Previewing UFC 159 “Jones vs Sonnen” Prelims

April 24, 2013


Previewing UFC 159 “Jones vs Sonnen” Prelims

John Boldrick – UFC 159 takes place on April 27, 2013 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. After last week’s three hour FX marathon prelims, we return to the usual format. This Saturday, the UFC presents three Facebook and four televised preliminary fights. It only makes sense, given the location, that fighters Nick Catone and Gian Villante grace the card. The event features a perfect mix of veterans and new comers as six fighters make their octagon debuts while another five fighters make at least their fifth UFC appearance. Onto the fights.

We kick things off in the featherweight division. Steven Siler started to become known as the Miller Killer when he submitted Micah Miller on the Ultimate Fighter. He added to the mystic, defeating Cole Miller in official competition. Last time out, Siler was decisioned by Darren Elkins, giving him his first UFC loss. A dangerous submission specialist, Siler has only subbed one of his UFC opponents, but has found good use for his ground game. It will be interesting to see how Siler fights coming off a loss.

His opponent is Strikeforce alumni Kurt Holobaugh.  The Gracie Barra product made his Strikeforce debut at their last ever show, substituting for Jorge Masvidal (who himself was a replacement) in a fight against Pat Healy. Holobaugh didn’t take home the victory, but earned a lot of respect in defeat. The newcomer took the fight to the veteran and clearly earned his UFC shot. Like his opponent, Holobaugh is a submission based fighter, owning six of nine career wins by tap out.

Nick Catone will hope some home cooking provides the best results. The New Jersey native started off his UFC career 0-2 before winning two straight to bring his record to .500. He then suffered an achillies injury, putting him out of action for over a year. Since returning, Catone dropped a third round TKO to Chris Camozzi (in a fight he was winning) and was submitted by T.J. Waldburger in his welterweight debut. A well rounded fighter, Catone likely needs a victory here to avoid being cut.

His opponent for the evening is James Head. The BJJ purple belt started off his career at middleweight, where he went 7-1 before dropping his UFC debut to Nick Ring. From there, it was down to 170. At his new weight class, Head picked up wins over Papi Abedi and Brian Ebersole, at least partly because of his massive size advantage. All good things must come to an end though, as Head was TKO’ed by Mike Pyle last time out. Facing another former middleweight, Head may not have a huge strength advantage.

Our final Facebook fight may very well be a loser leaves town matchup. The usually lucky Leonard Garcia finds himself in a must win situation. He hasn’t won a fight since December of 2010, and hasn’t won by something other than a split decision since November 2008. Still Garcia is a very dangerous veteran who could knock anyone out if he connected. Last time out, Garcia dropped a split decision to Max Holloway. He walked away with a loss; the performance was enough to save his job. Here, it’s going to take a win.

He faces Alaskan Cody McKenzie. While not the most technically gifted, McKenzie has won over fans thanks to his submissions. 11 of 13 wins have come via guillotine choke, making McKenzie one of the most dangerous fighters to take down. Last time out, McKenzie was KO’ed by a body punch in just over 30 seconds, so he will need to improve his string is he wants to stay in the UFC.

Shifting to TV, we have the return of the Russian suplex machine. Rustam Khabilov won his UFC debut in under a round, due to his tremendous suplexes. The sambo trained Khabilov will likely be looking for more of the same here, although he does have other attacks. With four wins via armbar, opponents have to watch out for the ground game of Khabilov. With a 15-1 career, Khabilov is a tough fight for anyone, even holding a victory over four time UFC vet Jason Dent.

Making his UFC debut will be Strikeforce fighter Yancy Medeiros. Frisson went 2-0 in the defunct promotion with wins on Challengers cards. Last time out, he won by KO over Gareth Joseph. One concern is that the Hawaiian born fighter hasn’t fought professionally since 2010, so cage rust could be a big factor in this one. Six of his nine wins have come via KO, so look for that to be the strategy.

Another Olympic wrestler joins the UFC, this time in the women’s bantamweight division. Sara McMann makes her UFC debut and the 32 year-old silver medalist is on quite a role. She’s 6-0 in her career and looks to be a potential challenger for Ronda Rousey. Last time out, McMann edged Shayna Baszler by unanimous decision in a fight of the night performance for Invicta FC. While McMann is relatively new to MMA (her first fight was May 2011) she seemed to have transitioned to the sport flawlessly and could be a major player.

Her opponent for the evening couldn’t be any more of an opposite. 23 year-old Shelia Gaff is a German born kick boxer with a soft spot for KO’s. Last time out, Gaff knocked out Jennifer Maia in just ten seconds to take home the victory. It was the third straight win in a row for Gaff, all in the first round and the second in under than 15 seconds. Kickboxing isn’t the German’s only weapon though, as Gaff also has four wins by submission.

Strikeforce prospects collide. Former heavyweight Gian Villante has found his home at 205, winning three straight. Last time out, Villante went the distance with Derrick Mehmen for only the second decision win of his career. Mostly known for his knockouts, the former NFL linebacker prospect has worked on his leg kicks and shown improved endurance in his more recent fights. It would be nice to see Villante face a UFC fighter, but we can’t complain about his opponent.

The unfortunately nicknamed OSP makes his UFC debut here, as it’s finally time to see Ovince St. Preux inside the octagon. A former college football player, St. Preux started off his MMA career 3-4. Then, something changed, as he rattled off eight wins in a row including four inside the Strikeforce cage. It wasn’t just that he was winning fights; St. Preux was absolutely dominating opponents. He then took a big step up in competition, but lost to Gegard Mousasi. Last time out, St. Preux returned to form, brutally stopping T.J. Cook.

A late change to our featured prelim hasn’t altered anyone’s excitement. Johnny Bedford looks to make it four in a row with a win. A former Ultimate Fighter contestant, Bedford won his first two UFC bouts, earning stoppages over Marcos Vinicius and Louis Gaudinot. A big aspect of his game is size, as Bedford is a very large bantamweight whose size has been known to give foes problems. If there is a soft spot in Bedford’s game, it would be his submission defense. Eight of his nine losses are by sub, although no one has tapped Bedford since 2009.

Originally, Bedford was supposed to face Erik Perez, but because of injury, in steps replacement Bryan Caraway. In his last fight, Caraway lost a less than clear split decision to Takeya Mizugaki. It stopped a three fight win streak for Caraway. A known finisher, Caraway has finished the fight in 16 of his 17 professional victories, including 14 by submission. The rear naked choke seems to be his specialty, as it has coaxed 10 tap outs from opponents. Caraway has yet to be knocked out in official competition, although he was stopped by Diego Brandao on The Ultimate Fighter. Bedford and Caraway were teammates on the show, as both were members of Team Miller.


FX/Sportsnet Prelims

–          Johnny Bedford vs. Bryan Caraway

–          Gian Villante vs. Ovince St. Preux

–          Sara McMann vs. Shelia Gaff

–          Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros

Facebook Fights

–          Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie

–          Nick Catone vs. James Head

–          Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh



Follow John Boldrick on Twitter @JohnBJournalism



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