Welcome back, "Bones."
Standing between him and tying Tito Ortiz's record for most successful title defenses is middleweight motormouth Chael Sonnen, who bumps up a class to challenge for the strap, something that continually eluded him at 185 pounds.
Speaking of middleweight titles, UFC 159 features a co-main event pitting former top contender Michael Bisping against fellow division "Talent" Alan Belcher. One of these two men will get back into the "mix," while one goes to the back of the 185-pound line.
Perhaps for good.
Roy Nelson looks to inch his way closer to a heavyweight title shot at the expense of Cheick Kongo, while Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes try to settle their Twitter score in 205-pound action. Rounding out the main card is hometown hero Jim Miller, tasked with welcoming Strikeforce lightweight import Pat Healy.
Those are the players ... these are the outcomes.
Nostradumbass predicts: Chael Sonnen has done a good job of turning his upcoming fight against Jon Jones into a complete circus, and it's not because he enjoys being the class clown (even though he does), it's because he's doing the promotion a favor and diverting attention away from the fact that this championship fight is a grotesque mismatch.
No amount of smoke and mirrors can hide that.
At just 6-5 in the UFC, Sonnen's crowning achievement is losing spectacularly to Anderson Silva and somehow, that qualifies him to move up in weight and challenge one of the best fighters in the world. Show me a career-defining win, something besides a close unanimous decision victory over Michael Bisping to convince me he's got a shot against Jones.
I hope it's not his submission win over Brian Stann, whose ground game has been a "work in progress" for the last seven years.
In fact, the "All American" is the one (and only) person he's ever finished under the ZUFFA banner and the first time he hasn't won by decision in almost six years. Jones, meanwhile, has not only beaten, but finished former division champions Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida.
Sonnen -- and his 12 losses -- will magically succeed where they all failed?
The self-proclaimed "American Gangster" dropped to middleweight for a reason and that was to take advantage of the smaller guys at 185 pounds. That story that didn't have a happy ending and now he's trying to keep his character alive in the epilogue.
The best argument I've heard in favor of an upset is the challenger's wrestling, which has proven to be formidable. But you know those guns he's been shooting off during his media tour? Should do him wonders when it comes to speed and conditioning.
Nothing says "go five rounds" like more weight and bigger muscles.
Jones recently hit his stride and is clearly in his prime. More importantly, he has a demonstrated track record of success against some of the best fighters in his division. His opponent has nothing but a big mouth and small nuts.
Oh, and two losses to Anderson Silva.
Final prediction: Jones def. Sonnen via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: On paper, this has the potential to be a great fight between two rough-and-tumble middleweight strikers. Unfortunately, I don't believe it's going to be the BANGFEST we've all been hoping for.
Michael Bisping is too smart for that.
I'm sure "The Count" would love nothing more than to keep his word and put Alan Belcher on his ass, but there's too much at stake here. A loss doesn't get anyone released, but it effectively terminates any and all hope of a future title shot.
For a competitor like Bisping, that can be just as severe.
"The Talent" has enjoyed more success in his last five fights, going 4-1 and shutting down guys like Rousimar Palhares. The counter to that, however, is that Bisping has faced much tougher competition. I rank Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann ahead of "Toquinho," Jason MacDonald and Patrick Cote.
On the feet, this one can go either way.
That's why Bisping is going to use his striking to set up the takedown and put Belcher on his keister at the most opportune monents. The danger of getting submitted is always there against the Biloxi grappler, but the Brit hasn't been tapped in 28 professional fights.
That doesn't happen by accident.
I expect a close, spirited affair with plenty of even exchanges, but Bisping takes it on the scorecards with a couple of cheap takedowns at the horn. It won't be pretty, but it doesn't have to be. This one is about the "W," not the bragging rights.
Final prediction: Bisping def. Belcher via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: It's easy to look at this fight and think Roy Nelson has it all wrapped up. After all, he's been the more exciting fighter and is coming off thrilling back-to-back knockout wins. But let's also keep in mind that "Big Country" is just 3-3 over his last six fights.
And those three wins have come over suspect competition.
Beating down Mirko Filipovic stopped being news in 2007, Dave Herman can't win a fight and Matt Mitrione only had six professional bouts to his name when they tangled last December. And let's not forget he turned in a stinker against Frank Mir and was absolutely manhandled by Fabricio Werdum.
I still get the feeling he's got enough in the toolbox to defeat Cheick Kongo. By comparison, the Parisian is 4-1-1 over his last six, but any and all video of his "win" over Shawn Jordan should be buried in the Ark of the Covenant where it will melt the faces of any MMA fans who dare to retrieve it.
Seriously, that fight was bad.
Prior to that farce, he was clowned by Mark Hunt, mugged "Meathead" Mitrione and survived a trip down queer street against Pat Barry. Kongo has been in the UFC for almost seven years and doesn't have one marquee win to his credit.
He's a big guy with decent striking and emergency wrestling.
That's not going to be enough against Nelson. Taking him down will get him submitted and peppering him with shots will do nothing but hurt his hands. It would't surprise me to see "Big Country" endure some punishment for the right to play inside and end it with his trademarked overhand right.
Think Kongo vs. Mir -- only without the submission.
Final prediction: Nelson def. Kongo via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: This is an intriguing match-up for two reasons. Not only do you have two light heavyweights with the best ground work in the entire division, you also have two light heavyweights with the worst hands in the entire division.
Seriously, their striking is putrid.
Between the two of them, they have 20 professional mixed martial arts (MMA) victories and a combined four wins by way of knockout/technical knockout. The good news is, they share 12 submissions, but let's not even pretend they're in the same league.
Watch "Pezao" wreck shop on the Abu Dhabi circuit and then try to build a case for "Mr. Wonderful."
That said, submissions are not a foregone conclusion. Eliot Marshall was able to go three rounds with the Brazilian and I believe the wrestling of Davis, good enough to earn him an NCAA Division 1 title, can keep him from getting into a bad spot on the ground -- assuming he doesn't loiter while he's down there.
Keep in mind that Davis has beaten Alexander Gustafsson, Brian Stann and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and his lone defeat came in a unanimous decision loss to Rashad Evans last year in Chicago. It's not like he's been fighting bums.
Mags biggest win was over Igor Pokrajac.
The story of this fight is how well Magalhaes can fare in the stand-up. I'm not sure he can get Davis to the ground without permission and this could very easily dissolve into an ugly slap fight that has the boo birds singing by the second stanza.
I'm taking Davis by way of superior gas tank.
Final prediction: Davis def. Magalhaes via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: I've heard a lot of fans talk about this lightweight scrap as if Pat Healy was a carbon copy of Jim Miller. It might have something to do with their submission-to-knockout ratios, but knowing MMA fans the way I do, it's probably just because they are both 29 years old and have red-haired beards.
Either way, it should be a close fight.
Healy is good wrestler with great submissions, but you can't ignore the fact that he's lost 16 fights across his career and been finished in 10 of them. True, he's been able to turn it around in recent years, racking up six straight wins, but he hasn't beaten a "name" since tapping Carlos Condit nearly seven years ago.
"Bam Bam" faced three UFC-caliber fighters since then and they've all been losses.
The move to lightweight has given him something of a fresh start, I recognize that, but Miller is a seasoned veteran at 155 pounds and has faced three of the top guys in his division, including current titleholder Ben Henderson. That kind of experience shouldn't be overshadowed by a Strikeforce win streak.
I also give him the edge in both speed and polish.
Miller is 11-3 inside the Octagon and can do what any great fighter does: He knocks out people who can out-wrestle him (Kamal Shalorus) and submits people who can out-strike him (Melvin Guillard). Tapping Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz kids like Charles Oliveira is just a feather in his cap.
Healy belongs, no doubt about it, but until he proves otherwise, this is Miller's turf.
Final prediction: Miller def. Healy via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
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.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 159 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Jones vs. Sonnen."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.