “Frisson” Medeiros is a 25-year-old fighter from Wai’Anae, Hawaii. He is a former state champion wrestler from Hawaii who will be making his UFC debut. Medeiros is a member of the Team Hakuilua Gym and has a perfect professional record currently standing at 9-0.
Quick Pick: Rustam Khabilov via Submission in Round Three
Main Card (Pay Per View): Lightweight Bout: Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy
Jim Miller is a 29-year-old fighter from Sparta Township, New Jersey. He is the younger brother of UFC Welterweight fighter, Dan Miller. Miller is one of the most talented grinders in the Lightweight division, with decent striking skills and a smothering top control game. Miller trains at the AMA Fight Club under head trainer Mike Constantino. Miller is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Virginia Tech and he also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Miller is quite possibly the very definition of Lightweight gatekeeper as every fighter that has ever defeated him has gone on to challenge for or hold the UFC Lightweight title. Miller’s professional record is 22-4, and he’s coming off of a Fight of the Year victory over Joe Lauzon at UFC 155 in December.
Pat “Bam Bam” Healy is a 29-year-old fighter from Salem, Oregon. Healy was one of the top Lightweight contenders in Strikeforce and will be making his return to the UFC after a 7 year absence in this bout. Before joining Strikeforce, he was the MFC Welterweight Champion, one of the top MMA titles in Canada. Healy trains with the Sports Lab in St. Louis, Missouri. Healy will be returning to the UFC on the strength of a six-fight winning streak in Strikeforce, leading up to a Lightweight title shot that he was never able to cash in on. Healy fights a very similar style to that of Miller, so it will be interesting to see how his wrestling and close range striking match up against a similarly talented grinder. Healy holds a professional MMA record of 29-16.
Analysis and Prediction: Healy had a successful run in Strikeforce, but that’s not gaining him any favors from the UFC. To put it bluntly this is a pretty bad stylistic match up for Healy. Both of these guys fight similar styles, but Miller is a bit better at everything. He’s a more accomplished amateur wrestler, his striking is more technical and solid than that of Healy and he’s got a BJJ black belt and is more adept at finding submissions and sweeps from bad positions or during scrambles. Healy is tough as hell and Miller isn’t exactly known as a finisher, but I expect this one could be somewhat one-sided. Miller busts up Healy on the feet across three rounds, sprinkled with some late takedowns and top control to seal a decision victory. Jim Miller via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Pay Per View): Light Heavyweight Bout: Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis is a 28-year-old fighter from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Davis is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Penn State University where he won an NCAA title in 2008. Davis trains as a member of Alliance MMA in San Diego, California. Davis has an excellent top control and is a tall and lanky fighter, although he is still developing his striking from a distance. He has however added a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Lloyd Irvin and has shown a strong awareness of potential submission opportunities during his fights. Davis holds a nearly perfect professional record of 10-1 with 1 No Contest, and the lone loss coming against Rashad Evans in a title eliminator bout.
Vinny “Pezao” Magalhaes is a 28-year-old fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Magalhaes was a cast member and the runner up on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Magalhaes started his career in the UFC poorly and was subsequently released, which allowed him to reset his career and he has experienced a resurgence by winning the M-1 Global Light Heavyweight Championship. Magalhaes is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and one of the top Light Heavyweight grapplers in MMA. He is a member of the Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas and also works as a BKJJ coach with Team Quest. Magalhaes has competed in and medalled in a number of major grappling and Jiu Jitsu competitions including the Abu Dhabi Combat Club and World Jiu Jitsu Championships. His professional MMA record is 10-5 with 1 No Contest.
Analysis and Prediction: Magalhaes asked for this fight by calling out Davis, so he must see something that he can take advantage of. With that said, if there is one thing we’ve learned in the modern era of mixed martial arts, it’s that the wrestler usually beats the Jiu Jitsu guy. I think that trend continues here. Neither man is an extremely talented striker, in fact they’re probably both subpar for their division, but Davis should be able to control the action on the ground. He’ll usually be the one on top, since his wrestling should be strong enough to fend off any of the Brazilian’s takedowns. If he’s smart, he should be avoiding the ground at all costs, since that’s the one area where Magalhaes can capitalize on his mistake. He should use a strong jab and work from range to bust Magalhaes up on the feet over three rounds. Phil Davis via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (Pay Per View): Heavyweight Bout: Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo
Roy “Big Country” Nelson is a 36-year-old fighter from Las Vegas, Nevada. Nelson was a contestant on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter that featured only Heavyweights and was the eventual winner of the show. Nelson is also notable as being the final International Fight League Heavyweight Champion. Nelson holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, training under Renzo Gracie. Nelson trains with the Country Club Gym in Las Vegas. In addition to his strong grappling credentials Nelson is also known for his iron chin, his ability to absorb punishment, big time knockout power and one of the least impressive physiques in MMA. Nelson holds a professional record of 18-7, including 16 wins via stoppage.
Cheick Kongo is a 37-year-old fighter from Paris, France. Kongo is a member of the Wolfslair MMA Academy in England. Kongo is a former professional Savate Kick boxer and has also competed in Muay Thai in the past, all before making the switch to MMA. In addition to his technical stand up skills, Kongo has recently been improving his grappling skills. His takedowns and top control are much improved, so much so that he often resorts to taking his opponents down and using ground and pound to control them on the mat, rather than risk brawls on the feet. Kongo holds a professional record of 18-7 with 2 Draws.
Analysis and Prediction: Despite being a professional kick boxer in the past, Kongo has been blitzed by a number of strikers in the Heavyweight division. This is probably the reason for the improvement in his wrestling skills. Still, Nelson is a very talented grappler and is not easily taken down. Nelson is also relentlessly moving forward, even when he’s taking a beating, because of his iron chin. Kongo doesn’t do well against heavy handed strikers who crowd him up if he can’t take them down. Kongo should be using a lot of kicks and a strong jab to keep Nelson at bay, but I think Nelson will simply walk right through those shots and land a big overhand right of his own. Kongo’s chin can’t handle the fire power than Nelson has in his hands, and I expect a knockout for Big Country. Roy Nelson via KO in Round Two
Main Card (Pay Per View): Middleweight Bout: Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher
Michael “The Count” Bisping is a 34-year-old fighter from Manchester, England although he was originally born on a British military base in Cyprus. Bisping was a cast member and the eventual winner of the Light Heavyweight portion of The Ultimate Fighter 3. Bisping is also a former Cage Rage Light Heavyweight Champion, one of the top titles in the UK. Bisping is a member of the HB Ultimate Training Center in Manchester, England. Bisping is a solid technical boxer with strong takedown defense. Bisping has solid footwork, which he usually uses to his advantage (the lone exception being his knockout loss to Dan Henderson where he continuously circled into the overhand right.) Although not known as a knockout artist, Bisping has respectable power having won 14 bouts via KO or TKO during his career. He holds a professional record of 23-5.
Alan “The Talent” Belcher is a 28-year-old fighter from Jonesboro, Arkansas. Belcher is a tough, well-rounded fighter who holds black belts in a number of martial arts disciplines, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwan Do and Judo. Belcher is a member of the Roufusport Gym in Biloxi, Mississippi training under famed kick boxer and MMA coach Duke Roufus. Belcher is a talented Muay Thai kick boxer with underrated grappling abilities. Belcher is going to be facing one of the best technical strikers that he’s ever faced so using leg kicks and body kicks to establish range is going to be extremely important for him in this bout. One of Belcher’s biggest weaknesses is his Fight IQ, which often leads to mistakes, especially in his last bout against Yushin Okami where he constantly put himself into bad positions, searching for a Guillotine Choke that was never really there. Belcher holds a professional record of 18-7.
Analysis and Prediction: Belcher has the ability to hang with Bisping, but he’s going to need to fight a perfect fight for him to win, and given his low Fight IQ and propensity to brawl, I just don’t think he has it in him. He’d be best off trying to emulate Vitor Belfort’s win over Bisping, but I doubt he’ll go that route. I expect Belcher to get out-boxed in the pocket, but he might be able to score effectively with kicks from the outside. Bisping’s wrestling is also somewhat underrated and I expect he might shoot for a takedown if things get hairy on the feet, or simply to steal a close round. The ability to steal those close rounds might be important, as this one is headed for the scorecards I think. Michael Bisping via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (Pay Per View): UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen
Jon “Bones” Jones is a 25-year-old fighter from Rochester, New York. He is the reigning and defending UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and is one of the most dominant fighters of all time. At 6’4” and with an 84.5 inch reach, he is one of the most physically and athletically gifted fighters in the UFC. Jones is a member of Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is definitely Coach Jackson and Coach Winkeljohn’s prized pupil. Jones is the youngest fighter to ever win and to ever defend a UFC title. Jones is a former JUCO national champion wrestler from Iowa Central Community College and uses his wrestling well during his bouts. Jones also holds the distinction of being the first fighter to be marketed globally by major clothing brand Nike. Jones holds a nearly perfect pro record of 16-1, with the lone loss coming via DQ for illegal elbows in a fight that he was well on his way to winning anyways.
Analysis and Prediction: Despite the number of complaints and criticisms this fight has endured, it could prove to be an entertaining and intriguing bout. Or it could also turn out to be the complete mismatch that everyone expects it to be. Sonnen really has only one chance to win this and it’s to smother Jon Jones for five rounds or at least three of five rounds and survive the other two. This is going to be tough for him for a number of reasons. Jones is a huge fighter, very lanky, very hard to get close to and is very athletic, I’m sure Jones is drilling takedown defense. The other issue is, Jones is a fairly capable grappler and Sonnen’s weakness is definitely submission defense.
For Jones the path to victory seems relatively simple. Pick Sonnen apart from the outside, use that ridiculously long reach to smash him up with jabs and leg kicks. Basically, avoid being taken down by Sonnen at all costs. Jackson is a smart coach and he’ll have Jones well prepared to fend off takedowns. I expect to see a measured pace from the champion, looking to time a big counter shot or knee as Sonnen rushes in for a takedown. The other possibility I could see is forcing a clinch with Sonnen and trying to earn a takedown himself. From there he should easily be able to ground and pound his way either to a stoppage or at least enough to create an opportunity to latch onto a submission.
We’ll probably be able to tell if this fight will be exciting or lopsided within the first minute. If Sonnen comes out and spams takedowns relentlessly he’s got a shot. If he tries to box, or goes for some spinning back fist like he did against Anderson he’s going to get pummeled. In fact, he might even get beat up anyways. I just hope that he makes it exciting either way and calls out Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez next, because hey why not take another title shot? Jon Jones via Submission in Round Two