By Brad Fauber
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been on the rise for years now, and you can count me in as one of the people who jumped on the sport's bandwagon several years ago as it really began to pick up steam.
Now, I don't go out of my way to watch every single pay-per-view event that UFC president Dana White constructs, but every few months there is a fight that I just have to see.
One of those fights is happening tonight at UFC 159, which will take place at 10 p.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The five-bout main card contains a few names that are familiar to anyone who pays attention to mixed martial arts, and there is the potential for some exciting fights.
All eyes have to be on the main event, where current light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones will square off with Chael Sonnen in the 205-pound bout. The match-up itself isn't all that alluring -- Jones is heavily favored to beat Sonnen, who hasn't competed in the light heavyweight division in years -- but there are a few reasons to still watch this fight.
For starters, a fight involving Jones -- the youngest champion in UFC -- is rarely boring, and any chance to see the athletic 6-foot-4, 25-year-old showcase his 84 ½-inch reach inside the octagon is one worth taking.
Also, a win tonight for Jones (17-1) would tie him with Tito Ortiz for the most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses, with five. Jones has publicly said that he wants to beat Ortiz's record, and he will then entertain the idea of competing in "super fights" with other UFC superstars, and Jones may even make the jump to heavyweight.
Perhaps the most enticing part of tonight's fight, however, is the chance that Jones has to silence Sonnen once and for all. Sonnen (28-13-1) is probably far better known for his pre-fight trash talking than for anything that he has accomplished in the octagon, and his on-air rants against his various opponents sometimes seems a better fit for professional wrestling (the fake kind) than MMA.
Sonnen has lived up to his reputation in the months leading up to his UFC 159 match with Jones, as his mouth has literally run nonstop since last August. We've seen this type of act from Sonnen before, most notably prior to his two fights with current middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Sonnen failed to deliver on promises of a victory in either of those two fights, and a loss to Jones tonight could permanently remove the 36-year-old Sonnen from any talk of competing for another title in the future.
A Jones victory tonight is a very good possibility. Sonnen's strength is his wrestling -- he was an All-American at the University of Oregon -- but Jones has shown the ability to dictate a fight, and Jones can keep any fight standing if he chooses to. Jones will certainly choose to stay on his feet, and he will use his 10 ½-inch reach advantage to continuously apply pressure on an overmatched Sonnen.
Fans of a traditional boxing-style approach will also enjoy the heavyweight bout between Roy "Big Country" Nelson -- curly-haired mullet, beer gut and all -- and UFC veteran Cheick Kongo. Nelson is surprisingly well rounded on the ground given his physique, but he has knockout power and will most likely look to slug it out against Kongo, an area where Nelson should have a distinct advantage.
The middleweight fight between Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher is another bout where a fighter will have a chance to back up all of the trash talking that he has done over the past few months. But unlike Sonnen, Bisping will be favored to win his fight. "The Count" is known for going the distance against opponents, and Bisping should outlast Belcher for the victory.
A lightweight fight between Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes, and a lightweight bout between Jim Miller and Pat Healy round out the main fight card, and there are plenty of preliminary fights before the main card that will be worth watching.
If mixed martial arts is your thing, tonight's UFC 159 will certainly provide plenty of intriguing match-ups to take a look at.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com