One of the beautiful aspects of mixed martial arts is no matter how much talking is done in the pre-fight buildup, everything gets settled inside the cage.
With grudge matches a plenty on the menu, UFC 159 was a painful message to the pre-fight call out artists: When you pick a fight, you better show up to work.
The pay-per-view portion of Saturday night’s card was littered with matchups born out of public posturing, and in each of the three bouts, the person who set the wheels in motion failed to deliver.
Vinny Magalhaes took a battering from Phil Davis. Alan Belcher appeared listless in his highly anticipated bout with Michael Bisping and paid the price. But the fight with easily the most back-and-forth came in the main event showdown between light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen.
The lead up to the 205-pound tilt between Jones and Sonnen had its fair share of hot-button moments, but when the Octagon door closed in the Prudential Center, the 25-year-old phenom finally put months of chatter to rest.
The pound-for-pound great emphatically closed the Sonnen chapter of his career in brutal fashion as he hammered the mercurial number one contender into submission.
It was another impressive showing from Jones and capped off a strange night of face-punching in Newark. Here are a few of the highlights, lowlights and all-around weirdness that took place at UFC 159.
How anyone can sleep on Roy Nelson is beyond me. The man has a granite chin, hammer hands and a willingness to get to the ruckus every time out. Going into his bout at UFC 159 with Cheick Kongo, the Las Vegas native had collected back-to-back first round knockout victories. And with one big right hand, Nelson added a third straight victim to his list.
After clinching against the fence for the first minute, the 36-year-old waded in with thunder and salted Kongo in brutal fashion. In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, the former TUF winner threw his bid in to get the winner of next month’s championship squabble between Cain Velasquez and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
At the post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White told the media in attendance that heavyweight contenders Daniel Cormier and Mark Hunt would make sense for Nelson's next fight. Which direction the company takes won't be revealed for several weeks, but with his impressive streak of one-shot sleepers, Nelson has certainly put himself in the contender's conversation.
While the fight between Jones and Sonnen was a mismatch from the start, the young champion handled business in the exact fashion he was supposed to. Jones put the “Gangster from West Linn” on his back at will, and after softening him up with ground-and-pound, “Bones” turned it up a notch and finished the fight with a nasty flurry of strikes on the canvas.
In a crazy turn of events, the title holder’s post-fight celebration revealed he had suffered a gruesome injury to the big toe on his left foot. Nevertheless, Jones keeps his light heavyweight strap and continued his ascension into being one of the best mixed martial artists on the planet.
Earlier on the card, Pat Healy stamped and validated his place in the lightweight divisional rat race when he earned an impressive submission victory over New Jersey's own Jim Miller. After a first round where "Bam Bam" lingered on the threads of consciousness due to a business session of Miller ground-and-pound, the Strikeforce vet bounced back with vigor and earned the win.
In addition to adding a big name like Miller to his resume, Healy also collected $130,000 in additional bonuses for a night's work.
As I referred to in the intro, the worst part of the card had to do with the showings of Magalhaes and Belcher.
Both had strong words for their opponents leading up to Saturday night, but once the action got under way, neither appeared to have much to offer. The worst part of the scenario is that Magalhaes and Belcher both had tremendous opportunities to make huge moves in their respective careers.
If the former M-1 champion defeats a surging contender in Davis, he immediately extends his employment with the UFC. While defeating the Team Alliance fighter is easier said than done, Magalhaes had a small window where he had Davis exactly where he wanted him. Midway through the first round, the submission ace had "Mr. Wonderful's" back on the ground, but Davis remained calm and shook Magalhaes a few moments later.
Once Davis returned to his feet, it appeared any will to win the fight drifted out of the Octagon for the Brazilian.
When it comes to his striking, Alan Belcher is one of the most unpredictable competitors in the middleweight division. That being said, the performance he displayed on Saturday night had very little to do with his versatile skill set, and more to do with how he chose to fight.
Following a solid first round where he had success counter-striking, the Duke Roufus-trained fighter appeared to shift into neutral. This becomes a problem when you are fighting an opponent who uses pacing the way Bisping does, and with Belcher not returning fire, "The Count" blasted Belcher at will.
Granted, the fight would end under unfortunate circumstances with an accidental eye poke, but Belcher was well on his way to losing the bout.
The loss to Bisping levels whatever contender hopes Belcher was carrying into the fight. For the past few years he had been quietly building a case for the divisional upper tier, but back-to-back losses with lackluster performances will squander his championship hopes for the time being.
Certainly "The Talent" can work his way back up the ladder, but he won't see the caliber of platform he had this weekend for quite some time.
This category is usually the part of this feature where I have a small collection of curious happenings at each event, but UFC 159 was one of the strangest cards in the promotion's history.
The party got started by Cody McKenzie rocking a pair of fight shorts, which would seem better suited for the indoor pool at a Howard Johnson. Nevertheless, the Alaskan broke his recent skid by working veteran Leonard Garcia in route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory.
I can't remember the last card where a technical decision was rendered due to an accidental foul, but UFC 159 had two incidents of this variety.
A light heavyweight snoozer between Ovince St. Preux and Gian Villante ended after the New York native suffered an accidental eye poke. The fight ended when Villante told the referee Kevin Mulhall he couldn't see, which is just cause to stop the bout. There is no doubt Mulhall could have given the 27-year-old a bit of time before asking the question, but a fighter who says he can't see cannot be allowed to fight.
The co-main event between Bisping and Belcher ended in similar fashion as the brash Brit accidentally gouged the Mississippi-based fighter. Aside from losing the fight on the judge's cards, the most unfortunate element for Belcher is that the injury happened to the same eye which nearly brought an end to his career less than two years ago.
Eyes were getting poked left and right in Newark, but digits were also on the hit the list. Hawaiian Yancy Medeiros suffered a gnarly thumb injury after being slammed by Rustam Khabilov that brought an abrupt end to their bout.
Even though the lightweight's broken thumb was nasty, it was nothing compared to the compound fracture suffered by Jones in the main event. The champion's bone broke through the skin after sprawling to stop a Sonnen takedown attempt, but even with his big toe dangling, Jones' onslaught wouldn't be stopped.
For all the strange that went down at UFC 159, the thought of Chael Sonnen being 27 seconds away from a TKO victory over Jones after being dominated is a level of insanity that would have locked this event into the history books forever.
While the fighters on the card fell victim to the cloud of weirdness hanging over the Octagon in the Prudential Center, the icing on the strange cake came following Healy's submission victory over Miller. Seasoned announcer Bruce Buffer, who has worked thousands of fights, accidentally announced Miller as the winner after being choked unconscious.
A stunned Healy turned to Buffer as chaos and confusion added another notch to their scorecards.