UFC 159: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterApril 26, 2013

UFC 159: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    In the shadow of New York City, UFC 159 goes down Saturday from a very special burg known as Newark, New Jersey, with a very special main event that is perfect for the host. 

    First, okay, there's this guy, UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. Second, there's this smack-talking guy named Chael Sonnen. They coached opposite each other on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Jones is heavily favored. Sonnen doesn't seem to mind or care.

    But Jones and Sonnen only constitute one of the evening's five main bouts. What will happen with all of these fights? In the following slides, a select cabal of Bleacher Report's finest stand ready to clue you in. Sean Smith. McKinley Noble. James "The Athlete" MacDonald. Riley "Kobra" Kontek. And myself, Scott Harris. Let's get it on. 

Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy

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    Riley Kontek: These two guys are almost mirror images of each other, with one exception: boxing. Miller is the better striker of the two and will be able to avoid Healy's takedowns with his counter-wrestling. Miller earns a hard-fought decision.

    Miller, Unanimous Decision

    McKinley Noble: This is a tough fight for Healy, but when you claim to be a title contender at lightweight, you have to fight Jim Miller first. Unfortunately for Healy, that pits him against someone who is just plain better in every area. Miller controls two rounds and works for the decision.

    Miller, Unanimous Decision

    James MacDonald: The more well-rounded Miller should be able to dictate the terms of this fight and scrap his way to a decision. Healy’s best bet is to try and get the fight to the mat, but I’m hesitant to say that he has any real advantage there. Not a great stylistic matchup for the Strikeforce import.

    Miller, Unanimous Decision

    Sean Smith: Healy will be a really nice addition to a lightweight division that is rapidly losing contenders to the 145-pound class. However, the fact that Healy had earned a title shot in Strikeforce doesn't mean he's ready to fight elite UFC lightweights like Miller right out of the gate. Miller is just as good as Healy on the ground and has a big advantage in having competed inside the Octagon for years.

    Miller, Unanimous Decision

    Scott Harris: I don’t want to see either of these guys lose. But I’m not sure Healy can strike with Miller or compromise him on the ground. I'm giving this one to the native New Jerseyan.

    Miller, TKO, Round 2

Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes

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    Riley Kontek: A power wrestler in Davis against a jiu-jitsu ace in Magalhaes. Davis will use his wrestling to stay on the feet and avoid grappling with a world champion. From there, he will use clinch work and striking to earn a narrow decision.

    Davis, Unanimous Decision

    McKinley Noble: Magalhaes has more balls than brains picking a fight with Davis, but that doesn't mean a blowout. Although the stronger, rangier Davis may be tempted to finish this one on the ground, he's smart enough to coast for three rounds on striking and clinch work. It may not be pretty, but it'll be effective. 

    Davis, Unanimous Decision

    James MacDonald: I have no idea why Magalhaes thinks this is a favourable matchup for him. The TUF veteran relies almost exclusively on his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu, yet he has chosen to call out a former NCAA champion wrestler who will almost certainly shut down his only likely path to victory. 

    Davis, TKO, Round 2

    Sean Smith: These two light heavyweights are supremely confident in their grappling and fully prepared to test each other on the ground. While Magalhaes is a gifted jiu-jitsu practitioner, he has little hope of scoring takedowns against an NCAA wrestling champion in Davis. Davis has shown no holes in his submission defense, so simply maintaining top position could be enough for him to win on Saturday.

    Davis, Unanimous Decision

    Scott Harris: Earlier this week commenters said I was mad for predicting this as the Fight of the Night. Why did I do that? First, I’m not convinced Davis can smother Magalhaes. And even if he can, will he? I believe these guys genuinely dislike and want to finish each other. Prepare for an aggressive ground war or a fun (if inartful) slugfest.

    Davis, TKO, Round 2

Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo

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    Riley Kontek: Kongo's chin has looked suspect of late, and he is taking on a one-punch knockout specialist in Nelson. If "Big Country" wants to take Kongo down, he can, but I expect him to bank on his iron chin and power to garner the knockout against the Frenchman.

    Nelson, KO, Round 1

    McKinley Noble: Nothing short of a sledgehammer to the face will knock out Nelson, and he's extremely good at finding his range against longer opponents. Kongo can out-point, wrestle or groin kick his way to a win, but he won't volume-strike enough to win a decision. "Big Country" takes this handily.

    Nelson, KO, Round 2

    James MacDonald: What is it with these impressive-looking Frenchmen who flatter to deceive? Last week, it was Francis Carmont, and now it’s the Hulk-like Cheick Kongo. I expect Nelson’s power to make the difference here, despite the technical gulf that exists between the two.  

    Nelson, KO, Round 2

    Sean Smith: Though he's widely known for his striking, Kongo has shown some big holes in his defense recently. That's not a good sign heading into a fight with a heavy hitter like Nelson. Though he's not as technical a striker as Mark Hunt, Nelson only needs to land one big shot here.

    Nelson, KO, Round 1

    Scott Harris: There's a lot of sameness in these predictions, but I think it's a function of the matchups. Against Pat Barry and later versus Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo displayed a vulnerability to the right hook. Against Dave Herman and later versus Matt Mitrione, Nelson displayed an extremely powerful right hook. Any questions?

    Nelson, TKO, Round

Alan Belcher vs. Michael Bisping

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    Riley Kontek: Speaking of fighters with similar styles, two strikers with underrated ground games meet here. The trash talk leading up to this fight has been great, so it will be tough to match that verbal intensity. I expect they will, as Bisping mixes takedowns and technical striking to take a tight decision.

    Bisping, Unanimous Decision

    McKinley Noble
    : Although Belcher is facing a significant wrestling threat in Michael Bisping, this match will likely be contested primarily on the feet. "The Talent" isn't a steroid and TRT-infused monster like Vitor Belfort, but I can still see him pulling off an upset here. Look for a surprise TKO stoppage.

    Belcher, TKO, Round 2

    James MacDonald: This is a tough call. Bisping is the more well-rounded of the two fighters, but I increasingly worry about his chin. The good news for Belcher is that “The Count” isn’t the type to smother him with his grappling. Still, I think Bisping is likely to outpoint Belcher even if the fight remains entirely on the feet.

    Bisping, Unanimous Decision

    Sean Smith: This is a bout between two crisp strikers, but wrestling could make the difference. Having taken down the likes of Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans, Bisping has some of the most underrated wrestling in the middleweight division. Look for him to use it to get back on the winning track against Belcher.

    Bisping, Unanimous Decision

    Scott Harris: I can’t help but think of that energy drink commercial where the first guy comes in with his Mohawk, mean mug, cartwheels and so on, only to have the quieter, less-decorated opponent quickly knock him out. That could be Bisping and Belcher on Saturday night. Bisping may have an edge on the ground, but I’d be shocked if he took it there. Belcher will take some punishment before ultimately landing a haymaker. Sound the upset alarms.

    Belcher, TKO, Round 3

Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen

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    Riley Kontek: People are calling this a mismatch, but don't count Sonnen out after how he matched up with Anderson Silva. Jones is the better striker and will use his wrestling to stay on the feet. At some point, he will clip Sonnen and finish him with strikes to retain his title.

    Jones, TKO, Round 2

    McKinley Noble: Out of all the matches on the main card, this is the least interesting. Jones doesn't care about the fight, and neither should you. Sonnen will courageously attempt to pressure Jones early on, but he will eventually run into push-kicks to the knee, hard elbows and a submission.

    Jones, Submission, Round 3

    James MacDonald: This fight is not the embarrassing mismatch most seem to view it as. Sonnen has an interesting style for Jones to contend with. For one thing, we know Sonnen will not stay on the outside, even if he has to eat a lot of shots to close the distance. With that said, Jones has extremely underrated wrestling. If Bisping can deal with Chael in the clinch, so can Jones.

    Jones, Unanimous Decision

    Sean Smith: Jones is a massive favorite in this fight for good reason. To be blunt, Sonnen doesn't deserve to be in this position after losing to Anderson Silva in his last fight. More importantly, Jones has the wrestling to take away Sonnen's greatest weapon and is far more skilled in all other areas.

    Jones, TKO, Round 2

    Scott Harris: I’m excited for this fight for the same reason I was excited for Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar. It’s a chance to see one of the world’s greatest do his thing. That said, I can’t conceive of any circumstance under which this might be competitive. Bonus prediction: Chael P. hangs up his gloves in the cage after the fight.

    Jones, TKO, Round 1