Opening up the evening's main card on Saturday night at The Ultimate Fighter 12 finale, former WEC featherweight contender Leonard Garcia (14-6-1, 1-2 UFC) will battle season semi-finalist Nam Phan (16-7, 0-0 UFC) in the first televised bout in the new UFC featherweight division. Garcia will be hoping to rebound from a split decision loss to Mark Hominick at WEC 51 in September while Phan will drop back down to featherweight after fighting at lightweight on the reality show. Interestingly enough, Phan had fought most of his career at lightweight, but dropped down to featherweight during his stint in Sengoku's featherweight Grand Prix in 2009.
Phan's small size in comparison to most lightweights is reason enough for the move, but he hasn't had much success at 145 pounds either. He has, however, faced stiff competition as he was defeated by the resurgent Michihiro Omigawa at Sengoku VIII in May of last year and Isaac De Jesus at Tachi Palace Fights III in February. Phan will have the opportunity to erase those failures from memory with an impressive performance on Saturday.
It won't be any easy task as Garcia is well-known for packing explosive power in his hands, but if his most recent bouts in the WEC are any indication -- a gameplan hinging on technical prowess over raw power could be Nam's key to victory. Unfortunately, Nam's defense isn't unbreakable, and power has been the one attribute that has crushed Nam throughout his career.
Garcia's technique is lacking, and his striking is fairly easy to pick up since he telegraphs most of his combinations. Phan should be able to move in and work head to body combinations. The problem with that type of gameplan, however, is that he'll be forced to move within range of Garcia's power, and it's a question mark whether he can avoid those shots.
During his stint on the show, Phan did a great job at avoiding the power of his opponents, but most fans would probably agree that the competition during the season didn't have the type of power to down opponents at will when it came to facing better competition. Garcia isn't your standard run-of-the-mill TUF'er, but he's no world beater either. Phan has a chance to come out victorious here, but history would consider a different outcome.
While I'm a huge fan of the Nam Phan rib roaster, Garcia's power is going to cause problems for Phan. Specifically, Garcia will press the pace and work for a scramble. Once Phan is backpedaling and trying to escape, Garcia will pour on the strikes and likely land a crushing blow at some point early in the fight. The only logical gameplan for Phan to avoid that from happening is to use footwork and lateral movement to avoid Garcia's rushes. If he can do that, he should win this via decision. I have faith that Phan can work that type of gameplan, but I have to go with Garcia's power along with his experience at featherweight. I'll take Garcia via TKO.