April 23, 2013 – The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to pay-per-view this Saturday night with UFC 159, featuring light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones returning to Newark to defend his title for the fifth time against unlikely challenger Chael Sonnen.
This bout marks the conclusion of their saga coaching opposing teams on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show on FX.
Meanwhile, the co-main event will feature a middleweight contender bout with Michael Bisping taking on Alan Belcher while another interesting clash happens at light heavyweight with former NCAA champion wrestler Phil Davis taking on ADCC champion Vinny Magalhaes.
Bouts featuring heavyweight fan favorite “Big Country” Roy Nelson taking on Cheick Kongo and lightweight Jim Miller facing off against Pat “Bam Bam” Healy complete the main card.
Here’s the complete lineup for UFC 159 below followed by our fight picks!
UFC 159 – Main Card (PPV)
205 lbs.: Jon Jones (c) vs. Chael Sonnen
185 lbs.: Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher
265 lbs.: Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo
205 lbs.: Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes
155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy
UFC 159 – Preliminary Card (FX)
155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros
265 lbs.: Gian Villante vs. Ovince St. Preux
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff
135 lbs.: Bryan Caraway vs. Johnny Bedford
UFC 159 – Preliminary Card (Facebook)
145 lbs.: Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie
170 lbs.: Nick Catone vs. James Head
145 lbs.: Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh
UFC 159 – Main Card Preview and Predictions
205 lbs.: Jon Jones (17-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-12-1)
Is anyone really giving Chael Sonnen a shot in this fight? The undisputed UFC kingpin at 205 lbs. has defeated wrestlers along the likes of Ryan Bader, Vladimir Matyushenko, Rashad Evans, and just about everyone else he has faced. Meanwhile, “The American Gangster from Oregon” is a blown-up middleweight version of those guys minus any type of striking threat on the feet. Not to say he’s not a respectable fighter but versus Jones’ skillset, he’s got a smaller chance of winning that Ron Paul in the last US presidential election. At least he’s only slightly less popular.
Sonnen might make this an entertaining fight in the beginning by coming forward like a man with nothing to lose but he’ll find that “Bones” has some wrestling chops of his own and won’t be as easy to take down as his last opponent (Anderson Silva). Look for Jones to make this look like a walk in the park or a plain and simple deconstruction of a smaller, limited opponent who belongs in a lighter weight class and has no business in there with him in the first place.
Prediction: Jon Jones over Chael Sonnen by TKO, RD1.
185 lbs.: Alan Belcher (18-7) vs. Michael Bisping (23-5)
There was once a time when Michael “The Count” Bisping was one of those that would outwork all of his opponents, impossible to put away and hard as hell to win a decision against. That was a few years ago though and now he finds himself having lost 2 of his last 3 fights, reeling after a brutal TKO in his last fight against Vitor Belfort. Belcher was never held to as lofty a status as Bisping has achieved in the sport (no title shots yet) but he has been hanging around on the fringes of the top level minus time of due to injury. He too is coming off a loss to Yushin Okami after winning 4 straight. This fight represents his opportunity to climb back.
All in all this should be a close fight with both guys likely to choose striking on the feet as their weapon of choice. With that being said, no matter what happens (on the feet or on the ground), this one should be a very close fight with Belcher edging it out by decision unless he can somehow find Bisping’s chin like Vitor did.
Prediction: Alan Belcher over Michael Bisping by unanimous decision.
265 lbs.: Roy Nelson (18-7) vs. Cheick Kongo (18-7-2)
Always a fan favorite, “Big Country” Roy Nelson has been a career resurgence as of late, winning two and a row and looking much like the MMA version of Charles Barkley when he went to the Houston Rockets in the 96-97 season – round, impressive, and wanting to get to a title run that probably won’t ever happen for him. In this fight he’ll face another heavy-handed fighter in Cheick Kongo. The Frenchman also happens to be coming off a win after winning a decision over Shawn Jordan this past July but lost to another round heavyweight in Mark Hunt just one fight prior.
So what happens in this fight? Let’s see. Nelson is the better grappler of the two but more importantly, he’s only been KO’d once in his entire career and that was to an absolute homerun punch by a prime Andrei Arlovski five years ago. He’s still as durable as they come while Kongo seems to have seen his best days put behind him. I don’t see any way Kongo can win this one. Look for Roy to prove himself the better fighter and keep knocking on that door to title contention a la Sir Charles.
Prediction: Roy Nelson over Cheick Kongo by TKO, RD2.
205 lbs.: Phil Davis (10-1) vs. Vinny Magalhães (10-5)
This fight is pretty straight-forward.
ADCC winner Vinny Magalhães is looking for the fast-track to notoriety in the 205 lbs. division and called out the top-ten ranked fighter he thinks he can beat in wrestling standout Phil Davis. Styles often make fights so in that respect he may have been smart to do so considering he likely does have the ground edge but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to get him there or that Davis is a walk in the park.
…Quite the contrary actually.
In his 11 fight career Phil has only lost once – via decision to another top wrestler (Rashad Evans) in a standup-oriented fight. This fight might actually turn out to be that type of fight again if Vinny can’t take Davis to the ground long enough to sub him – which is a highly-probably scenario. In that type of fight it’s anybody’s ballgame and it might be a sloppy ballgame at that but Davis should have enough of an advantage to take the win.
Prediction: Phil Davis over Vinny Magalhães by unanimous decision.
155 lbs.: Jim Miller (22-4) vs. Pat Healy (29-16)
Fighting in front of his home state crowd in this one will be grizzled veteran Jim Miller as he takes on Northwest-based Pat “Bam Bam” Healy. Miller won a tough bout against Joe Lauzon in a fight that garnered FOTN honors in his last one and seems motivated to string together two in a row for the first time since early 2011. Meanwhile, Healy is another tough vet that’s done better as of late with six wins in a row but those were all in Strikeforce against slightly-less than top competition.
As inconsistent as he’s been with wins as of late Jim Miller has never lost to less-than-top-level competition and Pat Helay is not quite at that level. Look for the hometown favorite to prove he’s the more well-rounded vet in this one.
Welcome to the UFC Pat.
Prediction: Jim Miller over Pat Healy by decision.
UFC 159 – Undercard Quick Picks
Rustam Khabilov (15-1) over Yancy Medeiros (9-0) by submission, RD2.
Ovince St. Preux (12-5) over Gian Villante (10-3) by decision.
Sara McMann (6-0) over Sheila Gaff (10-4-1) by decision.
Johnny Bedford (19-9-1) over Bryan Caraway (17-6) by TKO, RD2.
Cody McKenzie (13-3) over Leonard Garcia (15-10-1) by submission, RD1.
James Head (9-3) over Nick Catone (9-4) by decision.
Steven Siler (21-10) over Kurt Holobaugh (9-1) by decision.