It was the battle of the Ultimate Fighter coaches as the Ultimate Fighting Championship presented UFC 159, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The show began with the prelims and the bantamweight encounter between Bryan Caraway and Johny Bedford.
This was a pretty good fight. Caraway, who took the fight on six day’s notice, found a chink in his man’s defensive armour early on, and with Bedford looking a little vulnerable against Caraway’s left it became his go to punch. Bedford also got in some good shots, although it wasn’t long before he began to display the scars of battle.
As far as the ground game goes Caraway ruled that particular domain. He easily controlled the action in the first round when he took Bedford’s back and score with a late takedown.
It was the same story in the other rounds as well, and although Bedford had a brief moment of success with an armbar attempt Caraway survived that scare, and as the fight neared it’s conclusion Caraway managed to lock in a guillotine choke, with Bedford tapping out to give Caraway the submission win.
Action from the women’s bantamweight division followed as Sara McMann faced Sheila Gaff.
When Gaff began her stint by running across the cage you knew that it could end in one of two ways. Unfortunately for Gaff she quickly found herself on the receiving end of a McMann takedown. McMann did a good job of controlling the action on the ground, and although this tactic wasn’t to everyone’s liking it kept her on top until the referee stood them up.
Once they were back on their feet Gaff connected with a series of knees to the mid-section, but when McMann took the fight to the ground again it was all over bar the shouting. McMann soon moved into the crucifix position so she could deliver a spot of ground and pound, and with the German unable to defend herself the referee stepped in to give McMann the TKO win.
Then it was on to the light heavyweight division and the fight between Gian Villante and Ovince Saint-Preux.
Now this was an interesting one, and it will be remembered for it’s poor refereeing decision. They began the fight by exchanging kicks, and as the first round went on it became a nice little battle with OSP stuffing Villante’s takedown attempts and getting in some good shots.
As round one became round two OSP began to slow down quite a bit. He looked a different fighter to the one that had some success a few minutes before, and that’s when Villante began to easily defend his takedown and striking attempts.
Then, just a few seconds into the final round, OSP inadvertently poked Villante in the left eye, and when Villante said he couldn’t see the referee immediately called the fight instead of giving him time to recover. Both fighters were clearly mystified by this decision.
Which meant that the judges came into play as OSP took the majority technical decision.
The final preliminary fight featured lightweight action as Rustam Khabilov went up against Yancy Medeiros.
They say that history repeats itself. Well, the history that this fight repeated happened just a few minutes before. It started out as a promising encounter, with Medeiros getting in some good blows before Khabilov’s grappling came into play.
But when Khabilov scored with a takedown Medeiros’ left hand smashed into the mat, breaking his finger. He only realised the extent of his injury a few seconds later. The referee immediately called the fight, giving Khabilov the TKO win.
After a second showing of the Gaff/McMann encounter it was on to the main show and more lightweight action as Jim Miller faced Pat Healy.
This proved to be a very enjoyable encounter, especially if you’re quite partial to a bit of ground fighting. Although there were a few good striking exchanges the majority of the action was on the mat, and in the first round it was Miller who took control. He managed to survive Healy’s armbar attempt early on, and as the round came to an end he looked like he was going to get the win after a sustained period of ground and pound.
Healy began round two with a damaged right eye, but that didn’t stop him from taking control of the fight when the action went back down to the ground. It looked almost effortless as he transitioned.
His best work came in the third round, By this time Miller looked exhausted as he took in big gulps of air, and as the fight neared it’s conclusion Healy took his man’s back and synched in a rear naked choke, and with Miller passing out the referee called the fight to give Healy the submission win.
Then it was back to light heavyweight as Phil Davis took on Vinny Magalhaes.
This certainly proved to be an interesting encounter. For nearly 15 minutes Davis showed how much his striking game has improved, while Magalhaes probably left quite a few people scratching their heads.
Davis’ performance was top notch throughout. From the moment he connected with a head kick that rocked his man he did a good job of controlling the action. Mind you, that may be because Magalhaes’ performance was somewhat lacking.
The Brazilian’s only real good moment came in the first during the only moment of ground fighting when he took Davis’ back. Davis managed to escape though, and whenever he tried to take the fight to the ground again Davis either defended or declined the invitation to enter his guard.
As for Davis he kept up his performance levels throughout the fight, and there were times when Magalhaes became a static target as Davis reeled off a succession of jabs.
So with the fight going the distance the judges were called upon again as Davis took the unanimous decision.
Heavyweight action followed as Roy Nelson went up against Cheick Kongo.
The shortest fight on the card proved to be a showcase for the somewhat ordinary looking guy. After a brief feeling out period Nelson instigated a clinch against the cage, and even though Kongo tried to move his way out of it Nelson kept the upper hand until the referee separated them.
Some though that separation was a bit premature. In reality it was the beginning of the end. Seconds later Nelson connected with a big right that sent Kongo crashing. The referee quickly stepped in to give Nelson the knockout win.
The co-main event featured middleweight action as Michael Bisping took on Alan Belcher.
This was another of those fights where history repeated itself. For almost three rounds entire rounds Bisping put on a sound display of striking. It was a top notch performance, although in truth Belcher’s chosen styles was more or less inviting the Brit to attack.
As Bisping rolled off combination after combination Belcher fought most of the fight with his hands down, and as the fight went on and Belcher began to slow down Bisping began to use him for target practice.
When the fight was just 30 seconds from the end and it looked like it was going the distance Bisping inadvertently poked Belcher in the eye. Belcher fell to the mat, and as the blood came out the doctors and the referee brought the proceedings to an end.
Which meant that the judges had to render another technical decision as all three scored in favour of Bisping.
The main event saw Chael Sonnen challenging Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight title.
So after all the hype and all the insults it was finally down to the matter and hand, and these two didn’t bother with a feeling out period. When Jones scored with the early takedown it was a sign of things to come. They didn’t stay down there long, and it was during a brief clinch against the cage that Sonnen had his best moments.
But when Jones took the fight to the ground again he regained control. Sonnen seemed unable to do anything of note, and as the round entered it’s final stages Jones went to work with the ground and pound, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to give Jones the title retaining TKO win. Not bad for a guy who had a broken foot and didn’t even know about it!
With plenty of time left on the clock it was on to filler material in the form of the featherweight encounter between Steven Siler and Kurt Holobaugh.
I’m glad they showed this one because it was a pretty entertaining three round affair.
Siler put in a good performance in the first, especially with his ground work. It looked like he was going to get the win when he took Holobaugh’s back and locked in a rear naked choke. Holobaugh managed to survive this scare, and when the second round began it was his turn to take control. He went for a couple of guillotines but couldn’t quite get in the right position to lock them in properly.
Holobaugh continued his good work into the early stages of the third until Siler came back and regained control. It wasn’t long before Siler took his man’s back again, and although he went looking for a rear naked choke again Holobaugh survived, making it to the end of the fight.
Which meant that the judges came into play with all three in agreement as Siler took the unanimous decision.
In conclusion – despite two of the fights ending after accidental eye pokes UFC 159 proved to be another great outing for Dana White and his band of merry men.
The performance of Jon Jones as he outplayed Chael Sonnen at his own game once again proved just how good that guy is, and you have to wonder if there is anyone in the division with a chance of taking him out.
As for the rest of the card it was packed with great performances. Naturally I’m going to praise the efforts of my fellow countryman Michael Bisping, but I’m going to praise the work of Jim Miller and Pat Healy, who take the no-prize for fight of the night this time around.
So with all of that business out of the way there’s just one more thing to do, and that’s to give UFC 159 the thumbs up. Thankfully that thumb has never been broken though!
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