The Ultimate Fighter 12: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck concluded with two fights over a two-hour double-episode, with the winners setting the match-up for the finale on Saturday to crown this season’s winner.
The semifinal bouts were made last week and the two most impressive fighters of the season, Jonathan Brookins and Kyle Watson, were slated to fight first. They were followed by Team Koscheck’s Nam Phan taking on Team GSP’s first pick, Michael Johnson, to determine who will fight in the finals.
Brookins and Watson, both Team GSP members, had nothing but respect for each other heading into the most significant fight of their careers.
Coach St-Pierre decided to not corner either fighter and keep them separated during training sessions in the days leading up to the fight.
“We still train as a team, but the challenge is individual,” said St-Pierre. “Basically I told them it’s time to be selfish.”
Watson, who once paid a promoter to compete in an event, gave up a lucrative job to pursue his dream of coaching and excelling as a fighter in mixed martial arts.
“I think I’m probably a little bit more technical on the feet,” said Watson. “As far as the grappling, our pedigrees, he’s more of a wrestler and I’m more of a jiu-jitsu guy. But I’m sure we both have some tricks up our sleeves. He’s a real tough guy. I’m looking for it to be a scrap.”
Brookins game plan was to be the “quicker, faster, and smarter fighter.”
JONATHAN BROOKINS VS. KYLE WATSON
Watson had success striking against Brookins in the first minute, landing punches and a knee. Brookins went to do what he does best and took Watson down, but was unable to keep him here.
Brookins tried to establish his reach by utilizing the jab, but on the ground is where he wanted it and where he took it.
The second half of the round was all Brookins controlling Watson from top position, landing several strikes in the closing minute to capture the round on MMAWeekly.com’s scorecard.
Brookins picked up where he left off in the first round by immediately putting Watson on his back early in round two.
Watson was unable to get back to his feet until the final second, and the entire round played out with Brookins landing punches and elbows to the downed Watson, who worked to better his position or find an angle to set up a submission. MMAWeekly.com scored the round 10-9 for Brookins.
Michael Johnson, who was cornering Watson, told him that he needed a knockout heading into the final round.
Watson came out aggressive, moving forward, but soon found himself in the clinch with Brookins. Watson landed knees to the body, but Brookins quickly separated and the two fighters took to the center of the Octagon.
Watson landed a right hand, but Brookins pushed him to the cage and took him down again. Watson was able to get back to his feet without sustaining damage, but was unable to escape from Brookins’ grasp.
Brookins elevated the H.I.T. Squad jiu-jitsu coach and slammed him to the canvas. He spent the last two minutes of the round inside Watson’s guard, battering his teammate with punches and elbows. MMAWeekly.com scored the round 10-9 for Brookins with him winning 30-27, and the official cage-side judges agreed. Jonathan Brookins advanced to the final.
Frustration mounted on Team Koscheck. The dwindling of productive training sessions and the feeling that they were short changed in their experience on the Spike TV reality show by their coaching staff resonated throughout the yellow team.
“Training has slowed down a lot. We’re not really doing much for the last week or so, maybe the last week and a half. It‘s kind of boring,” said Team Koscheck’s Marc Stevens.
“We had some of the best coaches in the world, and I don’t really feel like I got all that much out of it. We didn’t really learn much. And I’m not the only one that feels let down,” added Stevens.
“It’s frustrating sometimes,” said teammate Andy Main. “We’re still here. We still want to train, and there’s not much for us to do. It’s kind of each man for himself.”
The house turned on Nam Phan, tired of him allegedly talking behind his housemates’ backs.
Phan was in a tough position being the only Team Koscheck member left. He was a team of himself in a house full of fighters against him.
“I think some of the guys on my team might actually dislike me and spread rumors about me,” said Phan.
His teammates plotted against him as he tried to prepare and focus on his fight with Michael Johnson. While Phan was in the shower, his teammates decided to open the door in hopes of catching him masturbating. The footage was inconclusive, but the reaction of laughter indicated what they thought they saw.
Phan pleaded with his teammates to let him focus on his upcoming bout.
St-Pierre spoke with Johnson about game plan and his attributes against Phan’s.
“Michael Johnson is probably the best athlete on my team,” said the UFC welterweight titleholder. “He’s very explosive. He has a great transition from striking going to the ground, which is very important. He’s got a lot of motivation, and I can feel it from him that he’s very well prepared.”
“My plan is to put the pressure on him for 15 minutes,” said Johnson. “I definitely think I’m the best mixed martial artist, and Nam’s not going to be able to handle me switching it from wrestling to standing up to ground and pound.”
Phan wanted to fight Johnson. It’s the match-up he asked for and received.
“This is the fight I wanted,” said Phan. “Michael Johnson has the most holes in his game.”
UFC president Dana White gave Phan the edge heading into the match up.
MICHAEL JOHNSON VS. NAM PHAN
Phan immediately let his legs go, unleashing kicks to the legs, body, and head in the opening seconds. Johnson quickly secured a takedown and Phan started working for a submission attempt. Johnson let him up only to take him down again, and let him up again.
Phan’s striking began to show superiority, landing punches and kicks to the body, but he couldn’t stop Johnson from taking him down and was put on his back for the third time in the round.
Phan scrambled back to his feet where he continued to use kicks, and began to land hooks to the body of Johnson. Johnson landed several shots in a flurry, opening a cut over Phan’s right eye.
A solid first round from both fighters, but MMAWeekly.com scored the round 10-9 for Johnson.
Team GSP’s Johnson started the second round strong, pressing the action. Phan tried to create space to execute his game plan of striking, but Johnson gave him little breathing room.
As the round wore on, Johnson began to slow and Phan started to land more frequently and dictate the pace. Johnson finished the round with a flurry and pressed Phan against the cage, but MMAWeekly.com score the round 10-9 for Phan.
Both fighters were given direction and encouragement in their corners and entered the final round aggressive. After a short exchange, Johnson went for a single leg takedown and Phan pulled guard trying to lock on a submission.
He missed the submission, but landed elbows from the bottom while Johnson did little.
Phan worked his way back to his feet with just under four minutes remaining. Phan got the better of the striking before Johnson tied him up against the fence.
Johnson gained the leverage he needed and slammed the Team Koscheck member to the mat, but almost as quickly as he was put on his back, Phan was back to his feet. The rest of the round was two tired fighters winging punches and Johnson clinching. It was a very close round and fight.
The judges tallied their scorecards and rendered Johnson the winner by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Michael Johnson and Jonathan Brookins will fight at the finale on Dec. 4 to determine the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 12: Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck.”
Nam Phan dropped to the featherweight division to face Leonard Garcia and Kyle Watson and Sako Chivitchian are matched up on the finale card on Saturday.