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No surprise in UFC 159 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Sonnen’s a long shot, but not the longest shot

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Middleweight challenger Chael Sonnen boxes during a news conference and media work out Thursday, July 5, 2012 in advance of UFC 148.

The common refrain leading up to UFC 159 suggests that Chael Sonnen beating Jon Jones would mark the biggest upset in promotional history.

Odds-wise, that’s untrue. At least two underdogs bigger than Sonnen, in main events no less, have prevailed in the past — Frankie Edgar at plus-700 (risking $1 to win $7) over B.J. Penn at UFC 112 most recently and Matt Serra at plus-850 over Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 most memorably.

Sonnen could climb higher before fight night, but the challenger to the light heavyweight championship is currently around plus-650 at the vast majority of sports books. Jones comes back at minus-950 (risking $9.50 to win $1).

Both Penn and St. Pierre in the aforementioned fights were quadruple-digit favorites.

It’s not as if oddsmakers are disrespecting Jones, as their numbers still indicate he has a 90 percent chance to keep the belt.

The Sun’s picks panel sees no reason to dispute that. All five prognosticators took Jones to tie the UFC record with five straight light heavyweight title defenses.

Check below for a breakdown, betting odds and picks on every fight from the Sun’s Ray Brewer (39-19 year to date), 2012 champion and KSNV’s Kevin West (39-19), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (38-20), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (37-21) and 2011 champion Case Keefer (34-24) from the Sun.

Chael Sonnen

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 6-5
  • MMA record 27-12-1
  • Out of: West Linn, Ore.
  • Betting line: +650

Champion Jon Jones

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 11-1
  • MMA record 17-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -950

Light Heavyweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Lost to Anderson Silva via second-round TKO at UFC 148.

Punch list: Sonnen moves to light heavyweight after going 0-2 against Silva but, as he’ll happily remind everyone at any opportunity, he took five of seven rounds against the champion. Since the most sought-after superfight is Jones vs. Silva, Sonnen’s performance here will be endlessly compared to his first two failed title shots. Silva set the bar low with two-adversity fueled losses, but Jones will need to far surpass that output to escape criticism.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Jones

Cofield: Jones

Last fight: Defeated Vitor Belfort by fourth-round TKO at UFC 152.

Punch list: To hardcore UFC fans, this fight concludes a rather forgettable stretch of Jones’ career. After beating five former champions in 13 months to start his reign, “Bones” has now met two veteran middleweights without the typical credentials needed to challenge for the light heavyweight title. Judging by his reaction to promoting UFC 159, Jones might feel the same way as everyone else. He’s been very standoffish and disinterested in talking about Sonnen.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jones

Brewer: Jones

Okamoto: Jones

No. 10 Alan Belcher

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 9-5
  • MMA record 18-7
  • Out of: Biloxi, Miss.
  • Betting line: +140

No. 4 Michael Bisping

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 186
  • UFC record 13-5
  • MMA record 23-5
  • Out of: Manchester, England
  • Betting line: -170

Middleweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous-decision loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 155.

Punch list: In contrast to Bisping, Belcher is staying in the shadows and not drumming up any controversy. That’s just who he is as someone who’s been with the company longer than the vast majority of the roster, seven years, but has never moved to the top of the middleweight division. The Okami loss was a major setback to that ever happening as Belcher had pieced together a four-fight winning streak before the bout.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Bisping

Cofield: Belcher

Last fight: Second-round knockout loss against Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7.

Punch list: Brash as always, Bisping has guaranteed a victory in Newark, N.J. He’s given Belcher little credit, calling his opponent’s career “pathetic” and saying he could beat him even with a rash of injuries. These are usually the type of bouts “The Count” strives in. He’s now 0-3 in top-contender fights after the Belfort loss but wins plenty to get into those positions in the first place.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Bisping

Brewer: Bisping

Okamoto: Bisping

Cheick Kongo

  • Age: 37
  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 229
  • UFC record 11-5-1
  • MMA record 18-7-2
  • Out of: Paris
  • Betting line: +185

No. 6 Roy Nelson

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 252
  • UFC record 5-3
  • MMA record 18-7
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: -235

Heavyweight Bout

Featured Fight

Last fight: Unanimous-decision win over Shawn Jordan at UFC 149.

Punch list: Ready to hear the most basic but mind-blowing statistic? Kongo has won three of four fights in the last two years. It just doesn’t feel that way with two absolutely dreadful performances in wins — against Jordan and Matt Mitrione — and one lopsided loss to Mark Hunt. Also mixed in to start the streak was the memorable first-round knockout over Pat Barry when Kongo admitted to coming back from unconsciousness for the victory.

Picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Nelson

Cofield: Nelson

Last fight: Knocked out Matt Mitrione in the first round at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: Where Nelson falls in the heavyweight division is rather clear right now: He’s a fringe top-10 guy who puts on exciting fights but will likely never challenge for the belt. Of course, “Big Country” disagrees with that. He’s not shy about thinking he deserves a spot among the elite, regularly referencing the three rounds he went with Junior dos Santos three years ago. But between dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum and Frank Mir, Nelson has always come up short against the best fighters at heavyweight.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Nelson

Brewer: Kongo

Okamoto: Nelson

Vinny Magalhaes

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 10-5
  • Out of: Las Vegas
  • Betting line: +250

No. 8 Phil Davis

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 6-1
  • MMA record 10-1
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: -325

Light Heavyweight Bout

Pay-Per-View Fight

Last fight: Submitted Igor Pokrajac in the second round at UFC 152.

Punch list: Other fighters could learn at least one important lesson from Magalhaes. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace proves that it’s possible to get the bout a fighter seeks if he’ll only ask. Coming off of only one victory since returning to the UFC for the first time in three years, Magalhaes called out Davis. The promotion and Davis himself both gladly obliged.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Davis

Cofield: Davis

Last fight: Submitted Wagner Prado in the second round at UFC 153.

Punch list: After a brief demotion to the preliminary card, Phil Davis is back in the spotlight of the pay-per-view. He needs to make the most of it. Long viewed as a potential challenger to Jon Jones, Davis can’t expect that to happen if he loses another fight. Jones’ days in the 205-pound division seem numbered as he talks about moving on to heavyweight or superfights.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Davis

Brewer: Davis

Okamoto: Davis

Pat Healy

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 29-16
  • Out of: Portland, Ore.
  • Betting line: +240

No. 4 Jim Miller

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 11-3
  • MMA record 21-4
  • Out of: Whippany, N.J.
  • Betting line: -300

Lightweight Bout

Main Card Opener

Last fight: Defeated Kurt Holobaugh by unanimous decision at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine.

Punch list: Entering the UFC after suffering a case of bad luck, “Bam Bam” was scheduled to face Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce title before an injury to the champion prevented the bout. Now the journeyman is, at best, a couple wins away from UFC contendership. But he is on a six-fight winning streak, which is hard to ignore.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Miller

Cofield: Healy

Last fight: Unanimous-decision victory over Joe Lauzon at UFC 155.

Punch list: Coming off of a Fight of the Year performance against Lauzon, Miller faces a whole different type of challenge in Healy. Defense will be as important as offense in Miller’s fourth fight in front of his home state in the last five years, as he’ll need to thwart Healy’s wrestling. He stated his goal is getting a stoppage over Healy.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Miller

Brewer: Miller

Okamoto: Miller

Yancy Medeiros

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 9-0
  • Out of: Wai’anae, Hawaii
  • Betting line: +250

Rustam Khabilov

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 15-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -325

Lightweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Second-round knockout over Gareth Joseph at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum.

Punch list: Medeiros hasn’t fought in three years, and fans probably won’t recognize him when he returns Saturday. That’s because the Hawaiian is making a weight-class drop — a big one. Medeiros goes from middleweight to lightweight in this bout. He’s a striker who’s knocked out six of his seven opponents.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Khabilov

Cofield: Khabilov

Last fight: Knocked out Vinc Pichel in the first round at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: It may seem like a big jump for Khabilov to headline the FX portion of the card in his second UFC fight, but it shows how much the promotion thinks of him. The Russian striker is one of the top prospects at lightweight. He opened a lot of eyes by tossing around a game Pichel wit body slams and haymkaers last December.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Khabilov

Brewer: Khabilov

Okamoto: Khabilov

Ovince Saint Preux

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 12-5
  • Out of: Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Betting line: -200

Gian Villante

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record10-3
  • Out of: Bellmore, N.Y.
  • Betting line: +160

Light Heavyweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Third-round knockout victory against T.J. Cook at Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman.

Punch list: Saint Preux brings an athletic background into the UFC that not many can match. He played college football as a linebacker at Tennessee. His brother was a wide receiver at UNLV. Saint Preux uses the strength he spent his life developing to control opponents in the cage.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Villante

Cofield: Saint Preux

Last fight: Unanimous-decision win over Derrick Mehmen at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier.

Punch list: This must be one of the only fights in UFC history that pits two former college football standouts against each other. Villante was the lesser of the two on the gridiron as he played four years at Division-II Hofstra. He wrestled at the same time, which paved his path to mixed martial arts.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Saint Preux

Brewer: Saint Preux

Okamoto: Saint Preux

No. 9 Sheila Gaff

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 10-4
  • Out of: Eschwege, Germany
  • Betting line: +400

No. 6 Sara McMann

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 6-0
  • Out of: Gaffney, S.C.
  • Betting line: -700

Women’s Bantamweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Knocked out Jennifer Maia in the first round at Cage Warriors: Fight Night 4.

Punch list: Only one of “The German Tank’s” fights have ever gone to decision, which she lost unanimously three years ago. Her last three fights are what landed her in the UFC as she knocked out all the opponents in a combined time of 1:52. Two of the knockouts came in 10 seconds or less.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: McMann

Cofield: McMann

Last fight: Beat Shayna Baszler by unanimous decision at Invicta FC 2.

Punch list: The third women’s fight in UFC history has a lot to live up to. Both of the first two bouts were considered resounding successes. McMann is one of the most highly touted fighters the UFC scooped up for its new 135-pound female division. She competed in Olympic wrestling, winning a silver medal in 2004, before moving to MMA with great success.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: McMann

Brewer: McMann

Okamoto: McMann

Johnny Bedford

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 19-9
  • Out of: Fort Worth, Texas
  • Betting line: -150

Bryan Caraway

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 17-6
  • Out of: Goldendale, Wash.
  • Betting line: +120

Bantamweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Knocked out Marcos Vinicius in the first round at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: After two years and two knockouts, Bedford finds himself on a major UFC card for the first time. He holds a reach and size advantage over almost everyone at 135 pounds. Bedford has a wrestling background, but has won his last five fights by either submission or knockout. He was a castmate with Caraway on the 14th season of “TUF”.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Bedford

Cofield: Caraway

Last fight: Lost to Takeya Mizugaki by split decision at UFC on FUEL TV 8.

Punch list: “Kid Lightning” took this assignment on less than a week’s notice after Erik Perez dropped out with an injury. Caraway probably wants to move past a disappointing situation in his last fight. Girlfriend Miesha Tate told him in his corner to “just coast” ahead of the third round in the close fight. Caraway then lost the third round and two of the three judges scored the fight against him.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Caraway

Brewer: Caraway

Okamoto: Bedford

Cody McKenzie

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 146
  • UFC record 2-3
  • MMA record 13-3
  • Out of: Spokane, Wash.
  • Betting line: +145

Leonard Garcia

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 1-4
  • MMA record 15-10-1
  • Out of: Lubbock, Texas
  • Betting line: -175

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Knocked out by Chad Mendes in the first round at UFC 148.

Punch list: McKenzie made a name for himself through having one of the best guillotine chokes in MMA, but he hasn’t found a chance to show it much recently. He’s lost three of four. His last 11 wins, sure enough, are by guillotine choke but his striking and wrestling are mediocre at-best compared to other UFC fighters.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: McKenzie

Cofield: McKenzie

Last fight: Split-decision loss to Max Holloway at UFC 155.

Punch list: Both fighters must win here to keep their job with the UFC. Garcia would normally be long gone after four straight losses but he’s arguably the most exciting fighter in the UFC and dropped a controversial decision his last time out. Plenty of close fights have gone Garcia’s way over the years, however, as his last three victories are by split decision.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: McKenzie

Brewer: McKenzie

Okamoto: Garcia

James Head

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 2-2
  • MMA record 9-3
  • Out of: Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • Betting line: -160

Nick Catone

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 3-4
  • MMA record 9-4
  • Out of: Brick Township, N.J.
  • Betting line: +130

Welterweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: First-round TKO loss against Mike Pyle at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: Head’s streak of 11 fights without ever getting finished came to an inglorious end four months ago. Pyle caught him with a knee less than two minutes into their fight at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. This marks the first fight the full-time petroleum engineer has been favored in his career.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Head

Cofield: Head

Last fight: Second-round submission loss to T.J. Waldburger at “The Ultimate Fighter” 16 finale.

Punch list: “The Jersey Devil” looks to snap a two-fight skid. It might be a good sign that he’s fighting in front of his home-state, as he’s 6-1 in New Jersey including a win over top-10 opponent Costa Philippou two years ago. Big and strong, Catone’s best results come when he over-powers opponents with his wrestling and grappling.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Head

Brewer: Head

Okamoto: Head

Kurt Holobaugh

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 9-1
  • Out of: Independence, La.
  • Betting line: +110

Steven Siler

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 21-10
  • Out of: Orem, Utah
  • Betting line: -130

Featherweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Lost by unanimous decision to Pat Healy at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine.

Punch list: Holobaugh considers Chuck Liddell his idol, which is interesting considering Siler trains under “The Iceman’s” longtime coach John Hackelman. At his best, Holobaugh has shown impressive striking in the mold of Liddell. Holobaugh had knocked out two straight opponents before losing the first fight of his career against Healy.

Picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Siler

Cofield: Siler

Last fight: Lost to Darren Elkins by unanimous decision at UFC 154.

Punch list: Siler had a chance to move into the upper region of the 135-pound division with four straight wins, but got thoroughly out-wrestled by Elkins late last year. Holobaugh should be more open to brawl, which fits with Siler’s style better. While he’s shown enhanced striking, Siler has submitted 10 opponents since his last knockout.

Picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Holobaugh

Brewer: Siler

Okamoto: Siler

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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