Before Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen and the rest of the main card at UFC 159 get underway this Saturday night, there are several great fights on the undercard, including a showdown between two former Ultimate Fighter teammates.
Johnny Bedford will meet fellow former Team Mayhem fighter Bryan Caraway this weekend in New Jersey, while numerous top prospects will try to make their impacts felt when they compete in the Octagon.
There are several debuting fighters, including a slew of Strikeforce transfers looking to make a good first impression on UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva.
Who is favored to win? More importantly who will get you the most points in the UFC 159 UFC Pick ‘Em game this weekend? Let's take a look:
1) Johnny Bedford will face late replacement Bryan Caraway at UFC 159 after an injury forced original opponent Erik Perez out of the fight. It's never an enviable position for a fighter to be in taking a fight on literally five days’ notice, but that's what Caraway did. Short notice fighters are always at a bit of a disadvantage, so Caraway will earn you an extra 50 points if you pick him and he comes through, but that's a tough prospect with this matchup. Bedford has had a full training camp to prepare, he knows Caraway from their time training together during the Ultimate Fighter, and he's a nasty finisher. Since exiting the show, Bedford has knocked out both of his opponents. Caraway will probably look to get this fight to the ground with his tremendous wrestling base, but taking the fight on just a few days' notice and cutting down to 135 pounds could take its toll. Bedford will make Caraway work for everything he gets, and by the late second or early third round he will look to put him away.
2) Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann will look to make an impact in her first fight in the UFC when she takes on blitzing striker Sheila Gaff. This fight really is the classic "striker vs. grappler" showdown, with Gaff bringing the heat on the feet and McMann a medalist in wrestling in the Olympics. McMann should have the chance to continue her climb up the ranks this weekend because beyond her grappling pedigree, she's also going to have a size advantage in this one. Gaff has competed many times in the past at 125 pounds, and she'll be giving up considerable size and skill on the mat with a wrestler the likes of McMann. There's an extra 40 points up for grabs in this fight because both are debuting fighters, but McMann is the one on the fast track towards title contention in the next year.
3) Rustam Khabilov is a star on the rise in the UFC's lightweight division. A multi-time Russian Sambo champion, Khabilov now studies under the tutelage of famed trainer Greg Jackson and his team in New Mexico. His UFC debut was nothing short of breathtaking, as he leveled Vinc Pichel with a suplex before finishing the fight with strikes. This go round he'll take on UFC newcomer Yancy Medieros. Now Medeiros is no pushover, and he comes into the fight with a perfect 9-0 record as a prospect. He's got a tall order in front of him in this fight however, facing a machine like Khabilov. Medeiros is primarily a striker who likes to stand and bang with opponents, and while Khabilov is not opposed to that method of attack either, his sambo background means he can take this one to the ground as well. He's a powerful young lightweight to watch once he makes it to the main card and beyond. Khabilov should take that next step at UFC 159.
4) The fight that will kick off the UFC 159 card features featherweights Steven Siler and Kurt Holobaugh. Both fighters are coming off losses where they faced big, physically gifted wrestlers who held them down for the better part of 15 minutes. Expect both fighters to launch into this fight like a Jack in the Box being let loose off its spring. Holobaugh is a solid young prospect and with debuting points on his side it might be worth the risk to make this pick. Still, the bigger picture lands an extra 120 points for picking correctly in this one because it's a close matchup and the odds favor Siler slightly as the Octagon veteran. Siler has faced some stiff competition in his UFC career, and he's most dangerous when an opponent doesn't see him coming. This could be a great showcase fight to kick off the card, but Siler should come out on top.