UFC 159: "Jones vs. Sonnen" goes down this Saturday night (April 27, 2013) from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and after over one month away, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to pay-per-view (PPV) with a highly anticipated event.
A light heavyweight championship affair between The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen headlines the event as "Bones" puts his title on the line for the fifth time.
Supporting the main event is a grudge match between top middleweight contenders as the world's No. 4 ranked 185-pound fighter Michael Bisping takes on No. 10 ranked Alan Belcher in what should be an explosive battle.
With the two headlining bouts garnering a lot of attention from both fans and media, and for good reason, it's time to break down what --besides a paycheck-- a victory on Saturday means for the four athletes carrying the UFC 159 fight card.
Going into the UFC 159 main event, Jon Jones is basically in a no-win situation. "Bones" promises he will defeat Chael Sonnen in "a devastating fashion," and after those statements anything less than a one-sided performance by the champion would be viewed as a disappointment.
Heading into the bout as the dominant champion and a heavy betting favorite, Jones needs to send a message that a fighter from a lower weight class can't just jump up to his division, talk his way into a title shot and then take his belt.
It would nothing short of stunning if Sonnen were to defeat Jones, but that is highly unlikely. If everyone and their mother expects Jones to win handily, then what does the 25-year-old have to gain from the fight?
Firstly, there are several records at stake for the native of New York. Jones has had the goal of becoming the most dominant 205-pound champion in UFC history for a long time now, and a win at UFC 159 would tie him with Tito Ortiz for the most consecutive title defenses in light heavyweight history at five. Moreover, Jones could take sole possession of the record for most consecutive wins in the division with nine.
Those are just a few of the records Jones has within his grasps, and to check out more take a look at his detailed career stat sheet here.
Secondly, whether he will admit it or not, the rivalry with Sonnen has benefitted Jones' career for the better. He got a tremendous amount of exposure coaching on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality series and all the media surrounding this fight is only going to take his star power to the next level.
Ultimately a win for Jones means he ties or breaks a number of significant light heavyweight records and barring any freak outcome to the fight, it means the Chael Sonnen chapter of his career has come to a close and he can move on to bigger and better things such as title defenses against deserving contenders, superfights or possibly even a move to heavyweight.
While no one seems to believe in him and the chances of a monumental upset are extremely slim, a Chael Sonnen victory at UFC 159 would go down as one of -- if not the biggest upset in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.
The former two-time middleweight title challenger is jumping up to a weight class he has not competed at in nearly eight years to take on one of the top-three pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and he's going to have his hands full.
Checking around multiple sports books, Sonnen can be found as anywhere from a seven-to-one to a ten-to-one underdog, which shows how little faith the public has in him, and more importantly, how highly they think of Jones.
MMA is one of the most unpredictable sports in the world and incredible things seemingly happen at every event, but the deck is stacked heavily against Sonnen for this fight.
Should he miraculously pull off the victory, the light heavyweight division would immediately be flipped on its head and new life would be pumped into the division. For top-ten fighters like Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans who were all defeated by Jones in decisive fashion, Sonnen's championship reign represents the opportunity to work their way back into a title fight against a champion who has not already defeated them.
Aside from what would be by far the biggest win of his career and capturing the UFC title belt he has been waiting for so, so long to acquire - a Sonnen victory at UFC 159 means one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history and that Sonnen finally fulfilled the promise he made to his father before he passed away.
Despite being knocked out in the second round by Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7 last January, Michael Bisping didn't drop too far down the ladder and his lifelong goal of fighting for a UFC championship belt is not totally out of reach - yet.
If "The Count" loses to Alan Belcher at UFC 159, his title aspirations are likely to be washed away for good. On the wrong side of 30 and with hypothetical back-to-back losses under his belt for the first time in his career, it would be a long and grueling road back to the top and one the British fighter may never be able to complete.
Fortunately, Bisping has a chance to avoid all that by taking out Belcher in New Jersey. Even though he was finished by Belfort in his last fight, Bisping still holds down the No. 4 spot in the official UFC rankings and it should only take him a couple of impressive victories to become the top contender in the division.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 3 winner has only ever lost to fighters who have competed for or held a UFC championship belt. Belcher doesn't fit that description, which means it could be a good night for Bisping.
A win for Michael Bisping at UFC 159 means his hopes --albeit slim-- of one day competing for a UFC title are still alive and that he is still one of the top dogs in the division.
Since early 2006, Alan Belcher has been a part of the UFC roster, but unfortunately, he's yet to record a victory over an opponent ranked in the top-10 of their respective weight class.
Belcher's 14-fight UFC record is dribbled with inconsistency and highlighted by two unanimous decision losses to top 185-pound contender Yushin Okami, who recently defeated Belcher for the second time at UFC 155 last December.
Despite coming off a one-sided loss to Okami in his last fight, "The Talent" will get another chance to earn the signature win he has been looking for since joining the UFC against Michael Bisping.
Belcher has a whole lot to gain and not much to lose by fighting an opponent with Bisping's stature in the organization and name recognition to casual fans. The British fighter has only ever lost to opponents who have once competed for or held a UFC championship. That means getting his hand raised puts Belcher in some elite company. Another loss would be a difficult setback for Belcher, but a win would push him back onto the short-list of title challengers at 185-pounds.
What do you think a win means on Saturday for these four men? Let us know in the comments section below!
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.
For more news and notes on UFC 159, check out our complete event archive here.