Viewers Guide to the Undercard – UFC 159 Edition

Having seen each weekend of April taken over with a new set of fights to keep us pleased, the UFC will be taking a brief respite after this Saturday in order to give us a chance to catch our collective breath. But before they momentarily leave us, this weekend we are treated to another dose of action as Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight championship against the biggest mouth in all of MMA, Chael Sonnen. Elsewhere on the card is a middleweight contest between Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher, as well as a battle of contrasting physiques as heavyweights Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo square off for our entertainment. But before we sink our teeth in to that we have the undercard to look forward to and below are just a selection of the fights you should be looking out for this weekend.

Johnny “Brutal” Bedford (19-9-1) vs. Bryan “Kid Lightning” Caraway (17-6-0) –
Due to a late withdrawal from Erik Perez and thanks to a quick acceptance from replacement Bryan Caraway, Johnny Bedford still has a fight to look forward to this weekend. In a bantamweight battle, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 veterans will headline the prelims and act as the lead-in fight for the evening’s main card. Bedford and Caraway first came to our attention on TUF as members of Team (Jason) Miller with Bedford competing in the bantamweight division and Caraway opting for the 145lb’ers. Ultimately, both men fell short of their goal to become their division’s Ultimate Fighter and each bowed out of the process at the semi-final stage. Bedford, who has gone the distance just the four times in twenty-nine fights, is 2-0 in his UFC career but has seen his progress stunted due to a succession of injuries which kept him side-lined for most of 2012. Caraway was last seen dropping a split decision to Takeya Mizugaki last month at the UFC on Fuel TV 8 event in Japan which took his UFC record to 2-1. A win here for Bedford will see his prospect status rise ever higher and as a result he should warrant some main card love on a Fuel TV level show. If Bedford is unable to overcome Caraway, I can’t envisage a loss affecting “Brutal” too much due to the late change in opponent; it just may see him tread water in the division for another fight or two. If Caraway is able to come away with the W, the Washington native should be able to claw back some of the momentum he lost in the Mizugaki fight but if he finds himself on the losing end, it could all get a bit dicey. A 0-2 run for someone of Caraway’s standing in the division tends to spell disaster, but as a result of his willingness to take the fight on short notice, Caraway may escape the pink slip as a gesture of goodwill.

Ovince St. Preux (12-5-0) vs. Gian Villante (10-3-0) –
Both St. Preux and Villante will be making their UFC debuts on Saturday, having each migrated over from Strikeforce entering the Octagon as real prospects in the light heavyweight division. Ovince St. Preux, or OSP, has begun to show real potential after a sticky start to his MMA career where after his first seven pro bouts he was 3-4-0. However since those worrisome days, OSP has been on a real tear and is currently 9-1-0 in his last ten fights with the lone loss at the hands of the #9 ranked UFC light heavyweight and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Gegard Mousasi. OSP will likely bring in to this fight a combustible mix of varied striking and athleticism that should pose serious problems for Villante on the feet. Villante was last seen outpointing Derrick Mehmen in May of 2012 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier ensuring that he exited the promotion on a three-fight win streak, taking his full Strikeforce record to 3-2-0. Villante will likely base his attacks off of his solid wrestling credentials and will need to take OSP down with regularity to stay out of trouble in the striking department. This fight seems to be a contest put together by the UFC to determine which of these promising 205lb’ers is the real deal and a win here for either man will see their stock rise considerably now that they are a part of the UFC. Personally I can’t imagine that a loss will result in a cut for either man, although stranger things have happened. The likely scenario is that the loser here will be given one more opportunity in the Octagon to prove himself against an opponent that someone of their abilities should take care of.

Sara McMann (6-0-0) vs. Sheila “The German Tank” Gaff (10-4-1) –

This is the third women’s bantamweight fight in UFC history and the two previous both won Fight of the Night honours. So, no pressure girls. McMann is a former Women’s Freestyle Wrestling Olympic medallist having captured the silver for the USA at the Athens games in 2004. As expected, in her short MMA career so far McMann has relied heavily on her grappling credentials to dominate a fight and dictate where it needs to go for her to have her hand raised at the end of proceedings. Gaff, on the other hand, is a uniquely aggressive striker. “The German Tank” is currently in the midst of a three-fight winning run with all three contests ending in the 1st via KO/TKO; two of these opponents didn’t even make it to the 0:10 mark. Both women will be making their Octagon debut and while the winner will likely only be one or two fights away from title talk, whoever loses out here will almost definitely be kept around due to their potential and the depth of the division.

Rustam “Tiger” Khabilov (15-1-0) vs. Yancy “Frisson” Medeiros (9-0-0) –
Khabilov was last seen this past December making his UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter Season 16 finale throwing around Vinc Pichel with reckless abandon en-route to a 1st round TKO as a direct result of one of the Russian’s suplexes. Training out of Jackson MMA, Khabilov will look to build on his impressive start to life as a UFC lightweight with another victory extending his current four fight win streak. Another exciting performance for the 2007 Sambo World Champion would surely see not only a boost in rankings and opponent but also a place on the main card of an event, granting Khabilov a far more exposed platform to display his talents. This Saturday, Khabilov will be up against a UFC newcomer in the form of undefeated Yancy Medeiros. Medeiros is a more than capable striker with six of his nine victories coming via KO/TKO and will look to test Khabilov’s stand up far more sternly than the Russian’s last opponent. The two-time Strikeforce vet Medeiros was last seen fighting for the now defunct organisation all the way back in June of 2010 where he managed to rack up his ninth straight victory. The nearly three year lay-off is perhaps not the most alarming aspect of Medeiros’ involvement in this fight. This is because Medeiros will be making his lightweight debut having competed exclusively as a middleweight in his career thus far. Who needs the welterweight division? Not this guy, that’s who.

Leonard “Bad Boy” Garcia (15-10-1) vs. Cody “AK Kid” McKenzie (13-3-0) –
Let’s all just get real for a second. Featherweights Leonard Garcia and Cody McKenzie are not the two greatest fighters you are ever likely to see. Garcia is a limited fighter who often lets his heart rule his head and engages in sloppy brawls with technique cast firmly to the way side. McKenzie is a one-trick pony (11 of McKenzie’s 13 victories have come via guillotine choke or the ‘McKenzietine’ as it has come to be known), who when that fails, seems to find himself immersed in a striking battle that he tends to lose thanks to his innate ability to successfully block shots with his head. However, saying all that, this is exactly why this fight is matchmaking of the highest order and my guilty pleasure at UFC 159. This fight will be perfect for all those reasons (see failings) that I have listed. Garcia will throw away a perfectly crafted Greg Jackson game-plan as soon as he gets hit and resort to standing in front of McKenzie flailing his arms with bad intention. In response, McKenzie, if he fails to sink in his signature choke, will gladly oblige Garcia’s invitation to a good old fashioned punch-up and look to out-crazy him on the feet. Mark this down for Fight of the Night.

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