MMA Review: #415: UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen

-Set up under controversial circumstances – namely the whole UFC 151 cancellation issue – this fight was in my opinion the most unfairly maligned one of 2013. I mean sure, Sonnen hadn’t earned a title shot by any means, but really who was he pushing out? Only Lyoto Machida really, and about, oh, let’s say fifty people honestly wanted to see the rematch between him and Jones anyway. Granted, it looked like a one-sided fight on paper but for me at least it was a fresh one and not a needless rematch. The whole card was looked down upon too for reasons I didn’t get either – it wasn’t stacked, admittedly, but the two semi-mains of Bisping/Belcher and Nelson/Kongo both looked fun and there was intrigue from another bunch of StrikeForce debutants too. So fuck the haters!

UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen

04/27/13
Newark, New Jersey

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Featherweight Fight: Steven Siler vs Kurt Holobaugh

Holobaugh was one of the surprising StrikeForce imports, as he’d only come into that promotion for their last show as a last-minute replacement. He’d done enough to impress Zuffa brass though in losing a decision to Pat Healy and so was brought over at his more natural 145lbs. He wasn’t given an easy fight though at all as Siler – outside of a tough loss to Darren Elkins – had looked surprisingly good since his TUF 14 run and seems to be one of the better mid-level Featherweights these days.

Round One and they trade off with strikes right away, wasting no time at all. Clinch from Siler and he tries to get the plum, but Holobaugh lands some hooks to the body to slow him down. They break off and the exchange continues into another clinch. Plum from Siler and this time he manages to land some nasty knees to the body and the face. Holobaugh to his credit doesn’t stop punching the body. Nice transition to a takedown from Siler and he takes the back off a scramble and gets both hooks in. Good punches land for Siler as he works to soften the debutant up for a possible choke. Really good back control from Siler as he continues to land shots. Holobaugh manages to stand in an attempt to shake Siler off, but he can’t do it and Siler’s looking for the lemur-style choke now. Looks like Holobaugh is badly cut. BEAUTIFUL roll through from Siler when Holobaugh tries to escape, and it looks like he’s got the rear naked choke sunk, complete with a body triangle. Somehow Holobaugh manages to stay in the fight though and escapes to a big crowd pop. Seconds to go and Siler remains in firm control, ending the round with a flurry. Got to go 10-8 there I think for Siler.

Between rounds the quack really checks Holobaugh over; looks like it’s his nose that got busted up. He’s okay to continue though. Round Two and Holobaugh comes out swinging, but Siler shoots on a single leg. Holobaugh grabs a guillotine on the way down and it looks tight, but he doesn’t secure guard to control the body and Siler looks like he’s alright. Sure enough he pops his head free as Holobaugh does manage to get to full guard. Triangle attempt is avoided by Siler but Holobaugh kicks him off and then gets a takedown of his own. Guy has a lot of heart, you have to give him that. Holobaugh postures up out of the guard to avoid a possible submission, but Siler hits a sick sweep to take top position. Holobaugh scrambles to his feet and escapes a guillotine, then CLOCKS Siler with a right hand that stuns him badly! Siler dives for a takedown and Holobaugh immediately goes for the guillotine, but he makes the same error as before and Siler escapes, securing guard. Nice upkicks land for Siler as Holobaugh stands over him to drop some punches to the body. Good shots land for Holobaugh as he avoids a possible submission attempt. This is a very good fight. Siler keeps looking for a triangle choke but Holobaugh does a good job of posturing out. He lands some good elbows, but stands and eats an upkick and that allows Siler to get back up. One minute to go and they trade some hard punches with pretty reckless abandon. Big right hook from Holobaugh wobbles Siler again and once more he shoots, but Holobaugh stuffs it and almost takes full mount. Short punches land for Holobaugh until the round ends. 10-9 Holobaugh in a surprising comeback.

Round Three and Holobaugh opens up with some nice leg kicks. Siler tries to counter with punches but he’s coming up short. Good knee from Siler though and he manages to close in and land a combination that sets up the plum. Knees connect for the TUF veteran as Holobaugh tries to roast the ribs with hooks. They exchange shots from the clinch with both men landing, and at the same time they work for position along the fence. Knees land for Siler from the plum before they break off. They continue to trade strikes and Siler gets the better of it this time. Takedown attempt from Holobaugh but Siler reverses and gets on top before taking full mount. Nice. Holobaugh gives his back and Siler immediately slaps both hooks in. Body triangle follows and with less than two minutes to go this is probably Siler’s fight. He looks like he’s got a neck crank ala Demian Maia locked up, but Holobaugh still manages to hang in there. This dude is tough as nails. Punches land for Siler as he looks to soften Holobaugh up, but he just can’t secure the choke. Seconds to go and Siler decides to work him over with punches until the buzzer. Clear 10-9 for Siler, giving him a 29-27 in my eyes.

Judges score it 29-28 all round for Steven Siler. Shitty that he didn’t get any 10-8s for the first round but at least the right guy won. Fight was a lot of fun at any rate – one of the best show openers of the year in fact as Holobaugh seemed overmatched in terms of skill but showed enough sheer heart and determination that he was never completely out of the fight. I’d have kept him around actually but 2013 is ruthless times in the UFC and the poor guy was unfortunately cut. Siler continues to be a tough out for anyone at 145lbs though and he’s shown that since by KOing former champion Mike Brown.

Featherweight Fight: Cody McKenzie vs Leonard Garcia

This one looked like a blatant loser-leaves-town match given the UFC’s recent series of cuts and the fact that despite generally being exciting, both men had lost the majority of their last few fights – Garcia was on a four-fight skid in fact. Despite that I was leaning towards him to win as although he is little more than an aggressive brawler, I figured his stand-up was still better than McKenzie’s and I didn’t think Cody could take him down.

First round begins and HOLY SHIT McKenzie’s shorts are bad. Like a small child’s pyjama pants or something. He immediately shoots in and tackles Garcia to the ground, where he works to pass the guard. He manages to pass and take the back, and drags Leonard down as he stands. Both hooks are in for Cody and Garcia is in deep trouble already. He tries to throw some punches at Cody but obviously can’t land cleanly and McKenzie looks like he’s got the choke sunk. Garcia manages to push the arm off, but he’s still up shit creek here. Cody’s got a body triangle for good measure and he’s landing solid punches too. Neck crank attempt fails as does another choke attempt. Big shots do connect though and he shows excellent control as Garcia rolls but McKenzie stays clamped to his back. Leonard tries to turn into him but Cody goes for an arm triangle and that looks sunk. Somehow Garcia manages to slip free, but he can’t escape totally as Cody winds up on top in guard. Nice pass from McKenzie to get into half-guard and he drops some elbows to set up his guillotine. Garcia scrambles to his feet but almost gets caught in a guillotine and ends up dropping to his back to avoid. Punches land for McKenzie and he grabs the guillotine but again Leonard avoids. This time though McKenzie locks up a mounted triangle as they hit the ground and rolls to his back in an attempt to finish, but the buzzer goes before he can. Easy 10-8 round for Cody, though.

Second round and Garcia throws a few combos before Cody whiffs on a terrible ankle pick attempt. Seriously amateur looking stuff. A second attempt at a legit takedown is better and he gets Leonard down despite eating some elbows. McKenzie works to pass, and looks to grab the neck as Garcia tries to stand. Garcia outright gives up on standing to avoid the choke, and then slips free and manages to step over Cody to get back to a vertical base. Wild punches miss for both men as Garcia in particular looks gassed. Cody leans in for a takedown and Garcia actually considers a guillotine, but gives it up to land a one-two. Cody manages to grab hold of him though and drags him down with a rear waistlock, putting the body triangle on again. No clue what’s up with Garcia here but he’s fighting like a total zombie. McKenzie still can’t catch him in a choke, though. Cody’s shorts really are horrific here, I need to repeat this. Like, almost Dennis Hallman’s Speedo levels. Punches land for McKenzie and he even covers Leonard’s nose and mouth, but he still can’t choke him before the round ends. Another round in the books for Cody McKenzie and Garcia clearly needs a finish.

Third round and Garcia comes out swinging, just looking for the one knockout shot. McKenzie dives on the ankle again but Garcia easily avoids. McKenzie has really awkward stand-up but to be fair he’s doing well to avoid the Garcia haymakers. Head kick glances for Leonard but doesn’t seem to have much effect. These dudes are both gassed now I think. Cody fires back with a one-two of his own but Garcia just laughs it off and then shrugs off a takedown. Both guys are just swinging for the fences now. McKenzie lands some totally clean punches but clearly has no knockout power as Garcia grins at him. This fight has degenerated completely. Stats show McKenzie is outstriking Garcia. Mainly because Leonard’s wild haymakers keep missing. One minute to go and Cody tags him a couple more times. Nice trip from McKenzie with seconds to go. They land in an awkward position before Cody manages to secure top position in half-guard, ending the fight by taking the back again. Got to be 30-26 for McKenzie.

Official scorecards read 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Cody McKenzie. Odd fight to watch actually as Cody’s grappling looked really good, but his stand-up was awkward and Garcia barely offered any offense at all, gassing really early and then being reduced to swinging terrible haymakers that missed by a mile. It wasn’t a bad fight by any means but to me it didn’t feel like a UFC-calibre one either. Although UFC-calibre is up for debate anyway these days with the amount of shows they’re putting on, so c’est la vie. Garcia was understandably released after this performance and I daresay McKenzie may be following him unless he can improve his striking ASAP.

Bantamweight Fight: Bryan Caraway vs Johnny Bedford

This would originally have seen Bedford taking on young gun Erik Perez, but when El Goyito got injured, Caraway stepped in to make it a battle of two TUF 14 veterans. My pick was Caraway as Bedford to me comes off as a guy who just uses his huge size at 135lbs to bully smaller fighters, and Caraway was dropping from 145lbs and bringing more overall skills to the table.

Round One and Caraway lands with a pair of left hooks early on. Bedford swings right back and then ducks for a takedown, but Caraway avoids. Body kick lands for Bedford. Caraway keeps looking for the lunging left hook and he lands it again. Hard swings miss for Bedford. He finds himself off-balance after missing some punches and that allows Caraway to grab a rear waistlock, and from there he drags Bedford down and gets both hooks in. Choke attempt from Caraway but he can’t quite lock it up and so he lands some punches instead. Bedford does a good job of defending and then manages to shake Caraway off to escape to his feet. Left hook lands again for Caraway but Bedford connects with a combination. He’s really swinging now. Caraway’s movement looks good though and he lands with a combo of his own and slips some of Bedford’s shots. Good knee from close range from Bedford and he follows with a hard right hook, but Caraway shakes his head to suggest it didn’t hurt. Takedown from Caraway and he ends the round on top landing a couple of elbows. 10-9 Caraway.

Round Two and Bedford stuffs an early takedown attempt. Left uppercut connects nicely for Caraway. Bedford continues to swing wildly and he connects on a decent combo. Good right lands for him as he closes the distance but Caraway circles out. Bedford is beginning to take over the striking exchanges now. Nice rushing leg kick from Bedford. His right eye is looking marked up though from the lefts from Caraway. Halfway through the round and both men seem to have slowed down their output. Takedown attempt from Bedford is blocked. Caraway is more successful on an attempt and he gets Bedford down in guard. Sweet pass into side mount follows. Bedford regains half-guard quickly but Caraway looks in firm control. Couple of decent punches and elbows land for Caraway. Round ends like the first, with Caraway on top landing some shots. Close round but I think Caraway stole it with the ground work late on; 10-9 Caraway again.

Round Three and Bedford again comes out swinging, but he isn’t connecting cleanly and he needs a knockout to win really. Caraway begins to channel his inner Diaz in order to bait Bedford in swinging and counter, but that’s probably not smart. He does land with a sharp left hook though. Caraway appears to be throwing punches with an open hand which isn’t right either. Takedown is shrugged off by Bedford and a second attempt allows him to get on top. Caraway hits a great reversal though to take top position in guard. Triangle attempt from Bedford and he switches to an armbar as Caraway pulls out, but he can’t lock it up and he finds himself in guard again. Pass from Caraway puts him into half-guard and Bedford’s looking tired. He tries to scramble but Caraway’s base is too good and he clocks him with a left hand. Caraway works to set up a guillotine from the top and then manages to secure it and roll to full guard, and from there he re-adjusts the position and sweeps into mount to force the tapout. Very nice.

Few points there – first off, you have to admire Caraway for actually looking for the finish even though he was clearly going to win a decision anyway, so kudos to him for that. Secondly, his grappling really did look excellent in that fight and I think you could argue it’s his best UFC performance to date. His stand-up didn’t look amazing and I think he’d still find himself in trouble with a better striker who can stop his takedowns, but he’s clearly settled into a gatekeeper role now and his connection to Miesha Tate should keep him around for a while in the UFC at least. As for Bedford I suspected he’d come unstuck once he faced a larger 135lber that he couldn’t bully around and that came to fruition here. Decent fight with a couple of slow points but overall nothing to complain about.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Sara McMann vs Sheila Gaff

This one looked like a showcase fight for Olympic silver medallist McMann, as she’d been talked about as a possible contender for Ronda Rousey for some time and Zuffa were supposedly looking to push her. German Gaff had a solid record but was a natural 125lber and from those in the know, supposedly lacked takedown defense which obviously isn’t good when you’re in there with a wrestler the calibre of McMann.

First round and Gaff makes the ridiculous error of sprinting across the cage at McMann, who naturally just ducks and hits a double leg to guard. Few short strikes get through for the Olympian, but Gaff generally does a good job of tying her up from the guard to prevent major damage. McMann works to pass the guard, but can’t seem to do it and the crowd begin to get a bit restless with the lack of action outside of some body punches. Mini-slam from McMann but she can’t break the guard. Two minutes to go and the ref calls a stand-up. McMann immediately closes Gaff down off the restart, and despite taking some knees from the clinch she manages to get a single leg to drag the German down. This time she gets into side mount and locks up the mounted crucifix. Gaff looks totally stuck and McMann drops a series of unanswered punches and elbows for the stoppage.

Totally one-sided fight as was expected – just as I’d heard, Gaff basically had no takedown defense and once McMann got into a dominant position the fight was all over. Will she be able to do the same to a more experienced fighter? I’m not sure myself as I doubt that someone like Sarah Kaufman or Alexis Davis would charge at her like Gaff did, but it should be interesting to find out. Fight unfortunately wasn’t that exciting until the ending, however.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St-Preux vs Gian Villante

Battle of two StrikeForce veterans here which came off to me as a little odd – I thought Zuffa would want to match all the StrikeForce guys up with UFC fighters to see where they stand. Anyway, most were favouring OSP as he’d looked good in the majority of his StrikeForce outings, but I thought it was a bit closer than that as Villante, while he hadn’t really showed it in StrikeForce, had a big reputation at one point and was even talked about as the 205lbs version of Chris Weidman! With both men feeling the pressure of their UFC debut I thought this could go either way.

Fight begins and Villante opens up with a hard inside leg kick. St-Preux answers back with a glancing high kick. Another kick from St-Preux allows Villante to catch the leg and go for a single, but OSP does a good job of blocking it. Villante keeps working for it and ends up lifting St-Preux’s leg up towards his head, but he still can’t get OSP off his feet. Bit shady actually as it looked like OSP was holding the fence. Anyway, they separate and OSP wings the left hand a few times but can’t catch Villante. Good combination lands for OSP. Big head kick glances for Villante. Combo answers for St-Preux and Villante looks wobbled. He manages to clinch but he definitely got hurt there. OSP drops for a takedown against the fence, but Villante defends it and lands a nice knee to the midsection. They break off and OSP lands a heavy left hook. Wild flurry from St-Preux allows Villante to clinch, but he still can’t get OSP down. Dude has some excellent takedown defense. Straight left connects for OSP. Questionable moment follows as Villante calls time to fiddle with his glove and Joe Rogan outright accuses him of looking for a break. They restart with a minute to go and OSP shoots for a double leg, but Villante blocks it and breaks off with a nice elbow. Leg kick follows. This isn’t really a great fight. Combination lands for St-Preux. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 OSP I’d say.

Into the 2nd and Villante drops him with a leg kick early on and then hurts him with another inside leg kick as OSP stands. OSP answers with a blocked body kick. Left hand follows for OSP. Couple more nice leg kicks connect for Villante. The inside leg kick especially is working. Body punch from OSP. Villante seems much more comfortable in this round though and he dodges OSP’s punches well. Telegraphed takedown attempt from OSP is stuffed and Villante grabs a front headlock and then breaks with a combo. Leg kick follows. OSP is looking tired. Right hook lands for Villante. Both guys are beginning to resort to haymakers now. Villante continues to land the leg kicks though and I think they’re winning him the round. Left hand does connect for OSP though. Crowd begin to boo with a minute to go as both are tired and have slowed down measurably. Round ends with a nice overhand right from Villante. 10-9 Villante to even things up.

Third and final round and they begin by throwing single strikes; Villante favouring kicks. Combo from Villante but he takes a blatant eye poke on the way in and referee Kevin Mulhall calls time. Suddenly though he WAVES OFF THE FIGHT as apparently Villante mentioned that he couldn’t see. Well fuck. Surely he just meant he needed to take a time out to recover? Fucking ridiculous decision from the referee. Both OSP and Villante look DISGUSTED and rightfully so. Replay shows it was a clear but probably accidental poke, but why not just give Villante time to recover like EVERY OTHER REF DOES? Total gaffe from Kevin Mulhall.

Rather than call a No Contest they decide to go to the judges scorecards for a TECHNICAL DECISION and you’d think it’d be a 29-29 draw with the final round being 10-10 as nothing landed, right? Well, apparently not as only one judge gives the 29-29 – the other two somehow go 30-28 and 30-29 (?!) for St-Preux. Ugh. So not only was it a bogus finish but we got a bogus decision too. Joe Rogan sums it up by just saying “that, ladies and gentlemen, is what is known as a mess” and I won’t argue. Total black eye on the card as the fight wasn’t great either.

Lightweight Fight: Rustam Khabilov vs Yancy Medeiros

This was the prelim that had me most excited as Khabilov’s UFC debut had been one of the most impressive of 2012 as he threw Vinc Pichel around like a ragdoll, eventually TKOing him with a German suplex of all things. Opponent Medeiros was coming in from StrikeForce, but he hadn’t fought since the Fedor vs. Werdum card in 2010 (!) and so I figured this would be a showcase match for the Dagestani native.

Fight begins and both men throw out some strikes to gauge the distance, with Khabilov clearly looking to close Medeiros down. Medeiros does a good job of lunging in with the right hand, landing cleanly a couple of times. Khabilov lands a couple of glancing blows of his own including a solid overhand right. Kick is caught by Khabilov and he immediately gets a takedown before spinning to grab a rear waistlock. Suplex attempt from Khabilov but Medeiros manages to hook his legs around the Sambo fighters to avoid taking it fully. He pops up, but Khabilov immediately hits a single leg. Nice scramble from Medeiros allows him up though and he manages to grab a waistlock of his own. They separate and then Medeiros points out a problem with his hand to referee Dan Miragliotta, who calls time. Joe Rogan thinks his glove is causing a problem, but Big Dan calls the doctor in and they spot that his THUMB IS DISLOCATED. God damn. Two injury stoppages in two fights? Doctor indeed throws the fight out there.

Replay shows Medeiros dislocated the thumb while defending the takedown, which has to suck. This was disappointing in every area really as Medeiros actually came in with a very good gameplan and it would’ve been interesting to see whether Khabilov could’ve adjusted, but shit happens I guess. Horrible luck on the behalf of everyone – Medeiros, Khabilov and also the fans who missed out on what was shaping up to be a very good fight.

Lightweight Fight: Pat Healy vs Jim Miller

This was the sleeper fight of the card as both men are like mirror images of one another – tough, well-rounded guys who will give anyone at 155lbs a tricky fight through their sheer hard work. Healy had made a big impression in his StrikeForce run, upsetting the likes of Maximo Blanco and Mizuto Hirota as well as giving Josh Thomson a tough fight, while Miller was coming off that incredible war with Joe Lauzon. I gave a slight advantage to Miller based on his UFC experience but it was a close one to call.

Round One and it has to be pointed out that Miller, with his bald head and long beard, looks like a mini-me of Tank Abbott if Tank was actually in shape. Healy just looks like a BADASS. Both men land with left hooks early before Miller clips Healy with a short uppercut as he closes in. They continue to exchange punches with both men landing before Miller drops him for a second with a leg kick. Good left hand follows right down the pipe. Miller is really opening up early on. Clinch from Healy but Miller lands a right hand and shrugs him off. Good leg kick from Miller and he avoids another clinch. Combo lands for Miller and he trips Healy down when the StrikeForce veteran tries to grab the plum clinch. Healy gets full guard and looks to tie up the left arm, looking for a possible submission. Oma plata attempt from Healy but Miller easily postures free and works to take the back. He goes for a crucifix hold instead, looking to extend both arms, and then decides to switch from that to an armbar. Big crowd pop as it looks like Jim’s probably got it, but Healy rolls to defend and manages to escape. Back to the feet now and Healy clocks him with a right hand before landing a good knee to break the clinch. Good combo from Healy from close range and he drops for a takedown and gets it, landing in Miller’s guard. Miller immediately shifts his hips, but he takes a lot of punches as he tries for a leglock. Healy takes the back in the scramble but can’t get the hooks in. He does land some punches as Miller stands though, and then slams him back down before getting one hook in. Nice spin from Miller to wind up on top, and he drops some elbows before defending an armbar. Miller gets on top again and pounds him from the mounted crucifix, and it looks close to a TKO but the buzzer goes to save Bam Bam. Great round; 10-9 Miller.

Round Two and Healy’s right eye looks badly busted up. They exchange some strikes before Healy drops for a takedown but finds himself in the clinch instead. Nice trip from Healy and he takes the back standing as Miller scrambles. Miller wastes no time in getting back to the clinch though and forces Healy into the fence. HARD elbow breaks for Healy. Striking exchange continues back into the clinch. Nasty elbow breaks for Miller but Healy drops and lands a double leg. Miller gets full guard but Healy stands over him to drop some shots en route to half-guard. Hip escape puts Miller back in full guard and he looks for a possible armbar, but Healy does a nice job of avoiding and he opens up with some tight elbows from the top. He moves into half-guard for good measure and it looks like Miller may be cut. Full guard now for Miller but he’s taking a ton of punishment here. Miller works to get to his feet, but Healy slips over and takes the back with one hook. Healy is all over Miller now. Total turnaround from the first. Rear naked choke attempt follow and it looks sunk, but he can’t get it and so he takes full mount instead. Reversal from Miller though and now he gets on top! Big crowd pop for that. Elbow connects for Jim but Healy works out and goes for his own reversal. Miller avoids and stands, but Healy grabs a takedown and puts him on his back. Miller goes for a guillotine variant though, but he can’t get it and they stand into the clinch to end the round. Miller’s face is a MESS. This is a hell of a fight. 10-9 Healy.

Round Three and Healy clinches right away and lands a pair of right hands. Good right hook lands for Miller and they trade with both landing. Takedown attempt from Healy is stuffed but they end up going down anyway off a whizzer. A scramble puts them right back up where they continue to trade. This fight is awesome. Good combo from Healy and he walks through Miller’s punches to go for a takedown. Miller stuffs it but takes a knee en route to a quick clinch. They break and Miller drops Healy with a leg kick, but gets tagged with a HEAVY one-two that sends him stumbling. Takedown attempt from Healy but Miller stuffs it. He’s gasping for breath now though and Healy drags him down to the ground in half-guard. Big elbows land for Healy and Miller’s looking badly cut up. He regains guard, but Healy looks too strong and he immediately postures out of a triangle attempt. He continues to land shots from half-guard and eventually Miller turtles up. Healy works to take his back, continuing to land short punches, and finally he gets both hooks in. Rear naked choke attempt and it looks sunk! Miller grits his teeth and tries to punch him, but in the end he GOES TO SLEEP and the ref calls the fight. Incredible stuff.

That was one hell of a fight. Low-end FOTYC I’d call it in fact as after a bit of a slow start, Healy basically beat Miller at his own game as he took the smaller man down and beat him up from the top en route to securing a really nasty submission. Miller never really felt out of the fight and particularly in the second he made it competitive, but by the third round he looked gassed and Healy really capitalized on that. This would’ve been a tremendous (re)debut for Healy coming over from StrikeForce, but of course it wouldn’t be BIZARRO UFC 159 without some sort of twist, and so poor Healy tested positive for that TERRIBLE NOTED PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUG weed post-fight, causing the result to be overturned to a No Contest. Note the sarcasm there – I don’t get the issue with weed at ALL as it makes you LESS aggressive. Still, regardless of any recreational drugs, PAT HEALY CHOKED OUT JIM MILLER and the fight was fantastic. Which is what matters, right?

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Phil Davis vs Vinny Magalhaes

This one was basically set up when Magalhaes started talking trash on Davis after Phil supposedly turned him down as a replacement for Forrest Griffin at UFC 155, which I personally doubt. General consensus was that as long as Davis wasn’t losing the striking battle to Vinny then it’d be his fight, as while Magalhaes had a massive advantage on the ground in regards to BJJ, there’s no way he was going to take a wrestler as good as Davis down. Neither man is a great striker in my opinion but I was trusting Davis’s striking over Vinny’s, personally.

Fight begins and they circle and exchange some early strikes with neither man really gaining an advantage. Magalhaes seems to be throwing a lot of kicks, but he’s not really setting them up well. Clinch from Vinny and he forces Davis into the cage, but Davis quickly shrugs him off, not wanting the fight on the ground at all. More kicks from Vinny but a pair of rights from Davis send him back. Head kick from Davis – set up by punches! – lands cleanly and wobbles Vinny badly. Davis looks to follow up with punches, landing a combination, but Vinny seems to be recovered and manages to circle out. Combo from Davis but Vinny catches a kick and gets a takedown! He immediately takes the back and lands some punches, but Davis scrambles and shakes off the hooks. Vinny puts them back in, but slips and Davis explodes out to his feet. Close call there. Davis waves him up and we’re back to standing. Davis is doing a good job of slipping Vinny’s punches and landing the one-two repeatedly. Nice jabs connect for Mr Wonderful, too. Magalhaes answers with a decent leg kick. Apparent eye poke from Davis and Vinny retreats in pain, but for some reason referee Dan Miragliotta tells them to continue. Huh. More shots land for Davis as he continues to back Vinny up. Round ends with Vinny continuing to eat one-twos. 10-9 Davis.

Into the 2nd and Davis picks up where he left off, but he takes an overhand right from Vinny who seems somewhat more aggressive. Not long after though Davis goes back to landing one-twos and then he grabs a rear waistlock. Vinny spins and pulls guard, but Davis is having none of that and he immediately gets back up. Nice combination connects for Davis. Davis is landing some good shots here but just doesn’t seem to have the clubbing power required to put Vinny away. Magalhaes for his part lands some kicks but comes up short with the majority of his punches. Vinny’s just got no answer for Davis’s jab even. About 1:45 to go and the crowd begin to get restless as there isn’t that much action here. Vinny decides to pull guard and Davis drops a couple of shots over the top before forcing him back to his feet. More of the same follows as Davis continues to pick Vinny apart on the feet with little answer from the TUF veteran. Finally he shoots in, but Davis easily shrugs it off. I mean, that looked effortless. Round ends with Davis continuing to pick and jab at Vinny. 10-9 Davis.

Third and final round begins where the second left off as Magalhaes has absolutely zero answer for a better striker in Davis. Davis’s jab is looking really sharp in this fight actually. Vinny’s face is looking marked up but outside of the one head kick in the first, he hasn’t been truly hurt yet. He tries to dive and pull guard but Davis has none of it and forces him back up. This is getting quite boring to be honest. More shots connect for Davis and he does look massively improved on the feet, but he isn’t coming close to stopping Vinny who is stuck largely unable to do a thing due to his poorer takedowns. Combinations now land for Davis as he looks really comfortable in there. Fight comes to an end with Davis continuing to land combos. 10-9 Davis and it’s a clear 30-27 in my eyes. Crowd are booing, unfortunately.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Phil Mr Wonderful Davis. Odd fight to really sum up in a lot of respects as Davis looked hugely improved standing and was more comfortable throwing combinations than I’d ever seen him before, particularly in his boxing, but unfortunately it was a dull fight for the majority of the time. The problem was that Davis had Vinny outgunned standing but not enough to really threaten a finish, and once it became clear Vinny was beaten standing he largely had nothing as while he’s a ridiculous BJJ guy, how the hell does he take Davis, a legit world-class wrestler, down? Not the worst fight ever then but it felt like an exhibition for Davis which isn’t good for the second match on a PPV main card.

Heavyweight Fight: Roy Nelson vs Cheick Kongo

Part of me was expecting a bigger fight for Nelson coming off his win over Matt Mitrione, but I guess none of the other top HWs were available and longtime rival Shane Carwin was STILL injured. Kongo hadn’t fought since his UFC 149 win over Shawn Jordan and while this did seem like a winnable fight for him, as he’s technically a better striker, I had a feeling Nelson would land one of his haymakers and turn the Frenchman’s lights out.

Round One begins and Kongo’s trunks make him look like a giant Anderson Silva. Nelson bulls forward right away and looks for a clinch, forcing the Frenchman into the fence. He can’t get Kongo down though and seems content to hold him for the time being. Kongo does a good job of avoiding a trip actually. Referee Kevin Mulhall calls a break despite the fighters clearly working, so we’re back to striking. Kongo circles on the outside as Nelson stalks forward. Low kick from Kongo but Nelson counters with a HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT that drops him and a few punches on the ground seal the deal. Wow.

Post-fight the replay shows the punch pretty much landed with the side of the hand rather than the fist, which shows CRAZY POWER to be able to knock a guy out with something like that. But then we knew Roy had that anyway! It went a little quicker than I expected but this fight went exactly how I thought it would, as Kongo’s always been guilty of leaving his chin open for counters – see the Pat Barry and Mark Hunt fights – and with Nelson’s punching power you can’t do that. This ended up being Kongo’s swansong in the UFC which I didn’t expect, but then he’s ageing and isn’t an elite-level guy any more so it’s understandable. Nice win for Nelson even if we didn’t learn anything new about him.

Middleweight Fight: Michael Bisping vs Alan Belcher

Great fight here and one that had been a long time coming as both men had talked trash about one another in the past. Well, Bisping talks trash on everyone but Belcher had uncharacteristically bitten back, making it a bit of a personal match. Both men were in need of a win too as they’d lost their previous fights pretty convincingly – Bisping to Vitor Belfort and Belcher to Yushin Okami. I was taking Bisping as I just think he’s a better fighter than Belcher, but with rumors of Bisping carrying a serious shoulder injury a Belcher win wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Round One and they circle and throw out some feints, both men looking a bit tentative early on. One minute in and a body kick connects for Belcher. Follow-up connects low and Herb Dean calls time, but Bisping’s okay to continue anyway. There’s probably a joke there to be made. Good job from Bisping of avoiding Belcher’s punches, and he lands a combination of his own too. Body kick does land for Belcher. Bisping returns fire with one of his own and continues to manoeuvre around the cage nicely, landing some punches and leg kicks from the outside. Glancing combinations from both men and then Bisping connects on a right hand. Another one follows and lands flush. Belcher connects on a right hand of his own that backs the Brit up momentarily. Nice stiff jab from Bisping. One minute to go and Bisping seems to have found his range and he’s landing some decent combinations. Eye poke from Belcher and Herb calls time. Crowd are horrified by this but Bisping quickly recovers and they restart. Body kick from Belcher is countered by a Bisping right hand and Belcher goes down for a second but pops back up. Round ends with a nice combo from Bisping. Close-ish round but I’d call it 10-9 Bisping.

Between rounds we get a CLASSIC weird moment as the feed shows a replay of the eye poke, but somehow we hear a DEMONIC VOICE!~! over the speakers seemingly yelling JARROD’S RIBS! EXCELLENT! Still got no idea how the hell this happened but it’s funny as hell.

Round Two and Belcher pushes forward, but Bisping dodges and catches him with a pair of jabs and a right hook. Bisping’s movement seems to be too smooth for Belcher to get a handle on. Head kick from Bisping glances but a follow-up right lands hard. Beautiful combo from Bisping and he continues to circle out and catch Belcher with cleaner shots. More of the same follows but in a similar way to the earlier Davis/Magalhaes fight it doesn’t seem like Bisping’s got the power to truly rock Belcher although he’s clearly outlanding him. Crowd sound really annoyed with about a minute to go. Bisping is really landing some good punches here though. Belcher just seems to have nothing for him and continues to eat combinations. Takedown attempt from Belcher is easily shrugged off. His corner are shouting at him to be dynamic but he can’t really do that while he’s being largely outclassed. Couple of decent punches do land for Belcher but Bisping picks him off again with a combo before the buzzer. 10-9 Bisping and he’s pulling away now.

Round Three and Belcher comes out wildly swinging but Bisping dodges and clocks him with a one-two. Belcher keeps pushing, but Bisping slips a combination and then outright laughs at him and taunts him like a good heel would. Couple of right hands connect cleanly for the Brit. More punches land for Bisping, mainly stiff jabs and quick combinations. He’s still not getting Belcher really rocked, but he’s definitely winning the fight as he’s hitting Belcher and not really getting hit himself. More of the same follows with Bisping picking Belcher apart, landing a really heavy right hand with two minutes to go. Belcher looks gassed too which makes matters even worse for him. Combination lands flush for Bisping as he begins to really pick the pace up. Telegraphed takedown attempt from Belcher is stuffed with ease by the Brit and he lands another combo on the break. One minute to go and it’s looking like a comfortable decision win for Bisping, but of course it wouldn’t be UFC 159 without some sort of ABSOLUTE FARCE and sure enough, Belcher takes a NASTY EYE POKE and goes down hard. Really blatant poke there although I don’t think it was intentional. We then get a DISGUSTING VISUAL as Belcher’s EYEBALL APPEARS TO BE BLEEDING (!) and the doctor throws the fight out there, causing ANOTHER TECHNICAL DECISION. Two on one show is ridiculous, come on!

Judges call it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Bisping to take the technical decision. Well, at least the right guy got the win I guess. Post-fight Joe Rogan goes on a rant about changing the gloves but personally I don’t think that’s the answer – I’d take a point for literally every single eye poke if I were in charge, however unintentional they are, as they just need to stop guys posting out with an open hand as that’s what seems to cause the majority of them. As for this fight, it was okay – certainly nothing special and nowhere near the most exciting fight Bisping’s ever had, but it was an impressive showing from him as he used his movement, speed, and striking technique to pick apart and outclass a very tough opponent for the majority of the fight. Sure, he didn’t have Belcher in serious trouble at any point but then he’s never had one-shot finishing power so I don’t hold it against him. Not a bad fight then but after a similar earlier fight in Davis/Magalhaes it’s easy to see why the fans were a little frustrated by it.

UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Jon Jones vs Chael Sonnen

Well, as I mentioned in the introduction, this one had been set up by the UFC 151 debacle, as Sonnen had of course offered to fight Jones on a week’s notice and Jones had turned the fight down. After Jones beat Vitor Belfort instead I guess Dana decided to capitalize on the publicity (and the fact that Sonnen is the best promo they have on the roster) and so the two men were made coaches for TUF 17 in order to build for the fight here. General consensus was that Sonnen wouldn’t be able to outwrestle Jones and was painfully outgunned standing and so this would be a one-sided beatdown, and I was not disagreeing with that consensus. Still, a better fight than Jones/Machida II and that’s what matters, damnit.

Fight begins and the crowd are WAY into this thankfully, as you’d figure they’d be quite pissed off about the previous fight. Sonnen comes out swinging, but Jones quickly drops for a takedown and easily plants Chael on his back. Chael quickly looks to reverse and escapes to his feet, where he goes all Randy Couture and hits the champion with some uppercuts from the clinch. Jones breaks off and goes for the takedown again, forcing Sonnen into the fence. Knees land inside for Chael and then he continues to land with some short uppercuts and punches, but Jones takes him down again. Big elbow connects for Jones from the guard. Sonnen looks to use butterfly hooks to disrupt Jones and they work, as he escapes to his feet. Jones stays right on him though and looks to bring him back down. Guillotine attempt from Chael but Jones works his head free and looks for the single leg. Big uppercut from Jones from close range and then he nails him with a spinning elbow. Sonnen can’t seem to get Jones off him which is a surprising gameplan for the champ considering his reach advantage. BIG SLAM from Jones puts Sonnen down again. This time he goes to a closed guard where Jones begins to open up with elbow strikes. Chael ends up pressed right against the cage, and he’s in trouble here as he can’t shake Jones off him. Big shots begin to land for the champ as he pins Chael’s left arm across his face. Big elbow connects and he follows with a knee to the body. Chael begins to cover up and rolls onto his side and takes some more punishment, and with seconds to go referee Keith Peterson decides he’s seen enough and calls it.

Post-fight Chael protests the stoppage and to be fair it did feel a bit anticlimactic, but I don’t think Sonnen was getting out of that so no complaints from me. Shit, his left eye is practically swollen shut anyway. Then the REAL story of the fight becomes apparent as Jones is revealed to have a DISGUSTING TOE INJURY. Seriously now, the big toe on his left foot is practically HANGING OFF. Holy shit. Crazy thing is that Jones doesn’t even notice it until Joe Rogan points it out and then of course he feels terrible and has to sit down. Jesus. Replay seems to show it happened as he pushed off the ground to gain a better position to deliver ground-and-pound. The wildest part? If Peterson hadn’t stopped the fight when he did, the round likely would’ve been over and the doctor would’ve stopped the fight, meaning SONNEN WOULD’VE WON! Thank God they avoided that or it would’ve been farcical. Only on this card, dude, only on this card! Fight was fun enough while it lasted but it was just as one-sided as everyone suspected it would be. Jones is a fucking ANIMAL and nobody is dethroning him for a while in my opinion – certainly not a blown-up 185lber.

-Highlight reel rolls there and we’re done. What an odd night.

Final Thoughts….

Well, while I don’t think this was the worst UFC PPV of 2013 it was definitely the strangest. One stoppage due to injury is rare on a card these days but to have THREE of them is unprecedented, and a fourth major injury as well as an overturned result due to a drug test is downright bizarre. Three bad stoppages out of eleven fights wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the stuff was great, but unfortunately it wasn’t – Healy/Miller was fantastic, the opener was very good and Roy Nelson got a great KO for his highlight reel, but outside of that everything was either really one-sided, a bit dull, or a mix of both. So unfortunately unless you love random injuries or you’re a big Jon Jones fan it’s a thumbs down, sorry.

Best Fight: Miller vs. Healy
Worst Fight: St-Preux vs. Villante

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com