We are a little less than two weeks from one of the biggest UFC events of the year, and anticipation is running wild. UFC 159, which takes place in New Jersey, will feature a light heavyweight championship bout, as champ Jon Jones defends the strap against multi-time middleweight contender Chael Sonnen.
This match comes on the heels of a coaching stint opposite of one another on The Ultimate Fighter. Sonnen got the best of Jones on three occasions, winning the coaches challenge, a game of bowling and the actual season (both fighters in the finale were from Team Sonnen).
Here is an early main-card breakdown for UFC 159 that features Jones vs. Sonnen, Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher, and a couple other intriguing bouts.
Leading off the pay-per-view is a battle of UFC veteran vs. Strikeforce import, as title contender Jim Miller meets Pat Healy in the 155-pound division. This is a fight that sees two durable veterans of the sport clash for position in the lightweight ranks.
Miller is 2-2 in his last four fights, but previous to that the New Jersey native rattled off seven straight wins against quality opponents. The submission-based wrestler has grabbed five fight-night bonuses in his UFC career, which is attributed to his go-hard style.
Healy is a less rounded version of Jim Miller in that he is a grinding wrestler with submission ability. He currently finds himself on a six-fight surge beating Lyle Beerbohm, Maximo Blanco and Caros Fodor.
The feeling here is that Miller and Healy's respective wrestling games will cancel out, turning this into a kickboxing match. Miller is the better, more technical striker of the two and has consistently faced more challenging guys throughout his career.
Healy is durable, so I don't think Miller will finish him, but Miller will leave little doubt in the judges' minds of who was the better man that night.
Prediction: Miller def. Healy via decision
Up next is a light heavyweight encounter, when former M-1 champ Vinny Magalhaes puts a lot on the line against American wrestler and former contender Phil Davis. This is a fight that Magalhaes had been praying for since defeating Igor Pokrajac in his return fight.
Davis is a wrestler with submission ability and developing stand-up. He has lost just once in his MMA career and has beat top names such as Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Tim Boetsch, Brian Stann and Alexander Gustafsson.
On the other side, Magalhaes is a jiu-jitsu ace with a very technical ground game and flashy submissions. In addition to tapping Pokrajac with an armbar in his return to the UFC, "Pezao" became a Submission of the Year candidate in winning the M-1 title against Viktor Nemkov via gogoplata neck crank.
As good of a submission fighter as Magalhaes is, he does not have the ability to take down a seasoned, physically strong Davis. Davis is easily the better wrestler and will dictate this fight from the feet.
Magalhaes does have some striking skills, but he has to deal with the quickness and developing hands of Davis. At this point, I really don't see Davis losing here, even if he wants to use his wrestling to score takedowns for points.
The judges will be consulted, and "Mr. Wonderful" will take a decision in a forgettable affair.
Prediction: Davis def. Magalhaes via decision
In a clash of heavyweight titans, France's Cheick Kongo makes his return to the Octagon when he meets the portly powerhouse that is Roy Nelson.
Nelson finds himself the winner of two straight fights, knocking out Dave Herman and Matt Mitrione in the process. The former TUF winner is a jiu-jitsu ace that has relied on his power striking and granite chin since entering the UFC.
He is still looking for that signature victory that will put him into title contention. The three best guys he has faced in the company (Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum) have all beat him to either challenge for the title or move into contention.
Kongo returns to the cage on the heels of a critically panned win against Shawn Jordan at UFC 149. The French striker has won three of his last four, with 10 of his 18 overall wins coming in the form of knockout.
These two will exchange on the feet, with both men landing power shots. This means that the man with the more durable chin will be the last standing.
Kongo will look to clinch up against the cage, but will need to avoid the bombs of "Big Country." Whether Nelson clips Kongo on the feet or smothers him on the ground, the stout Santa lookalike will earn the stoppage via knockout.
Prediction: Nelson def. Kongo via knockout
Presiding in the co-main event, a middleweight grudge match between Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher is on tap. Both men have jabbed each other through the media, so don't expect a friendly encounter when these two collide.
Bisping is constantly a title contender who always seems to come up short in his contention match. The heel of the middleweight division is 1-2 in his last three, beating Brian Stann but falling short to Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort in fights that could have earned him a date with Anderson Silva.
Bisping is a striker with an underrated ground game. He will use his sprawl to keep Belcher at bay and on his feet at all times (even though Belcher may want to strike anyway).
Belcher is almost a carbon copy of Bisping, in that he is a good striker with underrated ground skills. To prove that, he escaped a Rousimar Palhares leg lock to earn a brutal knockout of the highly decorated grappler.
He was on a four-fight surge until he was handled in his last fight by the grinding Yushin Okami. He will not need to worry about Bisping taking him to the ground in this one, leading to an entertaining striking war.
Prediction: Bisping def. Belcher via decision
As Bruce Buffer would say, "It's time!" Nemesis of most, Chael Sonnen gets his crack at the 205-pound title when he takes on opposing coach and unsolvable puzzle Jon Jones.
Sonnen makes the move up from middleweight to take this fight, a reward he got for being willing to take a short-notice fight with Jones back during the UFC 151 fiasco. This weight cut may favor Sonnen, as he always looked drained at 185 pounds.
Chael is two-and-Anderson Silva in his last four fights. He defeated Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, but lost two title fights to his biggest all-time rival, Silva.
Jones is a phenom who has yet to look weak in any of his fights in the UFC. Since his disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, Jones has rattled off eight wins over the likes of Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Rampage Jackson and most recently Vitor Belfort.
Chael has the best wrestling of any man Jones has faced, but Jones' wrestling is perfect for MMA. Jones will use his reach and counter wrestling to keep this fight standing, eventually hurting Sonnen and finishing it on the ground.
Prediction: Jones def. Sonnen via TKO