We’ve officially entered the quarterfinals, and last night’s episode gave us two of ‘em: Sako Chivitchian vs. Jonathan Brookins, and Cody McKenzie vs. Nam Phan. But you already know what happens in the McKenzie/Phan fight, right?
At the house, Sevak Magakian explains to his bro Sako that he has to redeem the Armenian race and beat Brookins, who is representing the Fraggle race. "Sak you gotta do this bro," Sevak says. "You gotta beat him, whatever it takes. I couldn’t do it, now you have to do it…There’s not gonna be two Armenians gonna lose to the same guy…you’re gonna fuck him." Wow, that’s some threat. Magakian has clearly been studying at the Wanderlei Silva school of trash talk.
Coach GSP wants to train his quarterfinalists like he trains when he’s about to fight — one training session a day, no more hard sparring or hardcore workouts. The focus is tactical now. He wants to make the guys feel hungry, like they’re not training enough, and build up their aggression for the fight.
Coach Koscheck wants Sako to avoid giving up his back, because Brookins has been finishing his opponents with rear-naked chokes. They go over some dude-jumping-on-your-back-defense drills and ground escapes.
Marc Stevens, who has gone gay due to frustration, is doing his Party Boy routine for Michael Johnson and Dane Sayers. Brookins observes the madness from outside and tells Nam Phan there are much bigger questions to ponder in the universe. He hasn’t fought in the UFC yet, but he doesn’t want to lose touch with the Jonathan that just had a bicycle and a friend next to him, because that was the best Jonathan. "You’re trying out to be on the team, not a starter on the team," Brookins says. "There’s no shortage of cockiness in this house."
Before the fight, St. Pierre asks Brookins what his gameplan is. Brookins lays it out: One million jabs, go for the takedown and get it. He’s a visualizer, which appeals to GSP. Sako offers this final thought: "You better get ready to get down and dirty cuz I’m down to fight ’til round 30." Well, let’s see if you can make it to round 2 first, bro.
Round 1: Brookins jabs, as promised. Sako whiffs on a 1-2. Brookins shoots, Sako ties him up and slugs him in the ribs against the fence. Brookins nails the same lateral drop takedown that he got Sevak down with, then jumps on his back. Sako stands and grabs the fence to try to get his balance, but Jonathan still drags him down. Jonathan works to get his legs sunk, waiting for the right moment to wrap his arm around Sako’s neck. He’s patient, and he finally sneaks one in there. After some tweaking, he gets the arm fully locked under Sako’s chin and squeezes the RNC together. Sako taps, then sits up and pounds the ring post in frustration. Jonathan Brookins becomes the first fighter to reach the TUF 12 finals. Armenia goes 0-2 against Fraglandia. Sako’s never lost in his career, and he feels like an idiot for not following the gameplan.
"That kid is fucking nasty, every fight he’s had here has been like that," Dana White says about Brookins. "This guy’s the real deal." Seriously, Jonathan has made winning look as simple as following a script. Step 1: Lateral drop. Step 2: Jump on back. Step 3: RNC. Step 4: Profit.
Cody McKenzie has his own predictable script, and it has even less steps — he just needs to grab his patented guillotine choke, and it’s a wrap. St. Pierre marvels at Cody’s confidence. When Cody says he’ll walk through his opponents, "it’s like if I tell you the sun will rise tomorrow," Georges explains. But GSP also says Phan is better than Cody at jiu-jitsu and stand up — an interesting statement considering McKenzie has submitted ten of his eleven career opponents in the first round (plus two guys on TUF), and Phan’s standup didn’t look that hot in his last fight.
GSP says that everybody knows about Cody’s guillotine choke now, so he’s working on a different strategy that will have Cody put Phan against the fence, and then on his back. I don’t know about this, bro. Why screw with a good thing? There’s something about the McKenzitine that’s near-magical in its effectiveness.
For Koscheck, the Phan/McKenzie fight is very personal. Phan represents his best shot at getting a yellow shirt into the semis, and McKenzie continues to talk mad shit whenever he’s in the same room with Kos. "Nam, if you don’t fuck him up, you better not come through that gate," Koscheck warns. Phan tries to assure his coach that he’ll be the one doing the fucking.
They drill guillotine-defenses nonstop in practice. But are they drilling McKenzitines? Because that’s different. "There’s no way we’re getting fooled twice," Koscheck says. Again, you mean. Because Brookins just fooled your two Armenians with identical gameplans. Phan looks to keep the fight standing and light McKenzie up.
Phan tries to shoot the shit with Cody at the house before the fight, asking him about his past fights. Phan might be trying to get some insight into what Cody does, but McKenzie is too smart to bite.
Says Cody: "I got long hair, I’m not built like a fighter, I grew up in Alaska, so I like to drink a little more than these guys…but I always come out ahead."
Cody’s got a full six inches in height on Phan (6’0" vs. 5’6") and a five-inch reach advantage. He declines Phan’s offer of a pre-fight glove tap.
Round 1: McKenzie closes the distance quickly and fires a kick, some punches, then shoots. Phan defends against the fence. McKenzie nearly gets him down, then switches to knees to the legs and punches to the ribs. McKenzie drags Phan halfway to the mat again, but Phan gets back to his feet. More knees to Phan’s legs from McKenzie. Coach Koscheck is already yelling at the ref to separate them, but Cody is staying active. McKenzie scores the takedown. He throws down a punch and an elbow inside Phan’s guard. And more punches. McKenzie tries to pass guard, but botches it; Phan escapes, gets to his feet, and separates. Phan dashes forward with punches, and misses a kick. McKenzie shoots in again, clinches with Phan against the fence, and lands a knee to the gut. Cody drops for a leg but doesn’t get the takedown. Phan tries to roll out, but McKenzie hangs onto him. Dirty boxing from McKenzie. McKenzie drops for the legs again, and Phan fires a couple of elbows from the top. They break. McKenzie with a kick to the head. Phan with a head and body punch, and a hard right straight that seems to stagger Cody. Is McKenzie gassed? He shouldn’t have wasted all that energy not-guillotine-choking Phan. Phan goes in for the kill, but McKenzie fires back. McKenzie shoots low and Phan tees off with punches from above. McKenzie rolls to guard. Phan lets him up. McKenzie with a spinning backfist and low kick before shooting again. And there’s the bell. Phan definitely picked up momentum at the end, but it might not have been enough to steal the round. Of course, judges usually forget what happens in the first four minutes of any given round, so we’ll see.
Round 2: This is just the second fight of McKenzie’s career that has gone past the first round. GSP orders McKenzie to get off the stool and lean on him between rounds. He wants McKenzie to lean on Phan too; that’s where he’s vulnerable. Jesus, just let the boy do his fucking guillotine choke already. Phan is advised to throw combinations and keep it standing. Phan starts with a pair of high kicks. McKenzie misses a punch, and throws a kick of his own, followed by a punch that lands. High kicks from Phan, McKenzie returns low. Phan goes to the body. McKenzie shoots in to clinch against the fence, and lands a kick to Phan’s neck when they break. Phan returns his own high kick, with some punches right after it. Phan with a hook to the body, McKenzie with a kick to the body. McKenzie shoots to clinch. He throws a high kick. McKenzie shoots again but is stuffed. Phan with punches in bunches now, and a hard hook to the liver. McKenzie gets punched in the face throwing a kick. McKenzie goes to the body, and Phan returns hard, landing about five straight punches. Phan with a big 1-2 head/body combo that drops McKenzie dead. The extra shots on the ground don’t even matter. Nam Phan is in the semis. Phan’s patented liver shot, which he also used to stop Mike Budnik in the elimination round, has usurped the McKenzitine in the pantheon of TUF 12 Special Moves.
Speaking of special moves, Phan throws a hadouken in celebration. Koscheck jumps into the cage howling in victory, which doesn’t strike GSP as very sportsmanlike. Koscheck says that seeing Cody get his ass kicked and Phan getting into the semifinals was his best day on the show. McKenzie is really bummed, and feels like he let his friends and family down. "Life goes on…but it sucks." Chin up, bro. You shoulda just done you.
Next week: The quarterfinal round closes out with Kyle Watson vs. Aaron Wilkinson and Michael Johnson vs. Alex Caceres (who still hate each other).