UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen staff picks and predictions

Steve Snowden

The Bloody Elbow staff makes their picks and predictions for tomorrow night's UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen event in Newark, New Jersey.

Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen

Tim Burke: Chael has no chance short of a Jones injury, and I still firmly believe that this is a joke of a fight. Jon Jones by submission, round 2.

Anton Tabuena: As much as I would love to see Chael constantly take Jones down and beat him up for 5 rounds, I just don't see it happening. Sonnen is a great wrestler, but he's not facing a guy with Anderson Silva's takedown defense. Not only is he going against a bigger and stronger guy, he's taking on a guy who also has very good MMA wrestling. I hate to say it, but it's going to be Jon Jones by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I would give Chael Sonnen a significantly greater chance at victory if Jones wasn't a better MMA wrestler, striker, and grappler, as well as bigger and more athletic. Does anyone remember Chael Sonnen's career at 205? I thought so. Jones is going to win and I don't think a joke matchup like this should be entertained with extensive analysis. The only question is whether Jones will win by TKO or submission, so I'll go with the obvious answer.... Jon Jones by submission (flying triangle choke), round 3.

Zane Simon: So this fight is seriously happening. It's not just some long slow PR joke, where Dana pops in at the last minute and say's "Actually that's why we pulled Gustafsson from that fight last month. So he could fight for the title." (with a lot more swearing obviously). Sonnen is getting trucked here, and it won't even be pretend, ‘he was in a little danger there,' close. Jon Jones by TKO

Fraser Coffeen: Sonnen's shtick during the Silva fights always annoyed me because it seemed so forced. But this season of TUF really made me appreciate him, as it dialed it down and just seemed more authentic, showing a passionate guy with a unique outlook on the sport. So maybe I'm not fully a Chael "fan" at this point, but I'm no longer a hater. Oh, the fight? Yeah, Chael is going to be destroyed. Jon Jones by KO round 2

Connor Ruebusch: Like Fraser, I came to like Chael the trainer during this season of the Ultimate Fighter. But I've never been more annoyed by Chael the fighter, and I just don't see what he has to offer Jones. On the feet, Chael is awkward, his striking workmanlike at best. His takedowns and top control are obviously top notch, but he'll have little luck forcing that game on the lanky wrestling nightmare that is Jon Jones. The only question is, how will Chael be finished? Based on the track records of both men, I'm gonna go with Jon Jones by submission, round 2.

T.P. Grant: Jones got this. Sonnen's only shot is the take Jones down and hold him there a minimum of three rounds and not get finished over the course of the 25 minutes. That game plan hasn't really work for him in the past, elite fighters are able to adjust and plan for that one-dimensional attack. I think at some point, while Sonnen is trying to grapple Jones, the American Gangster ends up in a front headlock choke and taps out. Jon Jones by Submission, Round 2.

Dallas Winston: Hi. Jon Jones by TKO Round 1-2.

Staff picking Jones: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Connor, Tim, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Sonnen:

Get all the UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen live results, live blog and play-by-play at Bloody Elbow

Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher

Anton Tabuena: Tough pick here. This will probably be contested mostly on the feet, where Belcher should have better kicks and Bisping should have better hands. I think Bisping can outpoint him for 15 minutes, but Belcher can also end his night at any point. It's a toss up, but I'm going with Michael Bisping by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Belcher routinely loses to top 10 opposition. Admittedly, Bisping is top 10 because he beat Brian Stann and fought competitively with Chael Sonnen, but I think Bisping is just the better fighter. I see Bisping starting slowly as Belcher works his striking game, but in rounds 2 and 3 I've got Bisping taking down Belcher when necessary and using his superior offensive boxing to win on points. Michael Bisping by 29-28 unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Initially I'm really intrigued by this fight, these are two decent standup fighters with a lot to prove. Then I think of Belcher's last performance against Okami, and Bisping's ability to mix in wrestling to throw off opponents timing. While Belcher was impressive against Palhares I just don't see Bisping diving for an ankle in this fight. Michael Bisping by Split Decision

Fraser Coffeen: I really don't see this as a close fight. People tend to underrate Bisping and overrate Belcher, which makes this seem like a razor close battle. It's not - Bisping is the better striker, with the needed takedown defense to make this a kickboxing battle. Michael Bisping by decision

Connor Ruebusch: I don't actually dislike Belcher in this matchup. Bisping has enough defensive holes that Belcher could very likely win the standup exchanges, and this fight is almost certain to play out on the feet. What I do dislike is the deluge of spam emails that, despite the fact that I have now removed myself from the mailing list twice, Alan Belcher seems determined to send my way. So, for that reason more than anything else, I'm giving this one to the Count. Michael Bisping by unanimous decision.

T.P. Grant: Bisping is going to do what he does: move well, jab well, mix together some volume strikes, stop takedowns, and get a few of his own. I enjoy watching Belcher fight, he can be very exciting and isn't afraid to engage fighters in their strong areas but I feel like Bisping gets the win. Michael Bisping by Decision.

Dallas Winston: Huh ... I've been leaning Belcher on this one all week, based mostly on his unruly aggression and toughness. I think Bisping has the more technical boxing and footwork but I'm not diggin' how that compares to Belcher's brutal and battle-tested Muay Thai, nor how Bisping's high-volume/low-impact will fare against Belcher's Sherman Tank for a chin. Additionally, I think Belcher's more diverse and creative style will leave a better impression on the judges. Alan Belcher by decision.

Staff picking Bisping: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Connor, Tim, Grant
Staff picking Belcher: Dallas

Get all the UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen live results, live blog and play-by-play at Bloody Elbow

Cheick Kongo vs. Roy Nelson

Anton Tabuena: Kongo just doesn't have many ways to win this one. Sure, he should be more technical with his striking, but Nelson hits harder, and he has a much better ground game. Roy Nelson by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: This is the physique matchup of the year, isn't it? I'm going to sound like a broken record, but if this fight isn't finished within 7 1/2 minutes then you might as well take a smoke break or do some jumping jacks ... or do jumping jacks while smoking. Kongo doesn't have the power to trouble Roy, but Roy very much can shut off Kongo's lights. Just hope for no groin kicks, no wrestling against the cage, and maybe this fight will turn out okay. Roy Nelson by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I can't bring myself to hate Roy Nelson, and I don't know why. Either way, if I'm looking at their last fight, Nelson KO'd Matt Mitrione, and Kongo ground out a win against Shawn Jordan. It's a small sample size, but it's pretty indicative of where their careers are right now. Kongo is barely better than the bottom half of the division, and Nelson is a top-ten gatekeeper. Add Kongo's slow speed and ability to get KO'd and I'd say Roy Nelson by KO.

Connor Ruebusch: Cheick Kongo looks like the most dangerous fighter in the world, but his skills don't match his action figure appearance. Roy Nelson, on the other hand, looks like the worst fighter in the world, but has the ability to flatten an elephant with his right hand. Plus, Roy Nelson throws combinations now, and even after years of kickboxing, Cheick still hasn't really figured those out. Roy Nelson by KO, round 2.

T.P. Grant: These are kind of similar fighters in that they are both gatekeepers to the elite levels of the Heavyweight division. Both are long in the tooth and likely not much longer for the UFC. They even are both 18-7, though Kongo has two draws. While many think of Kongo as just a striker, he is actually a good wrestler and is very difficult to take down and keep down. And while Nelson might have started as a grappler, he is now a knockout artist of sorts. Nelson is a Renzo Graice black belt, but he has been getting larger and larger, and I don't know how much of a threat he is from off his back these days, if Kongo is able to get him down this fight could go badly for him. More likely is Nelson landing a big right hand against the upright chin of Kongo. Roy Nelson by TKO, Round 2.

Dallas Winston: Well, shit ... I realize it's out of line with the general consensus, but I'm taking Kongo here for these reasons. Cheick Kongo by decision.

Staff picking Kongo: Dallas
Staff picking Nelson: Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Connor, Tim, Grant

Get all the UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen live results, live blog and play-by-play at Bloody Elbow

Vinny Magalhaes vs. Phil Davis

Anton Tabuena: Vinny has been asking for this fight, but I think Phil should make him pay for that. I think Phil is a slightly better striker, and while he is also very good on the ground, he has the wrestling skills to make sure it doesn't end up there. Phil Davis by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Vinny's grappling is beautiful to watch, but Phil Davis is worlds better than the competition Vinny has beaten. He can fend off Vinny's attempts to get it to the ground and he has effective enough striking to outpoint him on the feet. Let's not forget that Davis isn't some slouch on the ground, either. Truth be told, this could be an ugly fight. Phil Davis by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I have a sneaking suspicion something has happened with Phil Davis's career, it's gotten sidetracked. It started with the loss to Rashad Evans, and was followed by the no-contest, and eventual victory over Wagner Prado. All of which make me feel that Davis has been funnelled back into his wrestling, and if he's going to spend 15 minutes on top of Vinny Magalhaes, there's a good chance he gets subbed. In the upset, Vinny Magalhaes by submission.

Connor Ruebusch: Phil Davis punches like he's fighting underwater, but he has some crisp kicks. Vinny Magalhaes doesn't have much of anything on the feet but a desperate, self-preservation-driven desire to clinch his opponent at all costs. Still, if this fight goes the way of most Phil Davis fights, I can see Vinny taking it. Ten seconds in Magalhaes guard is dangerous. Unless we see a very different Phil Davis on Saturday, he's liable to spend well over ten seconds there. Vinny Magalhaes by submission, round 2.

Dallas Winston: It's hard to pick against one of the best sub-fighters in MMA, but I think Davis will protect that one glaring disadvantage with the slightly better striking and substantially better wrestling and clinching. Phil Davis by decision.

Staff picking Magalhaes: Stephie, Zane, Connor
Staff picking Davis: Anton, Mookie, Fraser, Tim, Grant, Dallas

Get all the UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen live results, live blog and play-by-play at Bloody Elbow

Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy

Anton Tabuena: Both tough grinders, and this should be a very fun fight to watch. I think Miller will be the more technical of the two though, so it's Jim Miller by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Jim Miller has probably reached a point in his career where it's clear that he is a step below the cream of the crop at 155 lbs (Bendo, Maynard, Diaz), but when he fights fringe top 10 or top 15 opponents like Healy he looks fantastic. This fight will be no different. Jim Miller by submission, round 3.

Zane Simon: Miller vs. Lauzon was an eye opener for me as to how well Miller can perform against a decent fighter at the upper levels of the division. Pat Healy's fight with Holobaugh had sort of the opposite effect. I expect Miller to find Healy's chin and put him away sometime in the second. Jim Miller by TKO, round 2

Connor Ruebusch: Obviously we have two excellent grapplers here, but I actually think this one will be decided on the feet. Neither man is likely to submit the other, but Miller's Muay Thai is more than serviceable enough to put the striking un-savvy Healy's lights out. Jim Miller by TKO, round 3.

Dallas Winston: Though I think Healy can etch himself somewhere in the middle of the lightweight pack, Jim Miller is a sturdy test who matches him well everywhere. Healy is a big and strong 155er and I'm not entirely ignoring the thought that Healy might have the slight edge in wrestling, which would strongly tilt things in his favor by being on top despite Miller's stellar guard game. The only reason I'm not going with that inclination is Healy's stand up, which basically consists of endless probing jabs and doesn't grease the rails well for his entries. [Miller x Healy Dissection] Jim Miller by decision.

Staff picking Miller: Anton, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Healy:

Johnny Bedford vs. Bryan Caraway

Mookie Alexander: It's the "in thing" to not like Bryan Caraway, but his strength is Johnny's crippling weakness. Bedford has 9 pro losses and 8 have come by submission, including twice to Dustin Neace. Caraway is a horrific matchup for him and is easily the better grappler. I'm going with the veteran to get a stoppage before Miesha Tate provides more horrendous corner advice. Bryan Caraway by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Right up until the moment Erik Perez pulled out, this was a good competitive fight between two hot prospects in the division. Now I expect it to be a bit of a railroading. Johnny Bedford by TKO, Round 3

Connor Ruebusch: This fight is Caraway's if he's smart enough not to slug it out with Bedford. He has good takedowns and a very slick submission game. Bedford has the power, and he knows how to work opponents into his strikes at the edge of the cage. But Caraway isn't the type to get backed up, and Bedford isn't the type to defend submissions. Bryan Caraway by submission, round 3.

Dallas Winston: Caraway's wrestling was pretty hyped throughout his TUF stint -- though I didn't quite see it at first, I thought his last outing against Mizugaki was really impressive. Bedford's height/range will work against him if Caraway can drop levels and slice into his hips, which I see Caraway attempting relentlessly. Bryan Caraway by decision.

Staff picking Bedford: Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Zane
Staff picking Caraway: Anton, Mookie, Connor, Grant, Dallas

Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff

Anton Tabuena: I really hope we see that Olympic Wrester vs. Olympic Judoka match up after this. Sara McMann by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Unless McMann just completely gets caught off guard by Gaff's early and aggressive attack, she should be able to take this one. Sara McMann by decision.

Fraser Coffeen: McMann is undefeated for a reason. She's the brightest upcoming prospect in the UFC's Women's division, and someone who poses a real challenge to everyone in the division. Yes, EVERYONE. This is her break out moment - I just wish it was on the PPV card. Sara McMann by sub round 1

Connor Ruebusch: From what little I've seen of her, Gaff has tenacity, and not much else to offer. McMann has the better standup, and undeniably the better grappling. This is her fight to lose. Sara McMann by submission, round 2.

T.P. Grant: This is clearly a win for McMann, but she might now wow the crowd with her style. She is still fairly raw, and while she has a great deal of potential, still is a work in progress.

Dallas Winston: McMann-imal! Sara McMann by submission.

Staff picking McMann: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Tim, Connor, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Gaff:

Get all the UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen live results, live blog and play-by-play at Bloody Elbow

Ovince St. Preux vs. Gian Villante

Mookie Alexander: OSP by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I was never very excited by either of these fighters under Strikeforce, but while OSP has largely performed well (if boringly) Gian VIllante recently lost to UFC washout Chad Griggs. OSP by unanimous decision.

Connor Ruebusch: Was OSP's difficulty in wrestling down Gegard Mousasi due to some weakness in his game, or has the Humped One just improved his takedown defense? I'm going to go with the latter, and say that this one is likely to go the way of most OSP fights. OSP by unanimous decision.

Dallas Winston: I think OSP needs to make a big statement here to revive the buzz was kickin'. Villante is well coached with heavy hands and solid boxing, so OSP will have to be in top form and impose the strength, agility and athleticism that got people talking in the first place. OSP by hard-fought decision.

Staff picking OSP: Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Mookie, Tim, Connor, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Villante:

Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros

Anton Tabuena: SUPLEX! Rustam Khabilov by TKO.

Zane Simon: Hobby Lobby is easily the fan favorite here, against the relatively unknown Yancy Medeiros, and maybe that's why I'm picking Medeiros. What I do know about him is that he's cutting all the way down from middleweight, in his last fight, so he should be a big, strong lightweight. That may make him difficult to throw around. From there he's got a pretty powerful striking game. Don't be surprised if this ends violently and early, no matter who wins. Medeiros by KO, Round 1

Connor Ruebusch: Tough one here. Medeiros has quite a few knockouts, and he is cutting from middleweight. But he's only got one inch of height on the Russian, and he's not the greatest on the ground. Rustam might get off one suplex, but I'm not sure Medeiros is slick enough to get back up after that, so this one will be decided on the ground. And if Yancy does get back up, that cut from middleweight might cause him to flag. Rustam Khabilov by submission, round 2.

Dallas Winston: Fear the soup play. Hobby Lobby by submission.

Staff picking Khabilov: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Connor, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Medeiros: Zane

Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie

Anton Tabuena: Uhm... Cody McKenzie by Guillotine Choke.

Mookie Alexander: MOAR SUPERFIGHTS! Leonard Garcia by accursed power, round 1.

Fraser Coffeen: Screw the haters, this fight rules. Just Got Real McKenzie vs. Windmills of Fury Garcia? It's like a fight you'd see on a random card in Japan and think about how ridiculous it is - then you realize you totally can't wait to see it. Cody McKenzie by submission, round 1

Connor Ruebusch: I wish I could jokingly pick Garcia by split decision, but... I just can't do it. As long as Cecil Peoples isn't judging this fight, I'm going with Cody McKenzie by submission, round 2.

T.P. Grant: Pretty much boils down to McKenzie has no striking, and beyond his front headlock chokes, he isn't much of a grappler. Garcia isn't great, but he isn't a scrub either. The Garcia we saw get Garcia'd against Holloway wrecks McKenzie, and the normal windmilling Garcia likely beats McKenzie as well. Leonard Garcia by Decision.

Dallas Winston: Fraser Coffeen wins this round. I honestly have no idea who's going to win this or how, but I'm absolutely looking forward to it. When in doubt: Leonard Garcia by split decision.

Staff picking Garcia: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking McKenzie: Anton, Fraser, Connor

Nick Catone vs. James Head

Mookie Alexander: This fight will come down to who can set the (Ca)tone of the fight early. The fighter who accomplishes this will most likely come out a"head". You know what? Let me go get my ban hammer.... James Head by submission, round 2.

Zane Simon: Head's not a world beater, but then again, Nick Catone isn't exactly Ken Shamrock. Since dropping to welterweight Catone has fought just once, a submission loss to TJ Waldburger. Head lost much of his steam with a TKO via Mike Pyle, but there's little shame in that these days. Of the former middleweights I feel like he's got more upside, not a lot more, but enough. James Head by split decision.

Connor Ruebusch: MMAth is pretty stupid but I'm going to venture to say that a guy who beat Brian Ebersole can eke out the decision over a guy who lost to a guy who lost to Brian Ebersole. Why not. James Head by unanimous decision.

Dallas Winston: I'm kinda into this one too. I think Head's got real potential, especially after dropping down from middleweight (as Catone has), and feel he can match Catone's specialty of wrestling better than Catone can match his technical boxing and Jiu-Jitsu. James Head by submission.

Staff picking Catone: Tim
Staff picking Head: Anton, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Connor, Grant, Dallas

Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh

Zane Simon: I was really impressed by the way Kurt Holobaugh fought Pat Healy back in Strikeforce, and that was at lightweight. Siler lost to Darren Elkins last time out, which gives the two fighters pretty similar opponents in their last fight. I guess I'm just going with the more dynamic loser in this one, Kurt Holobaugh by unanimous decision.

Connor Ruebusch: I'm with Zane here. Holobaugh gave a very tough fight to a top opponent in Pat Healy, and I think his name's going to carry a lot more weight someday soon. Kurt Holobaugh by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Siler: Anton, Stephie, Fraser, Tim, Grant, Dallas
Staff picking Holobaugh: Zane, Mookie, Connor

SBN coverage of UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen

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