TUF 12 Finale Preview

Leonard Garcia (14-6-1) vs. Nam Phan (16-7-0)

It’s a miracle!

Either “Bad Boy” needs to change his nickname to Wolverine to represent his rapid healing mutant powers or the UFC just took the easiest path to switch the fight card and said he had an injury that didn’t actually exist.

Regardless of the situation, this is going to be a great way to kick off the card, as every Garcia fight is entertaining, and Phan has proven himself to have the all-around game and conditioning to hang with the Greg Jackson student.

Thankfully for Phan, he hasn’t had to try and prepare for this fight while fending off the annoying antics of his eliminated teammates.

Johny Hendricks (9-0-0) vs. Rick Story (11-3-0)

You may not be excited about this fight, but I am. Both of these welterweights are on my list of dark horse contenders heading into 2011, and this bout will determine which one takes that next step forward.

Hendricks is a former All-American wrestler from Oklahoma State, but don’t think of him as just a wrestler. He won his UFC debut with a quick knockout of TUF 7 winner Amir Sadollah, and earned his last victory over Charlie Brenneman with a TKO finish as well. Training in tandem with the talents at Xtreme Couture and Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai gym, Hendricks has been getting a well-rounded education in the sport and has earned straight A’s to date.

After losing his UFC debut to John Hathaway at UFC 99, Story has put together four-straight wins to climb up the welterweight ladder. His arm triangle from inside Brian Foster’s half-guard was outstanding, and his TKO victory over Dustin Hazelett this summer in Oakland sent “McLovin” to the lightweight division.

The winner of this fight will get a bump up in competition for their next encounter, while the loser will remain a staple in the middle of the division.

Demian Maia (13-2-0) vs. Kendall Grove (12-7-0)

This is one of those fights where I’m nearly positive of what will take place, yet not completely sold that the outcome will actually end up meeting those expectations.

Maia and Grove aren’t in the same league despite being in the same division; the Brazilian is a former title challenger who has faced some of the top 185-pound fighters in the organization, while Grove has never managed to climb above the middle of the pack since winning Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter.

Those facts make Maia the heavy favorite, with a submission win seemingly like the sure outcome, but the crazy thing about Grove is that every so often, he puts together a performance that surprises you – like his D’Arce choke win over Alan Belcher.

Until he puts it all together and actually earns a win against an opponent of Maia’s standing, I’m expecting my expected outcome to come through.

Jonathan Brookins (11-3-0) vs. Michael Johnson (8-4-0)

The battle for the title of The Ultimate Fighter is an all Team GSP affair featuring the top two talents from the welterweight champion’s camp.

After a season’s worth of episodes and three fights for both men, you know the gist of what each fighter brings to the table. Brookins has exhibited quick transitions and slick submissions, while Johnson makes the most of his natural abilities and raw athleticism, as well as a double leg takedown to score points.

What intrigues me about this contest is whether or not Johnson has built up better cardio since the cameras stopped rolling. He seemed to tire in each of his outings on the show, and Brookins isn’t the type of fighter you want to gas against.

Conversely, Brookins will have to contest with the athleticism and strength of his opponent. Getting the better of a pair of judokas and a grinder like Kyle Watson is a totally different experience than contending with the power/speed/size package presented by Johnson.

Stephan Bonnar (12-7-0) vs. Igor Pokrajac (22-7-0)

Since his epic encounter with Forrest Griffin at the first ever Ultimate Fighter Finale, “The American Psycho” has put on a number of entertaining bouts, including his back-to-back battles with Krzysztof Soszynski in 2010.

Bonnar is an example in longevity and popularity, a fighter any number of up-and-comers and seasoned veterans could learn a thing or two from. Anyone wanting to see how to maintain long-term employment with the UFC needs to watch Bonnar’s highlight reel. He’s willing to scrap it out with the best of them, and while he has come away on the wrong side of the cards on more than a handful of occasions in recent years, fans still can’t get enough of the Indiana native.

Pokrajac is a long-time training partner of Mirko Cro Cop, and has gone 1-2 through three trips into the Octagon thus far. Unlike his more well-known training partner, Pokrajac prefers the ground game, coming into the cage with a wrestling and jiu jitsu base.

Though both men have solid ground games they could rely on, don’t expect to see this one contested on the canvas, at least not for very long. They’ll stand, they’ll bang, and the people will cheer wildly, exactly what the UFC expected when they put this pairing together at the top of the card.