TUF 12 Finale: What To Watch For

By Tim Leidecker Dec 2, 2010
Fredson Paixao submits his foe: Mike Fridley | Sherdog.com

For the twelfth time, a season of The Ultimate Fighter is coming to a close. Jonathan Brookins and Michael Johnson have battled through six weeks of hard training, observation, isolation and in-house madness to make it to the final for the famous six-figure contract.

The “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale” will also feature the first time that the 135-pound and 145-pound weight classes will be integrated into the UFC: Fredson Paixao and Pablo Garza will be the first featherweights to grace the Octagon, while Will Campuzano and Nick Pace are set to become the first bantamweights to step into the UFC cage.

For all the storylines, angles and intangibles, this is what you should watch for:

Has Johnson Picked Up Sub Defense?

The game plan for Springfield Fight Club’s Johnson is relatively simple: Use his wrestling to keep the fight standing and outpoint Brookins on the feet. If the fight does go to the ground, the 24-year-old from Missouri will want to spend only limited time there with an opponent who has taken eight of his 11 wins by way of submission.

Brookins has a distinct advantage in the experience department as he has entered the sport 18 months earlier than his opponent. While Johnson was mainly active in the Midwest circuit, Brookins has fought for Global promotions such as WEC and Bellator. In the 25-year-old Floridian’s lone WEC appearance, he pushed eventual champion Jose Aldo for two rounds before eventually being stopped in the third.

Will Demian Maia go Back to his Bread and Butter?

The Demian Maia who entered the UFC in 2007 only had one objective in mind -- to submit his opponent. Before the Nate Marquardt fight, Maia shifted his focus to becoming a more complete mixed martial artist. The 33-year-old jiu-jitsu virtuoso was criticized for his new approach by BJJ royalty like Rickson Gracie, who suggested that he should focus on his strengths instead of working his weaknesses. It will be interesting to see which Maia will show up against “The Ultimate Fighter” season three winner Kendall Grove.

Although Grove has tasted defeat in four of his last eight fights, the rangy Hawaiian has never been submitted inside the Octagon. A win over the top-ten ranked Maia would keep the “Spyder” in the loop of the middleweight division. It’s important to point out that the Team Punishment product has not won back-to-back fights in over 18 months, however.

File Photo

Nam Phan
Is 145 the Weight for Nam Phan?

When Nam Phan entered this season of the Ultimate Fighter, fans who had followed his career knew that even though he was a seasoned veteran with good technical skills, he was fighting above his natural weight of 145 pounds. As a featherweight, the Vietnamese-American has enjoyed significant success with a solid win against former Shooto champion Hideki Kadowaki.

His opponent, Leonard Garcia, also had to drop down to 145 pounds before finding success in his fighting career at the highest level. As a UFC lightweight, the Greg Jackson protégé went 1-2 with decision losses to Roger Huerta and Cole Miller. In the WEC, he has compiled a 4-3-1 record with knockout wins over Hiroyuki Takaya, Jens Pulver and a controversial split decision nod against Chan Sung Jung in April.

Will Paixao Finally Display his BJJ in the Octagon?

Four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Fredson Paixao has long been championed as one of the most outstanding BJJ players in the MMA game today. However, the 31-year-old Osvaldo Alves black belt has not been able to show the range of his ground skills of late, with the majority of his recent bouts going the distance.

In the UFC’s first ever featherweight bout, Paixao will face TUF 12 cast member Pablo Garza. The 27-year-old North Dakotan was eliminated in the first round by eventual finalist Johnson, and did not make it into the house. Prior to TUF, Garza was active in the Midwest, winning his first nine fights, six by way of submission. The 6-foot-1-inch featherweight was then drafted into the WEC, losing his debut to the “Mongolian Wolf,” Tie Quan Zhang.

Paixao is facing the same difficulties fellow BJJ standouts like Roger Gracie and Alexandre "Xande" Ribeiro are encountering: adapting his game to the changed challenges and requirements an MMA fight brings. Will the tiny Brazilian go on to become the next Fabricio Werdum, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza or even Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, or will his MMA career fizzle out like those of Marcelo Garcia, Saulo Ribeiro and Robson Moura?

Contact Tim Leidecker at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1 or follow him on twitter @Rossonero1.
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