Welcome to another edition of ProMMAnow.com‘s staff picks as we focus on Saturday’s UFC 159 card in New Jersey. The third UFC women’s bantamweight bout takes place with Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff. Strikeforce vet Pat Healy makes his UFC return after nearly seven years as he faces Jim Miller at lightweight. It’s wrestling vs. BJJ when light heavyweights Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes clash. Heavyweights Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo will slug it out. Middleweights Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher will settle their bad blood in the co-main event. And Jon Jones will defend his light heavyweight title against Chael P. Sonnen in the headliner.
Women’s Bantamweight: Sara McMann (6-0) vs. Sheila Gaff (10-4-1)
DENNY HODGE: Sheila Gaff is dangerous on the feet and on the ground but it won’t matter in this one. She will be facing her stiffest test to date and it will be against a world class athlete in Sara McMann. McMann will likely waste little time taking this one to the mat. She will have to wade into range to do it, but she will overpower Gaff in the clinch and dominate on the ground. McMann by TKO.
DAN THEODORE: While Gaff is a dangerous striker with KO power and has submission victories, I will have to go in most likelihood with the higher level athlete with Olympian Sara McMann winning a Decision. Statistically the better athlete, the better wrestler will win the fight barring a KO from their opponents.
GARY THOMAS: I am surprised at how under promoted Gaff vs. McMann has been. I think you will see two strong bantamweights duke it out in this one. McMann has the whole Olympic wrestler thing going for her. I think she will be too much for Gaff who is coming up to 135 as opposed to her last two wins which were at 125. Good fight though. Pick – McMann via UD
BRIAN FURBY: Sara McMann
JAN GAETJENS: McMann comes away with the decision win.
JACK BRATCHER: Here’s what we know about Gaff. She has 10 wins with 10 finishes; 6 via (T)KO and 4 via submission. It’s impressive how quickly many of her knockout wins have come. Her last fight she knocked out Jennifer Maia in 10 seconds. Her fight before that she TKO’d Aisling Daly in 1:34 and the fight just before that she knocked out her opponent in 8 seconds. She’s a bad chick. Here’s the deal… Most of her fights have been in Germany against women you’ve never heard of. Sara McMann, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, will run through her like a freight train for a dominant decision win.
Lightweight: Jim Miller (22-4) vs. Pat Healy (29-16)
DENNY HODGE: Both of these guys are as tough as they come, but it’s Miller that has evolved more, especially with his striking. Healy is dominant when he’s on top, but Miller is hard to corral on the mat. There will be a ton of scrambles in this one as both guys transition from position to position trying to seek positional control. The difference will be on the feet, with Miller taking the decision. Miller by unanimous decision.
DAN THEODORE: This one should be a war. While my heart is with Pat Healy, I feel that Jim Millers punching power and combinations have been improving. There should be some good brawling and wrestling scrambles in this. Miller is dangerous with his guillotines, and Healy dangerous with arm triangles, and also has a good deep half guard sweeps that people seem to miss. I predict Miller will win the split decision, based on just facial damage from punches landed and breaking Healy’s nose yet again.
GARY THOMAS: Jim Miller is the man’s man. No fluff to this guy. He has fought some tough dudes and made a name for himself for his durability. Healy is a beast but doesn’t have the same resume of quality wins as Miller. I like Miller to throw heavy shots and put Healy away in the second round. Pick – Jim Miller via TKO in round 2.
BRIAN FURBY: Jim Miller
JAN GAETJENS: Healy’s a very good fighter, and the praise his wrestling has received in the build up to this match is wholly warranted; however, Miller is just a step ahead of him in nearly every facet of the game. Even putting their respective grappling chops aside, Miller has the clear advantage in the stand up game, where he could easily dole out some serious damage with his hands. Miller by (T)KO
JACK BRATCHER: It’s hard to believe 29-year-old Pat Healy has been fighting for well over a decade. He’s currently riding a six fight win streak in Strikeforce. His last loss was a submission loss to Josh Thomson in 2010. Miller is coming off a decision win over Joe Lauzon. Just prior to that he was submitted by Nate Diaz. Miller and Healy remind me a lot of each other in the way they are built and their styles. We all know how well the Strikeforce guys have been doing and I could see Healy taking this. But Miller will be fighting in front of his home crowd and I’m going to have to go with the odds on this one and take Miller by decision.
Light Heavyweight: Phil Davis (10-1, 1 NC) vs. Vinny Magalhaes (10-5, 1 NC)
DENNY HODGE: I talked to Vinny last week and it’s clear that he learned something from Chael Sonnen while serving as a coach on the latest season of TUF. He has been on a roll, but basically talked his way into facing a top 10 guy in Phil Davis. There has been a ton of talk in this one leading up to this bout. Vinny told me that he has evolved more than Davis, and I do see him having the advantage on the feet. It will be a true chess match on the ground once Davis takes it there. Vinny will threaten off his back but positional control will win a close decision for Phil Davis. Davis by split decision.
DAN THEODORE: While a video I just watched of Vinny training does make me think his striking is developing faster than Davis, and I believe his grappling is also higher level, it is wrestling the glue that binds all martial arts that often dictates the winner. My heart is with Vinny and hope there is a dramatic KO or submission finish, but I feel Davis most likely being a strong and skilled wrestler with more Octagon experience will be able to win the Decision.
GARY THOMAS: Vinny Mags hasn’t lost since 2010. He hasn’t really beaten anyone either. Phil Davis will take this fight wherever he wants it to go. He has to watch for the submission attempts of Magalhaes but he should win. Pick – Davis via submission in round 3.
BRIAN FURBY: Phil Davis
JAN GAETJENS: A buddy of mine once owned this dog that would freak out whenever you put a blanket over its head. The dog would try its hardest to get free, barking and spinning in circles, but she would never manage to get out from under the blanket. Phil Davis is the blanket in this scenario. Davis by decision
JACK BRATCHER: Interesting fight. Vinny is improving a lot on his feet but Davis’ wrestling will make the difference in this fight. Top level wrestling generally beats top level BJJ. Davis should be able to stay out of submission trouble and win a three round decision. I have always liked Vinny though and would be happy to see him pull off a big win like this, but ultimately I have to think Davis wins the decision.
Heavyweight: Roy Nelson (18-7) vs. Cheick Kongo (18-7-2)
DENNY HODGE: I don’t see this fight even being close. “Big Country” is nasty on the feet, and he will mix it up with Kongo. Once he decides to take it to the mat it’s a wrap. Nelson will pass Kongo’s guard like cutting through butter then get into his patented crucifix position and rain down the punishment. Nelson by TKO.
DAN THEODORE: I feel that Big Country has been more consistent in bigger level fights. If Cheick manages to get a takedown himself against the cage, I do feel he can hurt Roy with GnP. Roy should land more damaging punches on the feet, but Kongo should be able to land some vicious knees and kicks. The difference is when Roy pushes through the damage and gets Kongo a bit gassed, if he gets the takedown he will likely put Kongo into the crucifix beat down position and get a TKO on Kongo via GnP! Roy by overhand right KO or TKO from GnP.
GARY THOMAS: Roy Nelson isn’t the most eye pleasing guy in the UFC but he wins. Cheick Kongo looks the part but has been less than exciting in some of his fights. Nelson will drop bombs and drop Kongo early in this fight. Pick – Nelson via KO in round 1.
BRIAN FURBY: Roy Nelson
JAN GAETJENS: How much more entertaining would the heavyweight division be if Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson were both nearing the top of the ladder? Kongo’s game is grossly underrated, but his tendency to find himself expending energy in the clinch up against the cage will ultimately be his undoing. Nelson by (T)KO
JACK BRATCHER: C’mon son. Nelson is tough as nails, has a chin of iron, powerful punches and dangerous submissions and ground and pound. Kongo seems to have become a bit timid lately, playing it safe on the feet and his chin is nowhere near Nelson’s. Nelson by TKO all day (or he could hurt Kongo with strikes and then win via submission).
Middleweight: Michael Bisping (23-5) vs. Alan Belcher (18-7)
DENNY HODGE: This is my pick for “Fight of the Night”. Both guys have been talking up a storm and it has been very entertaining. Bisping actually made me laugh with some of his tattoo comments. Belcher has finishing power but I think that Bisping will control range and use his footwork to get in and out scoring points as the rounds wear on. Bisping by decision.
DAN THEODORE: Belcher is the more dangerous guy as far as KO power and submissions. However, Bisping has the experience in bigger fights, and his wrestling has improved a lot. I just feel that Bisping will control the tempo and range of the fight better, landing more frequently from the outside with long straight punches (with his basic but beautiful double jab cross, 1,1,2 combo) and mixing in some takedowns. Unless Belcher gets some kind of leg submission, or gets to the banana split/Truck/Wrestlers Guillotine AKA Twister/Knee compression position that he put Palhares in, I’ve got Bisping winning the decision. I wonder how much Bisping has trained with all the great Bellator Russian fighters led by MW Champion Alexander Shlemenko that I have all interviewed that also train out of Huntington Beach Ultimate Training Center.
GARY THOMAS: Belcher and Bisping are coming off losses. Both have been hanging around in the conversation about contenders at middleweight. I think this fight should be interesting.Belcher will be looking to finish on the ground but I think Bisping’s defense will keep him out of trouble. I look for Brian Furby’s favorite fighter to out point Belcher and take the win. Pick – Michael Bisping via UD.
BRIAN FURBY: Alan Belcher
JAN GAETJENS: This is make or break as far as Bisping’s name remaining anywhere close to the title shot conversation. If he can push Belcher deep into the second and third rounds, The Count can definitely game his way to a comfortable win on the scorecards. Bisping by decision
JACK BRATCHER: Love this fight. I would love to see Alan Belcher knock ol’ Bisping out and eventually earn a title shot. Unfortunately though, I think Bisping’s wrestling will be the difference. Belcher is the more powerful striker and the better submission fighter. But Bisping is the better wrestler and has better footwork. I’d love to be wrong, but I’m predicting Bisping via decision.
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones (17-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (27-12-1)
DENNY HODGE: Chael has been selling this fight, while most times Jones has just stood there quietly. Jones is all business in this one and will make an example out of Sonnen. Sonnen was able to get inside and take Silva down, but Jones is a different animal once you try to wrap him up. He is unpredictable and unorthodox in his defense and escapes, and usually manages to turn the tables in the clinch and get the takedown instead of getting taken down. That’s what he will do here, then he will finish with a flurry of elbows. Jones by brutal TKO.
DAN THEODORE: I like Chael, and do think if he can really step in and tag Jones right away, to get him back on his heels stumbling backwards than into a blast double or short double against the cage I feel he has a chance. But, unless Chael stumbles him early, I feel Jones is coming out to prove a point. Most likely Jones will kick the knees or add calf kicks into his attack a few times than look himself at some point to be in the clinch. As I have been very vocal about in my Youtube instructional vids I’ve posted on peoples FB pages, Twitter, and the Underground forum, Chael’s best chance to really get Jones is to counter linear knee kicks by lifting his knee and going right into a Boxing Blast or 2,7,2 Cross, Long Hook, Cross, or 2, 7, Blast Double counter while Jones is leaning back on one foot. The same combos could be set up by sweeping open Jones’ Chicken legs base with calf kick sweeps. If he can stumble Jones with a punch and/or destabilize him with a leg kick, he can take Jones down and land GnP and look for Head & Arm Triangle Chokes if he can get to sidemount/mount. I feel that the guys that fight Jones keep coming in just with same old school training, and not specific training for Jones’ body type and common attacks.
Look for Jones to either try to get a takedown in the first round, or possibly pull guard and look for elbows and subs in the first round to prove that he can. Jones will either look for takedown himself to prove his MMA wrestling is better than Chael’s either in the 1st or 2nd round. From there look for Jones to pass guard, move into sidemount, than crucifix position to land repetitive downward elbows strikes causing a TKO or opening Chael’s arms to either a Top Wrist Lock/Keylock or Downward Double Wrist Lock/AKA Kimura. If Chael hasn’t drilled the Crucifix escape I have developed to create momentum to regain your arm that is stapled, look for him to get finished there. This fight, and the Roy Nelson fight have a large percentage chance of the Crucifix position being instrumental.
GARY THOMAS: Nothing would make me happier than to see Chael Sonnen defeat Jon Jones. I would rub it right in Furby’s face. However I don’t think both can win and for Chael, he gets the toughest task. Jon Jones will get put on his back but I think he has too much and puts Chael away in the 4th round with a TKO. Pick – Jones via TKO in round 4.
BRIAN FURBY: Jon Jones
JAN GAETJENS: The only people who benefit from a Sonnen win are doomsday preppers, who will finally have a reason to use their bug-out bunkers, because it will take nothing short of a 2012-esque cataclysmic occurrence for Jon Jones to lose this fight. Jones by (T)KO
JACK BRATCHER: C’mon son. This fight shouldn’t even be happening. We all know it. The only reason it should have happened originally was if Jones had taken it on short notice. But he didn’t. Jones will stuff any takedown attempts Chael makes and will end this fight violently in round one. This fight is a joke and everyone knows it but Chael. And he even probably knows it. Jones by TKO or submission in round one.