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Get ready for some amazing MMA action this Saturday as it is UFC 159. We, as MMA fans, are blessed with several cards this month. This is definitely one of the biggest ones as we have “the greatest light-heavyweight match up in history” between Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones. But before we get to that, we have some prelim action to take care of! Let’s take of business.

Steven Siler vs. Kurt Holobaugh

To start things off we have a featherweight match up between the very-experienced, Steven Siler, against Kurt Holobaugh, who is making his UFC debut and is coming from Strikeforce. Siler started off very well in the UFC; we went on a 3-fight win streak showcasing his dominant grappling skills before tasting defeat against Darren Elkins. Siler is a very crafty grappler who has won the majority of his fights by either submission or decision. Across the cage will be Kurt Holobaugh; a 9-1 fighter who is also known for being skilled on the ground. The one thing Holobaugh brings into the cage that Siler does not is knockout ability. Holobaugh is a heavy hitter, so look for Siler to try to neutralize him on the ground.

I’m expecting this to get past the first round. Both of these guys are finishers, but because they’re both pretty evenly matched in a lot of areas, I think it’ll drag on into the second or the third. Holobaugh’s only loss is to Pat Healy, by decision, so you know Holobaugh is a tough fighter who can take punishment. Siler on the other hand, has been finished 9 times in his career. Do not be surprised if Holobaugh chooses to keep this fight on the feet where he has an advantage, and use his power to land and finish Siler for the upset. However, Siler is much more experienced, and already has 4 UFC fights under his belt. Look for Siler to be cautious on the feet, but eventually find a way to get the bout to the ground late in the fight where he overwhelms Holobaugh and finishes him with a choke.

Steven Siler via 2nd Rd Submission

Nick Catone vs. James Head

These two welteweights lie somewhere in the middle of the division, and are looking to break into the upper-echelon. Unfortunately, one of these guys will drop down after this bout. Both guys have a decent amount of UFC experience, and both guys have shown well-rounded skills. I think this is going to be a grueling, hard, 15 minute battle between two pretty evenly matched guys.

One interesting aspect about this fight is that both are former middleweights. Catone when 2-3 in the UFC at a higher weight class, but lost his welterweight debut by submission. However, James Head is 2-1 at welterweight since losing his UFC debut at middleweight. Both fighters have possessed solid stand-up skills, and also wrestling skills. Catone is a Div. 1 wrestler, so I think he’ll have the advantage in the offensive grappling. However, James Head has shown very solid defensive grappling, and he uses elusive footwork to avoid takedown attempts.

I think this fight will come down to aggression. Catone is a very aggressive fighter, and he’s shown that brawling-styled attitude in the cage where he gets in his opponent’s face and makes the fight ugly. Head on the other hand is a more passive styled fighter. He uses his footwork and seems very patient on the feet. I think Catone’s ability to move forward combined with his takedown attempts will be enough to edge Head’s smart boxing and defensive grappling. I’ll take Catone in the end.

Nick Catone via Split Decision

Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie

After 4 straight losses, Leonard Garcia is an extreme do-or-die situation. He’s been praised by Dana White and the UFC for his relentless style and exciting fights, but that can only go so far; eventually, he needs to start winning. He’s taking on the choke-specialist Cody McKenzie who has also faced a streak of bad luck having only won once in the past 2 and a half years. That’s exactly what Cody McKenzie is, a specialist. It seems like Cody’s only way to win fights is if he catches his opponent shooting in on him with a guillotine, or if he catches them off guard on the ground. Otherwise, his opponent can smash him on the feet, or take him down and brutalize his feeble body on the mat. In my eyes, this is an extremely winnable fight for Leonard Garcia that should be able to showcase Garcia at his best.

I have no doubt in my mind that Garcia is going to want to keep this fight on the feet, and McKenzie will want this fight on the ground. Now, who is going to able to impose their will on one another? When you compare these two, you have to give the wrestling advantage to Garcia. Yes, Cody is the better grappler, but when it comes to wrestling, it’s Garcia’s strength, pace, and pressure that will allow him to keep the fight where he wants it.

With Garcia being the one controlling where the action goes, this will allow him to keep it on the feet and turn McKenzie into a punching bag. Look for McKenzie to be overwhelmed in the first round by Garcia who backs him against the cage and unloads with haymakers to get the stoppage.

Leonard Garcia via 1st Rd TKO

Bryan Caraway vs. Johnny Bedford

Up next is an exciting fight between two guys with a lot of potential to bring to the bantamweight division. Grappling-ace, Bryan Caraway, will be taking on Jon Fitch look-alike Johnny Bedford who will be looking to be continuing his streak in the UFC. Both guys have originated from the Ultimate Fighter, and have complete opposite styles. Bedford is a tough, gritty, aggressive well-rounded fighter who is absolutely huge at 135 lbs. He loves to attack the body, hits very hard, and also brings a tremendous wrestling game. He’ll be taking on Bryan Caraway who is 2-1 in the UFC. Caraway is a finisher when it comes to grappling, as he has four times in his 23 pro-bouts, and has 14 wins by submission. Caraway is a Joe Lauzon type of grappler, which means he uses superior technique, speed, and unpredictability to remain one step ahead of his opponent. He’s insanely crafty, and is also improve a lot on his feet.

This is one of the most interesting bouts on the prelims for me, because I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think Caraway will pose as a big problem to Bedford on the feet, but he definitely will on the ground. Bedford has lost nearly all of his fights by decision, and being a long-limb fighter will only help Caraway. The big question in this fight will be in Bedford is going to be able to stop Caraway from getting the fight to the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised if Caraway pulled guard, or dropped down on a leg seeing as Bedford stands very tall.

My brain tells me that Caraway should be able to pressure Bedford against the cage, and get a takedown off of there. From there, expect Bedford to utilize his wrestling skills to get back up to his feet, but not without Caraway getting his back. When Caraway is ontop, he’s one of the craftiest grapplers in the game. I’m picking Caraway to get it done inside of the first round as he catches Bedford off guard.

Bryan Caraway via 1st Rd Submission

Sara McMann vs. Sheila Gaff

Set for the third female bout under the UFC; Sara McMann against Sheila Gaff. Sara McMann is an extremely skilled wrestler with very high credentials in submission wrestling and freestyle wrestling. She’s been able to adapt those styles very well in MMA, using her strength, athleticism, grappling technique, and explosiveness to dominate her opponents. She’s undefeated in MMA and has a decision victory over Shayna Baszler. Her opponent, Sheila Gaff, is an extremely aggressive fighter from Germany who is known for her “berserking” style. She likes to charge her opponents in the first round and drop bombs on the feet. She’s currently on a 3-fight win streak with 1 minute and 52 seconds of total fight time.

When analyzing this fight, it’s pretty clear; if McMann is able to weather the storm and tie Gaff up, it’s all hers. Gaff starts out hard and heavy, and if her opponent doesn’t have something to do about it, she picks up momentum and will most likely finish them. Unfortunately, Sara McMann has something to do about. McMann is an extremely experienced competitor, and has fought on the fairly big stage in Invicta FC being the headlining event. Look for McMann to get in trouble early, but fall back on her instincts and tie this fight up and control the action. From there, she’ll be able to tie Gaff out, control her in the clinch and on the ground, and grind her out for a decision if not a stoppage.

Sara McMann via Unanimous Decision

Gian Villante vs. Ovince St. Preux

Up next is a light-heavyweight match up between two fighters making their UFC debuts. They’re both coming from Strikeforce and have received some decent exposure there, especially for OSP. Villante went 3-2 in Strikeforce, being noted for his striking game. He’s a hard hitter with a decent wrestling game to fall back on if need be. His opponent, OSP, brings an extreme amount of athleticism and grappling abilities in the cage. He doesn’t have much credentials, but he has shown it in the cage. He has creative takedowns, a smother top game, and very high-level submissions. He reminds me a bit of Phil Davis.

Honestly, I’m wondering if the UFC isn’t give St. Preux this fight to try and get him some recognition. Villante doesn’t have much to offer on the ground as his main strength is on the feet. OSP should have no problem taking this fight down, and controlling it from the top position. From there, the question becomes whether or not St. Preux can get the finish or not. Villante has not been submitted in his career, but he hasn’t faced a grappler like OSP before. I’ll take Ovince by a late submission as he stifles Villante’s striking game and smothers him from top position.

Ovince St. Preux via 3rd Rd Submission

Rustam Khabilov vs. Yancy Medeiros

Set to close the prelims is a very exciting bout between two young up n’ comers in the lightweight division. “Rusty” Khabilov has a record of 15-1 and won his UFC debut in impressive fashion, scoring the KO victory with three consecutive suplexes. He’s of course known for his wrestling and sambo skills combined with his strength and explosiveness. The lightweight division is fairly shallow when it comes to skilled sambo fighters, so Khabilov could potentially be a top ranked fighter in no time. However, he’s taking on a very talented prospect in Yancy Medeiros. Medeiros is an undefeated Hawaiin fighter who has won the majority of his bouts by way of knockout. He’s a very explosive striker who packs some serious power in his punches. This could be a very exciting fight.

Honestly, the one thing that I look at in this fight is what both fighters are expected to do. Khabilov has already given himself a spotlight, and a lot of pressure after such an impressive UFc debut. Being so inexperienced against top competition, Khabilov could very well be too over-confident in this bout and come out and get caught right away. Medeiros is no joke, and only needs one punch to be able to end Rustam’s night. Medeiros on the other hand is an unknown fighter who doesn’t really have anything to lose. As long as he comes out exciting and aggressive like he usually does, he’ll be guaranteed another chance. This could very well stack the odds against Khabilov, who is a very big favorite in this fight.

For those reasons, I’m going to pick Medeiros as an underdog pick. Khabilov has lots of undeserved hype; yes, he won his debut impressively, but he hasn’t faced any top competition and Medeiros has the style and power to pull off the upset. I think Khabilov will be a little too comfortable in the opening moments, get caught coming in, try to save himself by using his wrestling, but get blasted by Medeiros who is just too hard of a hitter at 155 lbs.

Yancy Medeiros via 1st Rd TKO

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That’s all for the prelims, stay tuned for the main card tomorrow! Thanks for reading!