After back-to-back amazingly entertaining events on free television, the UFC returns to its pay-per-view format with UFC 159. The event is highlighted by light heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound great Jon Jones facing off with former middleweight challenger and all-star hype machine Chael Sonnen.

The main event has had a long history and build-up. The talk around this fight started last summer when Dan Henderson had to pull out of UFC 151 and Sonnen was offered the fight on eight days’ notice. In a surprising switch, Jones declined to fight Sonnen, thus forcing the cancellation of the event.

The UFC then hatched the plan to have Sonnen coach against Jones on The Ultimate Fighter reality series as the lead up to the fight. While the drama between the coaches was surprisingly lacking, the show received a ton of attention and praise based on the fighters. Now, after over six months of build up, the fight is finally here.

The co-main event pits perennial top-10 middleweight Michael Bisping against Alan Belcher. As is usual for Bisping, the pre-fight talk has started to get heated and the contest should produce real fireworks. Both fighters are well-rounded and finish the fight anywhere.

The rest of the main card is rounded out with top-10 fighters and recognizable names such as Jim Miller, Phil Davis and Roy Nelson.

UFC 159 takes place on Saturday, April 27, at the Prudential Center, Newark, N.J. The event will air live on pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET with the preliminary matches beginning on Facebook at 6:35 p.m. ET and continuing on FX at 8 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Riley Kontek, Gregory Chase and Richard Wilcoxon break down the entire card in this edition of the Round Table.

LW: Pat Healy (29-16) vs. Jim Miller (22-4)

Kontek: Pat Healy and Jim Miller, two guys who are near mirror images of each other, kick off the pay-per-view in a high-stakes lightweight bout. A win for either man could throw them into the top end of the division and eventually earn them a potential title bout.

Healy (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

Healy is a grinder that looks to use his wrestling in any bout he is in. Because of injuries suffered by champion Gilbert Melendez, Healy missed out on several Strikeforce title shots that he had earned, but got the consolation prize of a UFC contract. His striking leaves more to be desired, but his submission grappling definitely makes up for it.

Miller is the more well-rounded of the two. He is a wrestler with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and has good boxing skills to go along with his ground game. He is always a fight or two away from contention before he bites the dust on the big stage. I don’t see that happening here.

When the fight goes down, Healy’s bread and butter will be taken away by Miller’s counter-wrestling and grappling. Miller keeps this fight standing, out-boxes Healy and earns a decision to stay toward the upper end of the top 10.

Chase: As Riley suggested, Miller’s ground game will be the highlight and the determining factor for this fight. His grappling will be tough for Healy to deal with, even though Healy is great on the ground as well. As far as sheer competition, Miller has had better experiences inside the cage and has faced some top-level athletes made up of a range of different styles of fighters.

Miller (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Miller will want to start off with his striking, and that may end up being the tactic he uses to win this fight. Miller on the ground is not the most attractive idea if you are Healy and want to avoid getting submitted.

Miller also has impressed me with his striking recently, and he has had much more energy and aggressiveness to it. I predict Miller will win by submission, but I could see a strong decision win instead.

Wilcoxon: It is almost a shame that Healy’s amazing winning streak will come to an end without him getting the shot at a title, but make it unanimous. Although I am not as confident in Miller’s striking game as my colleagues, Miller will have superior wrestling and submission game. I look for Miller to get a late submission.

LHW: Phil Davis (10-1) vs. Vinny Magalhaes (10-5)

Chase: This fight between Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes is a great stylistic match-up and one I think could be “Fight of the Night.” Both men are very good on the ground and have decent striking. The ground game is a big question in this one: which fighter will be better in the submission department? The stand-up will be the determining factor though.

Magalhaes (L) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Davis is the better man when it comes to the mat, and I think he will shine in this fight if it does happen to go there. He can finish the fight on the feet, but I think he could actually submit Magalhaes, despite both men having a very good track record of submission victories.

Although Davis could get the better of Magalhaes on the ground, he holds the biggest edge in the stand-up game. The fight will stay standing, or at least Davis will want to keep it there. The grappling will cancel itself out between the two, and Davis will get a great TKO victory over Magalhaes.

Wilcoxon: This is the most interesting fight on this card to me. My first instinct is to pick Davis as the superior wrestler. But Davis has looked best when he takes his opponents to the mat and works his top game with either ground-and-pound or looking for a submission. The problem with that scenario is that Magalhaes is by far the most decorated grappler Davis has ever faced. By taking Magalhaes down, Davis will be playing with fire. And that makes this fight very interesting.

Davis is a former NCAA wrestling champion who entered the sport focusing on those wrestling skills. He has slowly continued to evolve, first by learning submissions and then by mixing in striking.

Magalhaes rose to attention during his stint on TUF 8, where he made it to the finals before he lost to Ryan Bader. However, Magalhaes has a long grappling history that includes gold medals in World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and in the ADCC competition. Much like Davis, he has had to work to round out his skills.

Davis (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

I see this fight going one of two ways: either Magalhaes wins by submission or Davis wins a decision. Davis is the superior wrestler, which means he will dictate where the fight happens. I see Davis using his wrestling defensively to keep the fight standing. Davis will win more of the exchanges and edge out Magalhaes on the judges’ scorecards.

Kontek: American wrestler meets Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Collegiate All-American meets World champion. In short, Davis meets Magalhaes in an interesting 205-pound bout that could thrust either man into title contention.

Magalhaes has the obvious submission grappling advantage, but does not have the takedowns to plant Davis. Davis’ wrestling background will keep this fight upright, as my colleagues have suggested, unless “Mr. Wonderful” wants to tread murky waters and test Magalhaes’ skills on the ground.

I expect this fight to stay standing. Magalhaes’ striking has improved since his first UFC run, when he was a one-dimensional grappler. His knockout of Mikhail Zayats is proof of that. However, Davis is improving as well and possesses great strength and solid tutelage under the Alliance MMA banner.

Davis will use clinching and superior boxing to outpoint the Brazilian. This will get him back into contention and show Magalhaes that he bit off more than he could chew, even though it will be a competitive affair.

HW: Cheick Kongo (18-7-2) vs. Roy Nelson (18-7)

Wilcoxon: Cheick Kongo and Roy Nelson are just under the upper echelon of heavyweights. They have both been around long enough that we know exactly what they bring to the table.

Kongo (R) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

Kongo is a kickboxer. He is very technical with his strikes and will mix them up well. At one point he was working hard on his wrestling, but he seems to have abandoned that approach in more recent years.

Nelson is known for his big beard and even bigger belly, but that helps hide how good of a fighter he is. Nelson is a BJJ black belt who loves to trade blows. He has powerful punches and an iron chin.

Nelson is just a step better. He can dominate on the ground and even if the fight stays standing, he has the better chin and potentially more power. Nelson wins by a second-round TKO.

Kontek: This fight feels like the battle of the gatekeepers. No matter how many times these guys win, they always end up faltering in fights that could catapult them to the top.

Kongo will be happy to stand and trade with Nelson, but will also look to clinch against the cage. Against a power striker like Nelson, he would be wise to keep his chin down and prevent Nelson from winding up with a haymaker.

Nelson can either plant Kongo with a knockout punch or drag him to the ground and work his heavy top game. Nelson is famous for his one-punch knockout ability, but he got his start with UFC fans by showing off ground-and-pound from the top.

Nelson (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Nelson has an amazing chin, whereas Kongo’s has looked worn down as of late. This fight may get ugly at points, but Nelson should land a knockout blow at some point to grab the victory.

Chase: This fight is extremely exciting to me for a number of reasons. First, you have two heavyweights who are on opposite ends of the physique spectrum. Second, you have two men who have excellent power in their hands and aren’t afraid to trade. Third, both men need another solid win to put them back on track and they carry weight in their names to make this a very important fight.

The big question for me is if Kongo can keep his chin protected and if it is up to the task. While Kongo may or may not have some issues with his chin, Nelson has proved time and time again that his chin can survive a battering ram. This is going to be the big challenge that Kongo must overcome. Both men can score a fantastic knockout, but I am leaning toward Nelson actually pulling it off first.

Also, if this fight goes to the ground, Nelson can have a distinct advantage as well, assuming that he is on top of Kongo and not the other way around. This fight will remain on the feet for the most part though. I will predict a first-round KO for Nelson, or it could be a grueling decision win that looks a little sloppy toward the end.

MW: Alan Belcher (18-7) vs. Michael Bisping (23-5)

Chase: This fight with Alan Belcher is an extremely important one for Michael Bisping. Bisping has slipped into that position where, if he were to lose at UFC 159, we don’t really know what the future holds for him. He already is at a point where he is at gatekeeper status, and a win here is what he needs to keep his career afloat. Belcher, though, is hungry to get back to his winning ways as well. He has a great ground game as well as stand-up, and this will be a nice match-up against Bisping.

Bisping (Aline Baktchejian Djehdian/The MMA Corner)

Bisping has impressed me with his continuous evolution as a fighter. He has improved his skills over the past few years and has started to get more focused. His striking is great and his takedown defense was on point when fighting Chael Sonnen. That is a skill that will come in handy in this fight with Belcher.

This is going to be a tough fight for both men. They are fairly well-rounded, but the ground game edge goes to Belcher. On the feet, it can go either way. I think Belcher has what it takes to win a unanimous decision, and he will put Bisping back another loss.

Kontek: Tensions have hit a boiling point and, as Gregory suggested, this fight is immensely important for not only Bisping but Belcher. Both men are among the top fighters in the division, but another loss would probably take them out of the title picture for a couple years.

Bisping is a technical striker with endurance and an underrated ground game. The same could be said about Belcher, which is why this match-up is so intriguing. The problem for both men is that they haven’t gotten a marquee win that has put them consistently in the best middleweights category. Once they get on the fringe, they falter and must work their way back up.

Belcher (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

I have a feeling this will be a fun striking battle until Bisping realizes a takedown could be the difference maker. After some great exchanges and fun moments, Bisping will clinch and look to put Belcher on his back in order to work the points angle. Look for that balance to get the Brit back in the win column courtesy of the judges.

Wilcoxon: It looks like I get to be the tiebreaker.

Both guys are somewhat underrated by UFC fans. Bisping brings an aggressive and technical striking game to the table. He has an underrated submission game, as Riley point out. But the biggest change in Bisping’s game is much improved wrestling over the last couple of years. But at 34, one does have to start to wonder when Bisping will slow down.

Belcher is a well-rounded fighter who can find success wherever the fight goes. He holds black belts in BJJ, judo and taekwondo. He impressed fans by playing on the ground with Rousimar Palhares before finishing the Brazilian with brutal ground-and-pound.

Although both fighters have the tools to win, Bisping has more big-fight experience and has faced better competition. This will be a back-and-forth fight, but in the end Bisping will get his hand raised in a unanimous decision victory.

LHW Championship: Jon Jones (17-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-12-1)

Kontek: The talking is over, the gloves are off (or on in this matter) and it’s time to fight. TUF coaches and adversaries Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen will scrap for Jones’ belt and the pride of being the winning coach of the season.

Sonnen (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Jones has been unstoppable since entering the MMA game. His only blemish was a disqualification against Matt Hamill where Jones absolutely manhandled Hamill. Since winning the title, Jones has beat the cream of the crop in impressive fashion and has not looked back.

Sonnen earned his title shot by stepping up on short notice after the UFC 151 saga when nobody else would. Sonnen moves up after two failed title bids at middleweight against Anderson Silva. He is a power wrestler that will look to ground Jones and smash him through the canvas.

Sonnen will have some brief moments in the fight, but he will be overmatched in this one. Jones is too good at wrestling, striking and submission fighting to lose his title to a guy who relies on one skill (wrestling). He will find a finish, whether it be a ground-and-pound stoppage or a submission.

Wilcoxon: It is sad to me that the UFC decided to put on this epic mismatch at all. It is such a large mismatch that Jones didn’t even want to promote the fight during the interview spot on the TUF Finale.

Sonnen was placed in this fight for one reason and one reason only: because he is a hype machine. His interview style has fans cracking up and offers the media great sound bites. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with fighting.

Sonnen is 2-2 in his last four fights. He was last seen being destroyed by Silva in a middleweight title fight. In fact, Sonnen has not fought in the light heavyweight division in five years, making his title shot even more puzzling. What Sonnen does bring to the cage is dominating wrestling skills and underrated boxing. One thing to watch for is that in the past when Sonnen hasn’t been able to get a fight to the ground he has struggled.

For Jones’ part, he will have a significant height and reach advantage, a speed advantage, more athleticism, a more diverse striking game, a better submission attack and, most importantly, an equally effective wrestling game.

Jones (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Sonnen would have to catch Jones out of the gate with something to have a chance in this fight. The champ will dominate the fight easily. However, Jones has been somewhat of a slow starter in the past, so I see the fight making it into the second round, where Jones will end it with a TKO.

Chase: The pressure Sonnen puts on Jones is his only chance of survival. We have seen Jones backpedal and not counter as much, and this is Sonnen’s best opportunity to throw or to look for a takedown. This is a fight that should be completely one-sided on paper, but I think Sonnen has a better chance than most are giving him credit for. His wrestling and aggressive style will make Jones stay active and not let him set up his reach and utilize it.

Jones will want to keep his head on straight too. Although he is a smart kid, some signs point to him overlooking Sonnen a little. He has mentioned his feelings about how undeserving Sonnen is of this title shot. Jones also has it in the back of his mind about what Sonnen did to Anderson Silva. Who knows if nerves will get the best of him? His nerves made him look a little more timid and exhausted in his fight with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

Still, I’m with my fellow panelists in saying that this one goes to Jones. I think it will be a submission victory later on or a TKO early.

Preliminary Card
Kurt Holobaugh (9-1) vs. Steven Siler (21-10)

Wilcoxon: Outside of the fight with Pat Healy under the Strikeforce banner, I really haven’t seen much of Kurt Holobaugh, but he appears to be a ground fighter. Steven Siler came off the TUF reality show and has found solid success in the UFC. Siler has more experience, has fought in the UFC before, faced better fighters and very well could have the advantage on the ground. I think Siler takes this one with a late submission.

Chase: This one goes to Siler hands down. I think his experience alone will show in this fight, and I think he will come out with a great performance. Richard is correct in his assessment of the level of Siler’s competition compared to Holobaugh’s, and Siler has the better ground game as well. I will go with Siler with a unanimous decision.

Kontek: Holobaugh’s fight with Healy was very impressive to me, even though he came out on the wrong end of a decision. He drops down to 145 pounds to take on the always-game Siler, who is no picnic for anybody in the division. Holobaugh will make this a fight, but “Super” Steven will earn a decision.

WW: Nick Catone (9-4) vs. James Head (9-3)

Kontek: Likely fighting for their respective jobs, Nick Catone and James Head have their backs against the wall. Catone is a wrestle-first fighter that will take on a guy in Head who has more well-rounded skills. After seeing Catone’s loss to TJ Waldburger, I think Head will win in similar fashion.

Chase: I have to go with Riley on this one and pick Head for the win. The hunger is there, and both men value where they are and what they need to get done to get themselves back into the swing of things. I’m going to say Head gets a TKO, late in the first.

Wilcoxon: This fight is a coin toss. Sometimes that term means a close exciting fight that is a result of great matchmaking. But that is not the case here. It is a coin toss because neither fighter has really been impressive or consistent. I can see why my colleagues are going with Head, but I am leaning the other way. Catone should have better wrestling and better submission skills. As long as he doesn’t try to trade with Head for too long, Catone should be able to get the fight to the mat and either win a decision or score a late submission.

FW: Leonard Garcia (15-10-1) vs. Cody McKenzie (13-3)

Chase: Leonard Garcia and Cody McKenzie bring two very different styles of fighting to the cage, and this will be very interesting to watch. I think it is obvious that Garcia will want to avoid the ground (or at least avoid shooting for any takedowns that would leave his neck exposed). Garcia is very resilient otherwise. I think his striking will get the better of McKenzie, and Garcia won’t allow McKenzie to drag him into his submissions.

Wilcoxon: McKenzie is the very definition of a one-trick pony. He wins by his modified guillotine. If he can’t sink it in, he loses. Garcia is a wild brawler. Skill-wise, neither of these guys are really UFC-quality fighters, but the UFC is throwing Garcia a bone. After four straight losses, the Greg Jackson-trained fighter should have a game plan that will finally get him a win. Garcia takes a lopsided decision.

Kontek: If this fight doesn’t make the running for “Fight of the Night,” I will be shocked. McKenzie is entertaining more than he is skilled, but if he locks up the guillotine, then Garcia will lose. Garcia is a wild brawler who wings his punches and has the overall advantage on the feet. Garcia snags a decision.

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

Wilcoxon: Yancy Medeiros sports an undefeated record, but Rustam Khabilov will be a big step up in competition. Medeiros has a wrestling background, but prefers to strike. Khabilov is a former combat sambo world champion who will look to get this fight to the ground. Khabilov should be able to get the fight to the mat at some point. When he does, it will be over.

Kontek: What better way is there to make a UFC debut than when Khabilov put on a suplex clinic against Vinc Pichel? Medeiros is a good prospect, but Khabilov is a high-motor guy who is powerful and can counter his wrestling. Khabilov earns a stoppage within the first two rounds.

Chase: This is another one that will be interesting to watch, but I think the advantages in this fight go to Khabilov. The guy is a beast on the ground and has some good striking as well. I agree with my fellow panelists and have to say Khabilov will end the undefeated streak of Medeiros quickly and decisively.

Women’s BW: Sheila Gaff (10-4-1) vs. Sara McMann (6-0)

Chase: I have to go with Sara McMann over Sheila Gaff in this one. McMann has looked good in her past fights, and I think she will pull out another decisive victory here and remain undefeated. McMann by unanimous decision.

Kontek: McMann will become a title contender in the near future, likely after the Cat Zingano gets her opportunity against Ronda Rousey. McMann is a great wrestler and is fighting Gaff, who usually fights at flyweight. McMann works the takedowns and punishes the German en route to a decision.

Wilcoxon: Gaff is undersized for this division. She will be the better striker in the contest and will need to use her speed to land some blows while keeping her distance. However, that is easier said than done when facing McMann. McMann is a former Olympic silver medal winner in wrestling. Her size and ground skills are a huge advantage. McMann will take the fight to the mat at will. Once she has Gaff tired, McMann will finish it with a keylock or ground-and-pound in the third round.

LHW: Ovince St. Preux (12-5) vs. Gian Villante (10-3)

Kontek: Strikeforce imports collide when former University of Tennessee football player Ovince St. Preux meets former Hofstra football player Gian Villante. Villante and St. Preux are both strikers, so this could make for an entertaining match. St. Preux has better experience and has defeated tougher opponents, so look for him to get a late stoppage or a decision victory here.

Wilcoxon: Villante has bounced between weight classes, taking on all challengers and finding mixed success. Outside of Gegard Mousasi, no one has slowed down OSP’s run since 2010. St. Preux will be more athletic and uses his tools more fluidly than Villante. OSP will put Villante to sleep with a nice hook in the second round.

Chase: OSP, hands down. Villante has some great hands, but he hasn’t faced guys like OSP before. This will be an excellent striking exchange, but OSP will take the cake here and look awesome in doing so. This could be a very quick fight, and I think OSP walks away with a first-round TKO.

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

Wilcoxon: Johnny Bedford made a name for himself on TUF and has since gone undefeated in the UFC. Offensively, Bedford is well-rounded with a solid wrestling base. On the feet, Bedford should hold an advantage. Bryan Caraway tries to be well-rounded, but his ground game is his bread and butter. Bedford has struggled against submissions, with eight of his losses coming that way. Meanwhile, Caraway has notched 15 wins by submission. That is too big of a discrepancy to ignore. Bedford will make a fight of it early, but Caraway will eventually get him down and finish him.

Chase: Tough to call, but it all depends on where the fight goes. If it goes to the ground, Caraway all day. If it stays standing, I have to side with Bedford. All in all, I predict that Bedford will get the better of Caraway and not let it get to a place where he puts himself at the mercy of Caraway’s submissions.

Kontek: Caraway has become the go-to guy (along with T.J. Dillashaw) when a fight needs to be filled on late notice. Caraway is a great grappler, but so is Bedford, who will have the advantage of a full training camp under his belt. Bedford will use the clinch and his range in harmony en route to a decision win.

Top Photo: Jon Jones (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.