Bellator and WEC veteran Jonathan Brookins (11-3, 0-0 UFC) will take on Midwest-based prospect Michael Johnson (8-4) in a lightweight showdown to determine who will win the six figure contract and the title of The Ultimate Fighter season 12 champion. Brookins is by far the more experienced fighters as he has fourteen total career fights that include bouts against Luis Palomino, Stephen Ledbetter, Jose Aldo, Yves Jabouin, Greg Loughran, and Jose Figueroa. While some of those names are relatively unknown to the casual fan, that history of competition is far more experienced at a higher level than anyone Michael Johnson has ever faced.
Johnson has mostly battled competition in the Midwest region with notable bouts against Joe Brammer, James Krause, Eric Marriott, and Clay French. Out of those four opponents, Johnson was only able to secure a win over French. Marriott is currently a rising featherweight prospect while Brammer and Krause both had short stints in the UFC.
During the show, Johnson defeated current WEC fighter Pablo Garza via unanimous decision to earn his spot in the house. Due to his impressive performance, he was a consensus #1 pick for both coaches, but Georges St. Pierre bluffed Koscheck into picking Marc Stevens first, thus giving St. Pierre the opportunity to pick Johnson. Johnson went on to defeat Aaron Wilkinson via rear naked choke in the second round of his first fight in the house. In the next round, Johnson battled Alex "Bruce Leeroy" Caceres, defeating him via unanimous decision over two rounds. Johnson went on to defeat Nam Phan in the semi-finals in an entertaining back-and-forth affair that saw Johnson gas hard in the late stages of the bout. Unfortunately, Phan was unable to stop Johnson's wrestling, and Johnson was declared the winner via split decision.
Brookins' road to the final was a bit easier, but that may be due to the fact that he seemed to be the much more skilled and stronger fighter in the house than anyone ever predicted. Brookins defeated Ran Weathers to secure his spot in the house, choked out Sevak Magakian in a little over two minutes in his second match-up, and overwhelmed Sako Chivitchian in the quarterfinals in route to facing Kyle Watson in the semis. Brookins used his wrestling background to neutralize Watson's grappling and stand-up game, earning an unanimous decision and a chance at the season's crown.
Stylistically, both fighters have similar backgrounds, which will likely prove to be Johnson's undoing. While Johnson used his wrestling as his primary means to winning on the show, Brookins is by far the better wrestler. Combine that with the fact that Johnson had all sorts of problems on the show pacing himself, and you've basically got a gameplan that has been gift wrapped for Brookins. If Brookins can use his superior wrestling to tire out Johnson, something we saw in nearly every fight Johnson had in the house, Brookins should secure the victory quite easily.
Brookins also has far more experience against better competition, and he's actually beaten some solid former prospects and current big promotion fighters. If anyone caught Luis Palomino's destruction of Jarrod Card last night, Brookins beat that guy, although it was a bloated version at 155.
Johnson has been training with Greg Jackson for this match-up, but it's going to be a hard sell for me to believe he's improved Johnson to the point where his cardio isn't going to be a factor. Brookins should win here, and the combination of his wrestling, experience, and conditioning should get him the decision here.