The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 12 has officially wrapped, which means it's time to find out who will be the recipient of the promotion's "six-figure" contract when the UFC hosts their TUF 12 finale tomorrow night (Dec. 4) live from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of TUF 12 Finale, beginning with the Spike TV telecast at 9 p.m. ET on Dec. 4. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night.
As with most TUF Finales, the Spike TV fight card will be headlined by a couple of UFC veterans and filled out with a handful of TUF hopefuls from this season (and season's past) that may not have made it to the promised land, but did enough during their time in the competition to warrant a second look.
Will the presence of Stephan Bonnar, one of the original "Ultimate Fighters," motivate Season 12 finalists Jonathan Brookins and Michael Johnson to put on another epic finale like the one that kick-started our sport nearly six years ago?
And what can TUF 3 winner Kendall Grove do to survive the jiu-jitsu stylings of Demian Maia?
I like that Nam Phan has been given a shot on the live Finale after suffering through Mastur-Gate in the final episodes of the Spike TV reality show. There's a lot of work to be done from an offensive standpoint, but he comes to fight and commits to his strikes (even when his opponent is four feet away).
I also like that he's been paired up with the returning Leonard Garcia. While I'm not crazy about the "Bad Boy's" devil-may-care attitude towards gameplans, his reckless attacks make him a perfect match-up for Phan and we're likely to see three rounds of They Live back-alley ass kicking (minus the body slams).
Does it work as a headlining bout? No, but what a great way to kick off the televised card. Look for Garcia to earn the split-decision nod based on experience, not skill.
When you have a division that's as top heavy as the 170-pound class, most of the hullabaloo surrounding the UFC welterweights is directed towards St. Pierre, Koscheck, Fitch, Shields, etc., which is how an undefeated prospect like Johny Hendricks can go 6-0 under the Zuffa banner (including WEC) with little-to-no fanfare.
Aside from derailing the Amir Sadollah hype train in his UFC debut back in 2009, the four-time All-American and NCAA Division I wrestling champion out of Oklahoma State University bested Ricardo Funch and TJ Grant before pounding out Charlie Brenneman at UFC 117 back in August.
Also appearing on the "Silva vs. Sonnen" pay-per-view card was opponent Rick Story, who like Hendricks, has flown under the radar despite an impressive 4-1 record inside the Octagon and a current four-fight winning streak that includes the likes of Nick Osipczak and Dustin Hazelett.
Two surging up-and-comers with a combined 8-1 record makes for a great fight, but I like Hendricks in this bout. I think he has more ways to win. Besides his wrestling pedigree, he hits like a sledgehammer. I expect a scary ending for this "Horror" Story.
In middleweight action, Kendall Grove looks to free himself of the shackles of inconsistency that have followed him throughout his UFC career. Despite an impressive showing in the TUF 3 Finale followed by three straight wins, "Da Spyder" lost some of his legs with consecutive knockout losses to Patrick Cote and Jorge Rivera.
Grove would rebound with back-to-back wins before running his record to 2-2 over his past four fights.
Heading into this fight, a lot of pundits are giving Demian Maia a major advantage over the Hawaiian. Even with his unparalleled grappling credentials, I'm not sure I'm subscribing to that theory just yet. Like every Nostradumbass predictions post, there has to be one upset, and for my pretend money it's going to be Grove in this one.
I can accept that Maia's knockout loss to Nate Marquardt was an aberration, as was his "Dancing with the Stars" appearance in Abu Dhabi, but Grove is 6'6" and very difficult to handle. He also responds well to big fights, like he did against Evan Tanner and Alan Belcher before that.
Maia has been spending a lot of time on his feet in his past couple of fights, and I expect Grove to use his reach and keep the distance, doing enough (and avoiding enough) damage to earn the unanimous decision win.
Also going to the cards will be perennial crowd-pleaser Stephan Bonnar. I know a lot of people (including Bonnar) think he's "back" after the sensational win over Krzysztof Soszynski (after two years I still can't type that without looking it up) at UFC 116, but unfortunately I don't see much evolution from his days as a light heavyweight contender.
Which may explain why he is no longer considered one.
What you see is what you get, and "The American Psycho" does it better than anybody. He's tough, he's got a ton of heart and a reckless abandon that has added years to our sport and taken years from his career. How do I categorize Bonnar? As a "good" fighter. Good at everything, great at nothing.
And that's "good" enough to outlast Igor Pokrajac.
In fairness, "The Duke" is no slouch. He's been in the fight game since 2003 and has a ton of International experience. Like Bonnar, he's also got a nice mix of skills but I'm not putting a lot of stock in his submission win over the free-falling James Irvin back in August.
Conversely, his TKO loss to James Te Huna as well as his decision loss to Vladimir Matyushenko still gives me pause. He'll come to fight, no question, but I think he gets out-worked (and out-cheered) at the Palms on Saturday night.
That brings us to the men of the hour, and what a difference a season makes. Remember all that hoopla surrounding Michael Johnson at the team selections?
You can't be too critical of his performances because MiJo made it to the live finale, but compare that to the run Jonathan Brookins had during his time on the show and I think the disparity in cage skills becomes more and more apparent.
I have Johnson winning the first round of this contest, but losing the fight. He's got fast hands and employs an aggressive attack that will likely keep Brookins flustered. I wasn't overly impressed with the former featherweight's head movement and it wouldn't surprise me to see him take some damage early.
That said, he's not going away after one round of punches and the rockets in Johnson's offense will start to peter out in round two. That leaves him vulnerable to Brookins' submission game. "The Menace" knows how to stay off the ground, but not if he's too gassed to implement that defense.
Brookins will take some time to get comfortable, but once he does I think it's a lock. Look for a late second round/early third round submission win for your new "Ultimate Fighter," Jonathan Brookins.
That's a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12 Finale.
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.