The quarter final match-ups were announced last week and the first two competitors to face off were Team GSP’s Jonathan Brookins and Team Koscheck’s Sako Chivitchian.
Brookins has emerged as one of the favorites to win the show and having defeated Chivitchian training partner and friend Sevak Magakian in Episode 6, Chivitchian was extra motivated heading into the bout.
“Jonathan fought my friend Sevak in the house and he pulled off the victory. It’s going to be a bigger demand for me personally right now to go in there harder and to go in there and just prove him wrong, that you know what, you might get away with it once, but not twice,” said Chivitchian.
Brookins anticipated a game Chivitchian to show up on fight day.
“I think he’s super tough. I think he’s a really talented guy. I think anytime you go and you fight somebody after you’ve fought one of their friends, they’re going to come at you hard with more ferociousness, like a vendetta,” said Brookins. “They’re going to come after you, so I’m expecting him to come out really tough and definitely come out swinging. It kind of makes me excited.”
Georges St-Pierre cut back the training sessions of Team GSP to one a day and geared toward “tactical” training.
Josh Koscheck worked on positional control with Chivitchian focused on not giving up his back to Brookins, who defeated Magakian by rear naked choke. Chivitchian also drilled getting up from the bottom with the game plan of wanting to keep the fight standing.
JONATHAN BROOKINS VS. SAKO CHIVITCHIAN
Chivitchian was the aggressor early, but Brookins clinched and executed a throw taking the fight to the ground. Brookins took Chivitchian’s back and patiently worked for a rear naked choke submission. He eventually secured it and forced Chivitchian to tap out with 2:53 remaining on the clock.
Jonathan Brookins became the first semifinalist and the first person to give Chivitchian a loss.
Following the fight, UFC president Dana White described Brookins as, “The real deal.”
The next quarterfinal match-up was Team GSP’s Cody McKenzie vs. Team Koscheck’s Nam Phan.
McKenzie was confident he’d come out the victor but his coach, Georges St-Pierre, wasn’t so sure.
“I think Cody will have a big problem with Nam Phan,” said the UFC welterweight titleholder. “I think Nam Phan is better at jiu-jitsu than Cody, and standing up Nam Phan is definitely much better than Cody as well.”
St-Pierre’s game plan for McKenzie was to put Phan against the fence and take him down from there.
“Cody has one thing that he does very well. It’s his guillotine chokes, but now everybody knows it because he’s done it two times in a row,” said St-Pierre. “I’ve been designing a strategy for Cody, which is putting Nam Phan against the fence and putting him on his back where his jiu-jitsu and his striking will be neutralized. That’s what Cody needs to do if he wants to win.”
McKenzie felt Phan would be one of his toughest fights considering Phan’s experience.
“It definitely will be one of my toughest fights ever,” predicted McKenzie. “I’ve always had trouble with guys who have been doing this sport for a very long time because they’ve seen everything. They’ve seen all my little tricks, and mostly I’m just a tricky fighter and they’ve seen it all.
“I ain’t planning on tricking him. I’m planning on getting in there and grinding it out.”
Coach Koscheck, who has been in a friendly rivalry with McKenzie throughout the season, told Phan he better beat him or not come back.
“He’s definitely a guy I want to see get his (expletive) kicked,” stated Koscheck.
Phan assured his coach that he’d be the winner.
Preparing Phan for McKenzie, Koscheck drilled guillotine defense.
“We’re not getting guillotined in this fight,” said Koscheck. “And if Nam does, I’m hitting him over the head with a chair.”
Phan’s game plan was to keep the fight standing and finish with a knockout. Although Phan has a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he felt his stand-up would be more than enough to come away with the win.
Phan categorized McKenzie as dangerous and wasn’t taking the match-up lightly. He called it “the biggest fight of my life,” and admitted to being very nervous.
“Someone like Cody McKenzie is very dangerous in the fact that he doesn’t do everything traditionally. The techniques he does are not correct, but they work, so I have to be very careful and not underestimate him whatsoever and go out there and destroy him,” said Phan.
CODY MCKENZIE VS. NAM PHAN
Phan gestured to McKenzie asking if he wanted to touch gloves before the bout and McKenzie shook his head no, as he did in his last fight with Marc Stevens.
McKenzie shot across the Octagon and went after Phan with strikes before dropping for a takedown. Following the game plan, McKenzie pushed Phan to the cage and landed knees to the legs of the Team Koscheck member.
Phan fended off the first three takedown attempts, but was eventually put on his back. McKenzie landed punches to the body and head, but Phan scrambled to his feet and circled away from the cage, taking the center of the Octagon.
McKenzie again pushed him to the fence and landed knees to the body and thighs, controlling Phan in the clinch.
With a minute remaining, Phan freed himself from the clinch and began landing punches. McKenzie slowed dramatically and looked sluggish from fatigue. McKenzie pushed through, pressing forward to win the round on MMAWeekly.com’s scorecard.
Phan opened up with is strikes in the second round, firing off multiple kicks, high and low and landed several body shots.
McKenzie stuck to the game plan of putting Phan against the cage, but Phan was the fresher fighter and McKenzie’s strategy began to unravel.
A two-punch combination ending in a left hook to the body sent McKenzie to the canvas. Phan jumped in and McKenzie could only cover up and the referee stopped the fight with just over two minutes remaining.
Nam Phan advanced to the semifinals and Josh Koscheck excessively celebrated yet again.
Next week the remaining two quarterfinal bouts take place and the semifinal match-ups are announced.