Note: In addition to the the lightweight finals, three more matches featuring TUF 12 cast-members have been added to Saturday’s finale show. Details are at the end of this post…
"Now, fuck the team," George St. Pierre says to Jonathan Brookins and Kyle Watson to kick off last night’s episode. "There’s no more team." GSP won’t be giving strategic advice to Brookins and Watson for their red-on-red semifinal match; it’s time for them to sink or swim as individuals. John Danaher says this is the fight that should have been the final, as they’re the two most talented athletes.
Watson has seen enough of Brookins to know that he loves to shoot at his opponent’s lead leg for takedowns. In practice, Watson goes over how he’ll make Brookins pay for that, with uppercuts and lead knees. Meanwhile on Team Koscheck, training has ground to a halt. Only Nam Phan is left in the semis, and everybody else is just sitting there with their teeth in their mouth, bitching about their lots in life. Marc Stevens feels like he didn’t learn much from the TUF experience, and the yellow team in general feels envious of all the great guest-coaches that GSP brought in for his guys. Sevak sort-of comes to Koscheck’s defense: "I got a lot of positive things from Josh. I expected less."
After a few cocktails in the house, Marc Stevens starts doing a Josh Koscheck impression — barking orders, shouting motivational slogans, and texting on two cell phones — to everybody’s amusement. So obviously, Koscheck strolls in, just as Marc is in the middle of "then I had a date with Holly Madison even though she’s dating one of my best friends."
"For the record, I’m not dating her," Koscheck says. Oooooh, busted. Kos lets the insult go because Marc was drunk. And to ease the tension, he orders everybody to do shots, except for Nam, who has a fight coming up. More than anything, Kos is bothered by his guys’ envy of GSP and his coaches. "A lot of times when you have failure, you point fingers at other people instead of yourself," he says.
With his own fight coming up, Brookins wants to get some alone time to get his head in the proper space, but it’s hard to make that happen with Nam and Alex getting up in his shit all the time. Brookins says he didn’t disrespect his time on the show. He made the most of it, unlike Marc, who focused on how little he was given.
With their days numbered, Team Koscheck is turning on Nam Phan. They think he’s two-faced and shady, hanging with red team guys and trying to dig information from them. Brookins picks up on it and doesn’t trust him either. ("He’s on Team Nam.") Johnson thinks he’s a shit talker. Lentz calls him a gossiping girl. But there’s obviously envy there too, and it’s unfortunate that the team can’t unite behind their last remaining representative.
Nam is actually in Brookins’s corner for the first semi-final fight. Damn, the dude lingers like a bad fart. And now, Jonathan Brookins vs. Kyle Watson for a spot in the finals…
Round 1: Brookins starts off with jabs, but gets countered. Leg kick Watson. Brookins attacking but can’t land anything clean. Another leg kick from Watson. Brookins shoots, Watson stuffs it and snaps Brookins’s head back with a knee, just like he planned in practice. Brookins shoots again and gets the takedown this time. Watson gets up, Brookins presses him against the cage and they trade knees. Brookins works to drag Watson down, but Watson defends, gets in a couple knees and separates. They clash with punches. Brookins shoots and scores the takedown, but doesn’t do much with it. Watson twists to his hip and clamps down Brookins’s leg with his own legs. Brookins finally throws a punch down. Brookins tries to spin to Watson’s back, but he doesn’t have enough space between the fence so he goes inside Watson’s guard and starts throwing down some hard punches — his first significant shots of the fight. The round ends, and Brookins likely clinched it with that flurry.
Round 2: Brookins shoots for the single again, but Watson defends, so Brookins does his trusty lateral drop and puts Watson on his back. Brookins in guard again, and lands a few punches from the top. Watson inches his way back to the fence. More shots from Brookins. Watson tries to kick Brookins off, but Brookins dives back in and clamps onto Watson’s back when he tries to stand. Brookins tries to set up a choke but can’t get it so he drops elbows. Watson rolls to his back and Brookins goes back to abusing him from inside guard. Brookins stands for a moment then goes back inside Watson’s guard, landing a big punch. Watson kicks him off, Brookins springs back in. Brookins spins to half guard. Watson scrambles to his feet at the horn.
Round 3: They clinch and exchange knees against the fence. Watson lands one to the head and breaks away. Watson with a right hook. Leg kick, then takedown from Brookins, who sets Watson down against the fence. Both guys are pretty spent. Watson gets up and slugs Brookins in the ear a couple times while Brookins is clinched onto his waist. Brookins scores with a big slam…then just hangs out for a while. Finally, he sneaks in a sharp elbow. Brookins gets some space and throws down a set of punches. Brookins works his way onto Watson’s back as the round ends.
All three judges score it 30-27 for Brookins, who advances to the TUF 12 finals. GSP is disappointed in Watson, who didn’t attempt any submissions from his back and "fought to not lose." Dana White is very high on Brookins, and is amazed at how respectful and humble he is for how talented he is. Brookins says wants to be "worthy of the word humble." Now that’s humble.
Back at the house, Team Koscheck hatches a plan to catch Nam Phan masturbating. Seriously. Aaron Wilkinson says Phan takes hour-long showers every night, so Alex and the Armenians decide to sneak a peek for themselves. No homo? No, homo. So one night they creep into the bathroom while Nam is showering…and yes, it seems like they catch him beating off. The guys erupt in high-pitched giggles. Man, how you gonna mess with a man mid-jack? Not cool. "Thought we were adults, guys," Phan says.
Brookins thinks it’s disrespectful for Nam’s team to be treating him like that before a fight. Nam tells his team that he was in fact washing his genitals, and asks them to let him focus on his fight. The next day, Phan goes to train by himself — his coaches were "doing their own thing," and his teammates "had a late night" and weren’t available. He’s trying to stay positive and keep hustling even when things aren’t in his favor.
GSP says Michael Johnson is "probably the best athlete on my team…very explosive"(!), and great in transitioning from striking to the ground. But Nam sees a lot of holes in MJ’s game. He feels he has more technical boxing, and Johnson is more of a "street ghetto brawler" (!!), just throwing punches before the takedown. Nam says his style is like a Honda Civic — not the biggest or stroingest, but efficient on gas. "The longer the fight goes, the more it complements my style." Will Nam "Honda" Phan play the spoiler in this fight?
"All my eggs are definitely in Nam’s basket," Koscheck says. "He’s the Easter Bunny." Dana gives the edge in the fight to Nam due to experience and more tools. "I can’t lose to somebody who beats off in the shower," Johnson says.
Celtics power-forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis is in attendance to watch the fight. Johnson has five inches in height on Nam, but only two in reach. It all comes down to this…
Round 1: Phan opens with a high kick. He throws a body kick, Johnson takes him down, and Phan immediately starts throwing elbows off his back. Phan scrambles to his feet. Johnson grabs Phan again and takes him down. More elbows from Phan. Phan kicks Johnson off and stands. Phan catches a kick from Johnson and has him down briefly. Phan with a body kick. He stuffs a takedown and throws another kick. Johnson lands a punch. Phan goes to the body. Johnson blasts forward and takes Phan down again, then takes a breather on the mat. Phan kicks off and separates, once again. High kick Phan. They trade punches. Phan lands a punch combo and a body kick. Johnson shoots forward, landing some big punches in the clinch. He swarms on Phan, who’s forced to retreat. Johnson clinches against the fence again and Phan escapes. Phan lands to the body. Johnson attacks again with wide punches, chasing, throwing bombs. Phan is in survival mode. His right eye is leaking blood. Phan gets out, and lands a high kick. And another high kick, followed by jabs. Johnson dashes in, Phan escapes and fires more kicks. Phan hooks to the body. Johnson punches, grabs a kick from Phan, punches again, attacking until Phan escapes. Another high kick from Phan. Phan swings as the round ends. Great round. Let’s see if the Civic can pull forward now that he’s made it through MJ’s first onslaught.
Round 2: Phan lands a counter left. Johnson jabs. Body kick Phan. Johnson rushes forward punching. He shoots, Phan defends. Johnson’s pressure is relentless, and he isn’t fading yet; this is the best we’ve ever seen him. Phan lands a huge body shot. Johnson lands a punch and clinches. Phan eats an uppercut in the clinch. Johnson is giving him zero space, clinching, and attacking as soon as Phan escapes. Phan fires some punches. Johnson shoots, but botches it and lands on his back when he bounces Phan against the fence. Johnson gets up, Phan lands a body kick, then a nice 1-2. That doesn’t discourage Johnson from moving forward, though. Phan with another body hook, and one to the head. Phan lands a nice knee to the body, and a straight, and an uppercut. Johnson clinches, Phan escapes and lands a head kick. And another. Johnson attacking, but missing his punches. Johnson with a body kick. Johnson lands some good punches in combination. They clinch to the bell.
Round 3: Phan with a body kick. He catches a kick and slugs Johnson. Johnson shoots in and gets the takedown. Phan with a bunch of elbows from the bottom. Johnson lands a punch from the top. Phan pulls out and escapes. Johnson with a 1-2 and clinch. Phan gets out, throws some punches. He goes to the body, and again as Johnson comes in to clinch. Phan fires in a knee. Johnson gets a big takedown. Phan easily escapes. Body hook by Phan. 1-2 from Phan as Johnson plods in to clinch. Johnson with a knee. Phan to the body again, then the top of the head. Johnson comes in with an uppercut, then clinches. Phan separates. Johnson comes in with punches and a knee. Phan lands another hook to the body, but Johnson seems to be impervious to them. Both guys are too gassed to get much going in the last moments of the fight. Koscheck pleads for Phan to steal the round with a takedown, but Phan doesn’t try it. He does land the last punches at the bell, though.
That was hands-down the best fight of the season. Dana calls Johnson "all heart and balls" for taking those body shots. Phan landed a lot of great strikes, but Johnson was the aggressor for the vast majority of the fight and deserves the win. Koscheck doesn’t see it that way, of course, saying Johnson tried to grind out a "fashionable, GSP-style victory, and be a boring boring fighter."
"Takedowns don’t score," Koscheck shouts across the cage. "Sure they do," Johnson says. "Not when you don’t do damage," Koscheck replies.
It’s a split decision: 29-28 x 2, 28-29, for the winner, who will be moving onto the TUF 12 lightweight finals — Michael Johnson.
It’s a tough loss for Phan, but his love of the sport will keep him going. (And he’ll do very well back at featherweight.) Josh Koscheck chastises Phan for not trying for the takedown at the end, but he’s not pointing any fingers. "Josh Koscheck picked this team, Josh Koscheck lost this competition," says Josh Koscheck, proving once again that there’s a direct correlation between referring to yourself in the third-person and being a complete asshole.
After last night’s fights were aired, the TUF 12 Finale got some new additions, which are in bold below. Props to MMA Junkie for first reporting the new prelim fights.
Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia (FW)
Cody McKenzie vs. Aaron Wilkinson (LW)
Tyler Toner vs. Ian Loveland (FW)
Sako Chivitchian vs. Kyle Watson (LW)
Will Campuzano vs Nick Pace (BW)
Fredson Paixão vs. Pablo Garza (FW)
Rich Attonito vs. Dave Branch (MW)
Phan vs. Garcia will be a sick fight; I guess Garcia wasn’t injured after all. And it’s great to see Cody McKenzie get another chance to guillotine choke somebody. In fact, the only quarterfinalist who doesn’t seem to be getting another fight at the finale is Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the UFC’s new featherweight division in the near future.