Photo via UFC.com
In the waning days of October last year, UFC President Dana White made the announcement that fight fans had been longing to hear since 2006 when Zuffa purchased World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
WEC's 155-pound division would merge with the UFC's and the Octagon would welcome for the first time inside its chain link fencing featherweights and bantamweights. It wasn't that fans wanted to see the smaller promotion gone, it was that the fighters under their employ were so talented and provided so many great fights that they deserved to be on the bigger stage that the UFC provides.
Less than six weeks after the announcement, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12 Finale hosted the company's first featherweight bout. Securing their names in the history books, Pablo Garza and Fredson Paixão agreed to fight on the undercard of the "Team GSP vs. Team Koscheck" card.
Now two seasons later the weight division finds itself no longer relegated to the preliminaries but rather the star of TUF and next Saturday (Dec. 3) -- nearly a year to the day -- the UFC will crown its first 145-pound TUF winner in The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale. To prepare, let's take a look at Garza's and Paixão's bout from that evening.
Garza wanted to fight on the TUF 12 Finale even before featherweights were invited into the Octagon. He fought for a place in the house but lost out to eventual runner-up Michael Johnson. He went back to his native North Dakota and rattled off two quick wins before catching the eye of Zuffa yet again.
He was signed by the WEC as a replacement five days out but ended up losing to Chinese fighter Tiequan Zhang in the first round. Not known for forgetting fighters that step up on short notice, the UFC gave Garza the opportunity to fight less than six weeks later at his new home of 145 pounds. His opponent was Fredson Paixão, himself a four-fight WEC veteran.
Let's take a closer look.
Immediately apparent is the over half a foot height advantage Garza holds over his opponent. Standing at an inch over six feet tall, the former TUF hopeful towers over the 5'6" Paixão. The corresponding reach advantage comes into play almost as quickly when the Brazilian gets his head snapped back by a jab.
He returns fire with a leg kick but continues to eat jabs. Early on into the historic bout, Paixão is having trouble getting on the inside of his taller opponent. Height and reach aren't something learned in the gym, you've either got it from birth or you don't. Garza was lucky enough to be blessed with the offensive tools and uses them completely to his advantage.
It's unknown whether or not Paixão would have figured out the riddle that is "The Scarecrow's" reach because less than a minute into the first round, Garza correctly anticipates a takedown attempt from his opponent and launches his body into the air with his knee leading the charge.
Bone smacks against bone and the lights don't simply go out for Paixão, the whole damn power grid fails. His entire body freezes up, stiffer than shot of whiskey and he falls straight back like a giant redwood. Garza lands another shot for good measure before the referee is able to literally jump in between the two fighters.
It was a jarring and exciting introduction for the audience who was only versed in the UFC and hadn't seen featherweight action inside the blue WEC cage. There's been a long held -- and incorrect -- belief that smaller weight classes means less power which in turn produces fewer knockouts.
Garza put the stereotype to bed as quickly as he did Paixão.