Damn, it must be good to be an "American Gangster."
After two unsuccessful bids at the Middleweight crown, Chael Sonnen will take his mixed martial arts (MMA) talents, as well as his gift for gab, 20 pounds north to take on reigning UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones this weekend (Sat., April 27, 2013) after defeating him by proxy on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17.
The 205-pound pair will collide in the UFC 159 main event, which goes down at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Joining them on the pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast are Alan Belcher and Michael Bisping, looking to rebound from tough losses to Yushin Okami and Vitor Belfort, respectively. Plus, Vinny Magalhaes -- a 2011 Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) gold medal winner -- will tangle with Phil Davis -- an NCAA Division I wrestling champion-- as the two attempt to get a foothold in the top-heavy 205-pound division.
Yesterday, we looked at three "Prelims" bouts that will stream live on Facebook.com and transition to FX right here. Today, we examine the remaining four that will air on FX prior to the PPV main card broadcast that begins at 10 p.m. ET.
Check 'em out:
135 lbs.: Bryan Caraway vs. Johnny Bedford
After two straight submission victories post-TUF 14, Bryan Caraway (17-6) was tabbed to face inconsistent Japanese veteran Takeya Mizugaki in front of the latter's hometown crowd. The resulting battle was a solid scrap, but after 15 minutes, "Kid Lightning" found himself part of Mizugaki's first two-fight win streak since 2009.
When surging prospect Erik Perez found himself sidelined with a staph infection just yesterday, however, Caraway jumped at the chance to get back on track against a fellow TUF 14 alumnus.
Ignominious as his starching at the hands of John Dodson on TUF was, the trail of destruction that Johnny Bedford (19-9-1) has carved in the Octagon proper has more than made up for it. "Brutal" laid down a hellacious beating on Louis Gaudinot in his debut, arguably getting two 10-8 rounds before finishing him off in the third, and then put a hurting on TUF: "Brazil" contestant Marcos Vinicius Borges Pancini his second time out.
Bedford, who started his career 11-8-1, has suffered just one official loss since 2009.
Ordinarily, when one guy has lost eight fights by submission and the other's won 15 via tapout, my job would be pretty easy. In this case, though, I'm leaning toward Bedford. I picked him to stomp Perez and I'm picking him to take out Caraway.
I'm not going to deny that Caraway is lethal on the ground and that he can probably end the fight seconds after getting Bedford's back, but I've been hugely impressed by Bedford so far. He's got one of the meanest styles I've seen in the division -- with the way he bludgeons the body and the kind of pressure he exerts, it's pretty much impossible to have fun fighting him.
And considering how easily Mitch Gagnon got Caraway to the fence and hurt him from close range, that's bad news.
Caraway will make him earn it, but the short notice, combined with Bedford's strength and relentless attack, will leave him at "Brutal" mercy somewhere around the midway point.
Prediction: Bedford via second-round technical knockout
205 lbs.: Ovince St. Preux vs. Gian Villante
After eight consecutive victories, most of them in Strikeforce, the wrestling issues that had plagued Ovince St. Preux (12-5) in his early career reared their heads once more as he was soundly outgrappled by Gegard Mousasi for a decision loss. If anything, though, the loss seemed only to invigorate the former University of Tennessee linebacker, who blew away T.J. Cook with a huge left hand his last time out.
Save for a relatively recent string of three consecutive decisions, St. Preux has ended all his victories inside the distance.
A fellow linebacker out of Hofstra University, former Ring of Combat Heavyweight champion Gian Villante (10-3) had a rough go of it early in his Strikeforce career, losing a wild slugfest to Chad Griggs in his debut and dropping a decision to Lorenz Larkin soon after. Luckily, things turned around in a hurry, and Villante will now make his UFC debut in the midst of a three-fight win streak.
He was originally set to compete on the ill-fated Strikeforce: "Melendez vs. Healy" fight card against Brazilian prospect Guto Inocente before an injury to "El Nino" scuttled the entire event.
St. Preux’s size and athleticism have me concerned, especially in light of the difficulty Villante had with Griggs’ psychotic aggression, but I’m leaning toward Villante in this fight. I’m willing to attribute the loss to Larkin to Villante being unused to the weight cut and St. Preux’s premiere weakness is his defensive wrestling. As big and strong as he is, St. Preux came out on the wrong end of far too many wrestling exchanges with the much smaller Mousasi.
Provided Villante’s got his weight under control, he should be able to drag down St. Preux with reasonable regularity. It won’t be the most aesthetically-pleasing fight in the world, but expect Villante to stay away from St. Preux’s power shots and grind him down for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Villante by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff
While her Olympic silver medal in wrestling made Sara McMann (6-0) an instant hot topic in MMA, her 2012 campaign proved without a doubt that she’s one to watch, defeating Strikeforce veteran Hitomi Akano and Josh Barnett understudy Shayna Baszler. McMann, who reportedly had considerable trouble finding fights early in his career, has just two years of MMA experience, debuting in May of 2011.
She is nine years the elder of her opponent.
Dropping down to 125 pounds after a three-fight losing streak, Sheila Gaff (10-4-1) sent a message to her fellow Flyweight s in a hurry, flattening Hanna Sillen in just eight seconds and stopping Aisling Daly and Jennifer Maia in a combined 1:44 afterward. The latter fight was not without controversy, however, as "The German Tank" punched Maia when she attempted to touch gloves before knocking her out in 10 seconds.
This will be the 23-year-old’s first time back at 135 pounds since a decision loss in Dec. 2010.
Gaff’s power is legit, even with the size disadvantage, and her aggression is overwhelming. All her wins came in the first round, nine in the first two minutes. If she can bowl over McMann early, she certainly has the thump to stop her.
She just won’t.
All Gaff’s aggression is going to do is make McMann’s takedowns easier. McMann’s size and wrestling pedigree are far beyond anything Gaff has ever had to deal with and I highly doubt she’ll have an answer for them. McMann will be on top of her in a hurry, and Gaff’s inexperience in longer fights will make it more and more one-sided as the fight progresses.
Expect McMann to make an impressive case for a future title shot as she pounds an increasingly-fatigued Gaff into the ground before cinching up a rear-naked choke.
Prediction: McMann via second-round submission
155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros
Being an International Master of Sports in Sambo generally means you’re kind of a badass, but few could have expected what Rustam Khabilov (15-1) unleashed against Vinc Pichel in his UFC debut. A series of suplexes, culminating in a vicious slam reminiscent of fellow Dagestani Yusup Saadulaev’s knockout of Hideo Tokoro, left the TUF: "Live" alum unconscious on the canvas.
Khabilov, who trains under Greg Jacksin, is presently on a four-fight win streak, including a decision over UFC veteran Jason Dent.
After six stoppages in seven wins on the local circuit, Hawaiian standout Yancy Medeiros (9-0) got his first crack at the big time in 2010, making his Strikeforce debut. After going undefeated (2-0) in the promotion, "Frisson" was scheduled to face UFC veteran John Salter; however, injuries kept him on the shelf until now.
In addition to this being his first fight in almost three years and his UFC debut, Medeiros will make his first cut from middleweight to 155 pounds.
UFC debut? Fine. UFC debut against a powerful grappler out of an excellent camp? Eh. UFC debut against a powerful grappler out of an excellent camp after almost three years out of the game? Nope. UFC debut against a powerful grappler out of an excellent camp after almost three years out of the game and cutting down two weight classes?
As good as Medeiros is, pretty much everything is working in Khabilov’s favor. Even with Medeiros’s size, the Sambo background of "Tiger" should allow him to consistently dictate position. Despite the Pichel suplex-fest, Khabilov isn’t the best finisher, but there should be no question who won after three rounds of increasingly one-sided grappling domination.
Cesar Gracie’s winless 2013 continues.
Prediction: Khabilov by unanimous decision
Deserved or not, this ought to be one of the more entertaining light heavyweight title bouts in recent memory.
See you then!
Remember, too, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 159 main card action on fight night (Sat., April 27, 2013), which is slated to begin promptly at 10 p.m. ET on PPV. The latest fight-by-fight updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.