This card will go down in history as the first UFC event to feature featherweight and bantamweight bouts. Georges St. Pierre has two of his pupils fighting in the main event and it should turn out to be an action-packed night. Here is a breakdown of every fight on the card, along with a poll of who Canadian fans believe will win the five main card bouts:
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- Jonathan Brookins vs. Michael Johnson
These two Team GSP members vie for the TUF 12 crown and a six-figure contract. Brookins has a win over Canadian featherweight standout Yves Jabouin and has faced Jose Aldo in the WEC, so give him an advantage in experience. Brookins’ weakest aspect is his striking, which undoubtedly will be improved come fight night. Michael Johnson is an explosive athlete and will have a strength advantage, which could come in handy if they get into wrestling exchanges. Neither fighter has overly impressive standup, but Johnson’s best bet is to keep it on the feet since he has some decent power. As much as I’d like to go with my almost-namesake, Mike Johnson, my pick to win the show from the very beginning was Brookins. If only Johnson had a ‘T’ in his last name then things might be different.
Fans can expect and exciting, bloody show when these two light heavyweights step into the octagon. Both Bonnar and Pokrajac are always willing to turn things into a brawl. Neither man is in the title picture, but this bout is a co-headliner for its potential to be a memorable battle. Expect this to be a typical Stephan Bonnar, back-and-forth scrap like his two wars with Winnipeg’s Krzysztof Soszynski. Not many are too familiar with Pokrajac, but he is a serious threat on the feet and has solid Greco-Roman wrestling. This is the first time Bonnar has been a part of a TUF finale since his sport-altering fight with Forrest Griffin. That energy along with the fans will be on his side.
Submission specialist Maia looks to make it two wins in a row as he takes on TUF 3 winner Grove. It’s an interesting stylistic matchup since Grove is so tall and Maia will need to get inside position to have success. If Grove can shake off takedowns, he could use his reach like he did to knockout Jason Day at UFC 96. That is his best chance against Maia. The Brazilian, other the other hand, needs to use his improved boxing to set up a takedown. Look for this fight to go similarly to when Grove lost a decision to Ricardo Almeida. That is, unless Grove can catch Maia by using his tremendous reach advantage.
- Rick Story vs. Johnny Hendricks
Hendricks is undefeated and Story has won four straight. The winner is sure to be in line to fight one of the top 170 pounders. Story is a 2-1 underdog, but I see him being able to compete with most welterweights. With his power, aggression and technical improvements made to his game, he is one dangerous foe. He is all offense and power all the time. Add that to arguably the best stare down in the business, he really is a ‘Horror’ Story for opponents. However, Hendricks can match him in power and out wrestle him, which makes this fight interesting. If Hendricks can impose his wrestling, it’s his fight to lose. But, in the fight I’m most looking forward to, I see Story’s bullish style being the difference. Expect it to be a dogfight.
- Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Phan
As soon as this fight was announced, fans across the country were elated at the prospect of these two sluggers going at it. Many are saying this is a shoe in to win “Fight of the Night.” Garcia always fights the same way, throwing wild and looping punches hoping to earn the knockout. He runs into trouble when he fights quicker, more technical featherweights, such as he did against Mark Hominick at WEC 51. That is what Phan will try to do. If he brawls with Garcia, it won’t end well. Garcia, despite is exciting fights, only has two wins (both by split decision) in the last two years. However, look for his aggression to work in his favour this time around.
Who Canadian fans think will win:
**A group of random Canadian MMA fans were polled on Facebook and Twitter to see who they believe will win the five main card bouts. Here are the results…
Johnson 40% – Brookins 60%
Bonnar 90% – Pokrajic 10%
Maia 70% – Grove 30%
Story 20% – Hendricks 80%
Phan 40% – Garcia 60%
- Cody McKenzie vs. Aaron Wilkinson
McKenzie, who is from Alaska, has fought five times in Canada, going 5-0 and beating two Canadians in the process. Including his two wins while filming TUF 12, McKenzie’s last 11 wins have been via first round guillotine choke, which is impressive regardless of the level of competition. Sure, looks can be deceiving, especially in MMA, but McKenzie doesn’t seem to have the physical attributes needed to compete at the UFC level. Aaron Wilkinson, on the other hand, trains with Team Wolfslair in England and there are no slouches in that gym. Look for Wilkinson to pick McKenzie apart on the feet and earn a TKO win.
- Ian Loveland vs. Tyler Toner
Loveland is on a six-fight win streak with his most recent win coming in the Canadian promotion Wreck MMA. Toner is known for his striking but may be tempted to try his submission game since six of Loveland’s seven career losses have been via submission. Loveland takes this fight on short notice and Toner is looking to bounce back from a loss at WEC 51.
- Kyle Watson vs. Sako Chivitchian
Two more TUF 12 cast members go at it for a chance in the UFC. Both men have strong grappling backgrounds, Watson’s being jiu-jitsu, Chivitchian’s being judo. Neither man has dangerous standup, but Watson has an edge there. Both men lost to Jonathan Brookins on the show but Watson fared much better. On paper Watson should take it, but Chivitchian is younger and may have improved more since the show ended. It would be an upset, but never count out a crazy Armenian.
- Will Campuzano vs. Nick Pace **This is the first ever UFC Bantamweight bout**
Campuzano is a young, dynamic bantamweight with serious striking skills. After losing in Edmonton at WEC 49 to Eddie Wineland, he picked up a win in a smaller show in August. Pace missed weight and that may affect his conditioning. Look for Pace to come out strong but fade. Campuzano always puts on a show and his striking will be on display in this bout.
- Pablo Garza vs. Fredson Paixao **This is the first ever UFC Featherweight bout**
When MMA fans talk about world class submission artists they perhaps think of Demian Maia, Fabricio Werdum, Jake Shields, or Paulo Filho. Well, you can add Fredson Paixao to that list. Paixao is a multiple-time BJJ world champion and has transitioned nicely to MMA. He takes on tall lightweight Pablo Garza, who will need to use his reach advantage to have success in this fight. Garza, much like Kendall Grove, is dangerous in the clinch and tough to handle on the ground. Still, Paixao should get this fight to the ground where the grappling discrepancy will be apparent.
Branch needs to win impressively to stay in the UFC. He is coming off a snoozer of a win following a KO loss. Attonito trains with the Miller brothers and has underestimated skills both on the feet and on the ground. Branch will use his reach and lengthy kicks on the feet and is a Renzo Gracie black belt on the ground. Attonito needs to grind out a win, make Branch uncomfortable with concerted pressure and he could win. Again, on paper, Branch should take this one.