Two promising young featherweights will battle it out this Friday night (June 1, 2012), as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins battles Brazilian Charles Oliveira on The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Brookins showcased a newfound intensity in his last fight, a knockout victory against Vagner Rocha in which he blasted his opponent with some brutal ground and pound. He has had his stint in the UFC delayed multiple times via injury, but he's hoping that at 100 percent, he can really make his mark in the promotion and hurt a similar opponent in Oliveira.
Charles Oliveira was once considered a "can't miss" prospect in the lightweight division, but a rough three fight skid sent him down to featherweight, where he pulled off an incredible calf slicer in his 145 pound debut. Still just 22 years old, "Da Bronx" has plenty of room for growth and can definitely be a future player in the division.
Will Brookins pound "Da Bronx" into submission? Can Oliveira continue his run of success now that he's dropped down to 145 pounds? What's the key to victory for both men on Friday night?
Let's find out:Jonathan Brookins
Record: 13-4 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
How he got here: After winning a state championship in high school wrestling, Jonathan Brookins would eventually get his start in MMA after meeting Charles Bennett, a fighter many fans would recognize as "Krazy Horse."
Brookins primarily used his wrestling and submission skills, working his way up the ladder and scoring some impressive victories along the way including submissions of Yves Jabouin and current M-1 lightweight champion Jose Figueroa.
He would earn a fight in the WEC against a then-unknown Brazilian named Jose Aldo and it wouldn't end well. Brookins was beat up thoroughly for two straight rounds before finally succumbing to a TKO in round three.
The long-haired grappler got back on track with a first round submission at the inaugural Bellator event and followed it up by defeating veteran featherweight Luis Palomino. He would earn a spot on the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and quickly became the favorite to win the show after running through both Armenian judo fighters in the first round in consecutive fights.
Brookins would defeat Kyle Watson via decision to earn a spot against Michael Johnson in the show's finale and after recovering from getting rocked standing in the first round, would go on to outwrestle the wrestler and become the winner of TUF 12.
His UFC debut was delayed multiple times via injury, but after dropping back down to featherweight, he would lose a decision to current number one contender Erik Koch, but followed it up by trucking Vagner Rocha in his last bout this past February.
How he gets it done: The TUF 12 winner isn't the best striker, but this fight might be an opportunity for him to showcase some of work he's been putting in in that department as Oliveira isn't the type who is known for knockout power.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Brookins stand and trade in the pocket with Oliveira for a bit, but if that doesn't work out, he can definitely send this fight to the clinch which is where he is most comfortable. The clinch is where Brookins can put pressure on his opponent and work for takedowns. He did that to Erik Koch and nearly neutralized the dangerous striker.
The Gracie Barra fighter is very skilled on the ground, and while his opponent is also very dangerous in that realm as well, Brookins prefers to be in top position and that usually means you're winning. Even if he can't submit Oliveira, don't be surprised to see Brookins ride this fight out from above on the canvas with ground and pound or simply remaining on top for three rounds.
Record: 15-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 3-2 (1 No Contest) in the UFC
How he got here: Charles Oliveira got his start in Brazil, going 12-0 before entering the UFC. His first MMA fight was actually a tournament where he had to win three fights in one night, and he did just that, all via stoppage at welterweight no less.
"Da Bronx" won two other one-night tournaments in Brazil, even finishing his last fight with a brutal knockout slam before making his way to the UFC to fight Darren Elkins on the UFC on Versus 2 card. He made a pretty damn good first impression, submitting the wrestler in just 41 seconds with a triangle arm bar combination.
He would immediately be given a tough fight against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season eight winner Efrain Escudero and the bold move by the UFC paid off. Oliveira outclassed Escudero standing, which surprised many and finished the fight in very exciting fashion by leaping on his back with a rear naked choke that also put tremendous pressure on the TUF winner's jaw to force a third round tap.
The Brazilian would again take a huge leap forward in progression, scoring a fight against current top contender Jim Miller at UFC 124, but after a wild scramble of submission attempts from Oliveira, Miller surprised him with a sneaky knee bar that forced an immediate tap to hand him his first loss.
He followed that up with a no contest against Nik Lentz after finishing his opponent with the help of an illegal blow and a TKO loss to Donald Cerrone had the young prospect in a tailspin.
Oliveira bounced back by making the decision to drop down to 145 pounds and he pulled off an incredible calf slicer against Eric Wisely this past January. Now he's got an opportunity to make a big move in the division.
How he gets it done: Since both men are so evenly matched, it will all come down to aggression, at least on Oliveira's end.
If he can relentlessly push the pace, he may force Brookins to wilt in the striking department, especially because Brookins isn't exactly a worldbeater on the feet. Offensive pressure can be devastating if utilized properly.
There's also a very real possibility that Brookins tries to take this fight to the ground, exploiting Oliveira's wrestling deficiencies. If he does, Oliveira needs to relentlessly attack with submissions, chaining them together until one works.
Even if he can't lock one in, the constant attacking on the ground could force the TUF 12 winner to back off and potentially make a mistake, which is exactly the type of opening he can take advantage of.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Jonathan Brookins' submission defense. He's almost certainly going to be putting Oliveira on the ground during this fight, but he's going to be constantly defending wave after wave of submissions.
Brookins looked very solid on the ground against a talented grappler in Vagner Rocha during his last fight, so if he can remain on top without getting in any trouble, he's going to have a good time.
Bottom Line: While neither fighter is the most lethal on the feet, both men are capable of being very exciting on the ground. Brookins has some solid ground skills, submitting multiple opponents during his stint on The Ultimate Fighter as well as earlier in his career. He's also pretty dangerous with ground and pound on the canvas. Oliveira also has some of the most exciting ground skills in MMA, capable of putting all kinds of hurt on his opponents with chokes, leg locks, armbars and just about any other submissions. It's not the feet but the ground that will make this fight entertaining. Let's hope it goes there because these fighters could have a very nice dynamic there.
Who will come out on top at the Ultimate Fighter Live Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!