After a long build-up that really failed to generate any buzz for the fight, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen finally met inside the cage at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday night. The fight was dominant in Jones’ favor, but that was one of only a handful of predictable moments from an otherwise crazy event. With a grotesquely broken toe, a broken thumb, and two fights that went to the scorecards due to eye pokes in the third round, UFC 159 wasn’t necessarily a card to remember for the in-cage action. In the main event, Jon Jones took the one aspect of the fight that was supposed to be the most competitive — the wrestling — and used his superior greco skills to blow Chael Sonnen out of the water. Landing three takedowns in the first round, Jones then proceeded to batter the challenger with elbows until referee Keith Peterson deemed Sonnen had taken enough punishment. At 5Dimes sportsbook, Jones closed as a -875 favorite (bet $875 to win $100) with Sonnen a +685 underdog (bet $100 to win $685), and they looked every part of that line during the fight. The only real drama ensued after the fight, when Jones discovered that he had broken the big toe on his left foot so badly it looked as if it was trying to run away from the rest of his body. Had Sonnen escaped the first round and doctors discovered the broken toe, Jones would have been unable to continue and we would have a new Light Heavyweight champion, whose reign would be about on par with Vitor Belfort’s after his victory over Randy Couture back at UFC 46. Moving forward, Jones has mentioned wanting to fight Alexander Gustafsson, while Sonnen is likely to continue his transition to a role outside of the cage.
The co-main event had its own fair share of weirdness, as after outpointing Alan Belcher for 14:30 of the fight, Michael Bisping landed an eye poke that had Belcher writhing in pain on the canvas and brought back memories of a very serious detached retina that kept him out of action for 16 months between 2010 and 2011. The fight went to the scorecards as a technical decision for the second time of the evening (the bout between Ovince St. Preux and Gian Villante also suffered a similar fate), and Bisping earned a well-deserved victory. Bisping closed as a -175 favorite, while Belcher was a +165 underdog. After a listless performance, it’s hard to see the public continuing to back Belcher like they have recently, as he was overvalued against both Yushin Okami and Bisping in his last two bouts. The win puts Bisping back into the Middleweight title picture, and perhaps a bout with Okami could be in order. Perhaps the only bout on the card that went exactly as planned was the Heavyweight contest between Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo. Most expected that Nelson would land his right hand on Kongo’s chin, causing the Frenchman to crumble, and that’s exactly what went down. It was interesting to note that Nelson did initiate the clinch early and looked to take Kongo to the ground before a very quick break by the referee made him decide to go to plan B. Nelson closed as a -235 favorite, while Kongo was a +215 underdog. Although he is already booked for another fight, it would be amazing to see Mark Hunt and his current four-fight winning streak take on Nelson and his three consecutive first round KO’s. Many had pegged Phil Davis to win a decision over Vinny Magalhaes, but few expected him to do it by showing a far superior striking game than we have seen out of the Penn State alum before. After rocking Magalhaes with a head kick in the first round, Davis picked the Brazilian apart with straight punches for the duration of the bout. Magalhaes had only one opportunity to initiate his grappling game, but got overzealous in attempting to take Davis’s back and was forced to stand up once again. “Mr. Wonderful” closed as a -280 favorite, with Magalhaes sitting at +255. Davis, whose striking appeared to stagnate for an extended period of time, may now be ready to attack the top of the division again. Perhaps another wrestler with developing striking like Ryan Bader would prove a suitable test. Finally, the best fight of the evening belonged to Pat Healy and Jim Miller, as Healy ended up pulling off a fantastic upset victory that earned him both Submission and Fight of the Night honors. Miller, who closed as a -250 favorite had Healy in trouble early, and looked to be closing in on a finish at the end of the first round. However the +230 underdog Healy came back strong in the second and third rounds, and wore Miller out as he has done to so many fighters before. Healy sports one of the most deceiving records in MMA, as he started his career 11-11 and has since gone 19-5 and truly proven himself as one of the better Lightweights in the world. For those keeping score at home, Miller had only lost to Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz prior to this fight. That’s rather lofty company for Healy, who was considered outgunned by most heading into this fight. Many other top Lightweights are fighting at UFC 160, so perhaps Healy can take on Donald Cerrone or Khabib Nurmagomedov if they win their bouts. The undercard wasn’t devoid of weird happenings either. In the FX main event, Yancy Medeiros broke his thumb defending a takedown from Rustam Khabilov and the fight had to be stopped. As mentioned early, the bout between St. Preux and Villante was also scored a technical decision, this one in favor of St. Preux. Sara McMann also picked up a dominant win over Sheila Gaff — who thought it would be a good idea to run full speed at an Olympic wrestler to open the fight — and staked her place in line to fight Ronda Rousey. Bryan Caraway opened the FX portion of the card by submitting Johnny Bedford as a late replacement for Erik Perez, and I think we can all feel safe in blaming Perez for the domino effect that turned this event into one of the stranger ones in recent memory. After four consecutive weeks of fights, the UFC is going to take a well-deserved breather, before returning for UFC on FX 8 on May 18th, which features a Middleweight contenders main event between Vitor Belfort and Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold.
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