UFC 159 Jones vs. Sonnen: FX Preliminary Card Preview and Prognostications

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Both men and women are set to violently battle at the Prudential Center for the FX undercard for UFC 159.

Once the Facebook fights reach their bloody conclusion, the Prudential Center in New Jersey will proceed with UFC 159's FX card which features a solid list of prospects and perhaps one title contender.

Rustam Khabilov (15-1) vs. Yancy Medeiros (9-0) Lightweight

The wait is finally over for lovers of the intersection between violenlce and grace. Not since Dan Severn manipulated Anthony Macias like an accordion have MMA fans been clamoring for the violent suplex, and thankfully, Khabilov is back to provide them that.

His opponent is a tough 25 year old out of Hawaii who owns a spotless record compliments of his striking. It's very clear what both men will attempt to do. Khabilov, having knocked an opponent out with a suplex twice now, will likely look for it again, and Medeiros will look to keep the fight standing.

While Khabilov has enjoyed a bit of hype for himself, he's still raw on the feet. And Medeiros, who sometimes likes to lead with a piercing left hook, could capitalize on any laziness on Rustam's part. Medeiros also does a good job of creating distance on the ground, so if he ends up in top control during a chaotic scramble, Khabilov would be wise to scout Yancy. Having said that, Medeiros ends up in the clinch a lot, which pretty much seals his fate in this one. We'll see at least one violent suplex. No resulting KO's though.

Prediction: Rustam Khabilov by submission, round 2.

Gian Villante (10-3) vs. Ovince St. Preux (12-5) Light Heavyweight

With both guys coming off victories, it'll be interesting to see if Villante, who possess a vague resemblance to Ben Fowlkes (or is this my Phil Davis lookalike moment?), can derail St. Preux's pseudo-momentum.

Villante is a capable fighter who relies a lot on his strength. He was able to do to Lorenz Larkin in one round what Francis Carmont couldn't do in 3 (Carmont eventually scored a takedown you say? Yea I didn't watch that far). He's a big guy with solid takedowns who did himself a favor by staying at LHW. He has raw power in his punches, but his technique could use some polish. For example, his straight right arches down in a very awkward way, but technique doesn't guarantee efficiency in MMA I suppose.

St. Preux is also fresh off a victory, but it's his bout with Gegard Mousasi that fans still likely remember most. He fought valiantly, sometimes putting Mousasi in precarious positions, but for the most part was outmatched. OSP is obviously gifted, but his talent sometimes feels blue collar. He can string together combinations and possesses a wicked array of kicks, but his power isn't thudding. He also moves pretty fluidly on the ground (he had Mousasi mounted for a very brief moment), but doesn't seem to understand how it all works.

As a matchup, I think this is the best kind of showcase fight: If St. Preux wants to look good in victory, he has to earn it. I feel as though he will. He should be able to keep his distance from the lumbering Villante, who doesn't close the distance all that well. I'm not confident with this one, but when in doubt...default to the dynamic.

Prediction: Ovince St. Preux by Decision.

Sara McMann (6-0) vs. Sheila Gaff (10-4-1) Bantamweight

Alas, the real main event of the FX card. What sucks about this fight being buried on the prelims is that either of these two women will look good in victory (sexist reference not intended). Obviously, the pressure is on the first American woman to win Olympic Silver Sara McMann. And of course, a win catapults her into a very sellable title fight with Ronda Rousey involving two Olympians, a feat not even the men have managed.

McMann has relied on dancing with what brought her. She's an imposing fighter who relies on stifling top control and wrestling, and is now slowly turning into a wrestle-boxer. Though she had a tough scrap with Shayna Baszler, her boxing has improved a lot, and she's grown very comfortable on the feet.

Perhaps too comfortable. That's the rub in this bout. Gaff is a four-alarm brawler; her last three bouts have lasted a combined total of less than two minutes. She has a mean streak, as well. In her last bout with Jennifer Maia, as Maia extended her hand to touch gloves, Gaff countered with a right hand. I think I'm the only person actually comfortable with the touching of gloves in the MMA community (a community that seems to loathe this completely mundane gesture of sportsmanship), so quite needless to say, there's even a white hat vs. black hat aspect to it all.

So this fight could either "expose" McMann, or sell Gaff. Gaff has legitimate power despite most of her career being fought at 125. She's extremely quick and throws in bunches. For a fighter still learning how to box, Sara could be in trouble early if she wants to continue testing her standup. However, McMann is a big 135. And she's tough. She'll look uncomfortable on the feet early because Gaff is so good there, but it'll be a top control fracas for this one.

Prediction: Sara McMann by Decision.

Bryan Caraway (17-6) vs. Johnny Bedford (19-9-1) Bantamweight

Caraway doesn't have a whole lot of fans, and largely for good reason. That's not to take away from his deceptive ability. He's not imposing, and maybe that's the mistake opponents consistently make. Caraway is the quintessential veteran, very crafty and not someone you should underestimate. Think Matt Brown, the PG version.

He came close to beating the very good Takeya Mizugaki, and one might argue, as if it's even possible to avoid a dig at Miesha Tate's questionable coaching, that he was felled by bad advice.

Bedford is a good opponent; he's scrappy on the feet, and the perfect underdog if you're simply not a fan of Caraway. But despite his ability on the feet to inflict damage, Caraway's timing and talent on the ground will earn him the submission win.

Prediction: Bryan Caraway by submission, round 2.


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