Last night (September 17, 2011) was not the night for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins. After a tough string of injuries that cancelled two fights, he finally made his post-TUF debut against Erik Koch on the UFC Fight Night 25 main card.
Brookins had decided to drop down to his more competitive weight of 145 pounds and the UFC wasn't doing him any favors. His opponent, Erik Koch, was one of the fastest rising prospects in the featherweight division.
The TUF season 12 winner brought a solid gameplan to the fight but it simply wasn't enough to compensate for the dramatic skill difference in striking as Koch would come away with a unanimous decision victory.
So how did Koch pull it off and what does the UFC do with both men now?
From the early onset of the fight, it was obvious that Brookins did not want to stand with Koch for extended periods of time. He'd improved his striking defense slightly, but he was still nowhere near Koch's level in terms of technical ability or power. If he wanted to win, he'd have to make this fight ugly, and that's exactly what he tried to do.
Whenever he'd stood with Koch for a bit too long, Brookins would charge in, wrapping the Duke Roufus-trained featherweight up and pressing him against the fence. The long haired blonde repeatedly worked for takedowns but Koch showcased a strong base and was very difficult to put down.
Whenever Koch got some separation, he would land some nice combinations but he could never hit that big power shot that really hurt Brookins.
Koch's biggest mistake was his inability to get off the fence while Brookins was spending a considerable amount of time pinning him there and working for takedowns.
Regardless, the rules of scoring a fight favor grappling and striking and while Brooking was controlling much of the Octagon, he wasn't hurting Koch and the Rufousport fighter's strikes more than made up for it. In the end, Koch was awarded a unanimous decision victory in a ho-hum fight.
For Jonathan Brookins, he has nothing to be ashamed of. He fought the smartest fight he could to even the odds and make up for the dramatic skill difference. While he showcased some improvements, he still needs to put in some time working on his striking defense and head movement so he's more difficult to hit. Another weapon he should consider adding to his arsenal is working in more attacks with strikes from the clinch. Brookins may not have the most power, but an opponent pinned against the cage is a sitting duck for dirty boxing, knees and short elbows.
Brookins will likely face a mid to low level featherweight in his next bout. He's a bit of a quandary though so the UFC may throw him against anyone from Rani Yahya or perhaps a healed up Josh Grispi or Matt Grice.
For Koch, his performance was solid, but not as dominating as expected. He has some serious problems getting off the fence while Brookins was digging for takedowns and that could be an issue against the very best wrestlers at the top of the division. Koch will likely face a top 15 featherweight coming off a win like Javier Vazquez, Mike Brown or perhaps the winner of the upcoming fight between Dustin Poirier and Pablo Garza.
So what did you think Maniacs?
Were you on the side of the crowd that didn't appreciate Brookins' gameplan? Did Koch show you anything in this fight that makes you believe he can be a contender?
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