Their first meeting at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale last December was a contentious split decision for Garcia. Nevada State Athletic Commission judges Tony Weeks and Adalaide Byrd both saw it 29-28 Garcia while Junichiro Kamijo gave all three to Phan.
Consulting with MMADecisions.com on the Garcia vs. Phan judging breakdown: all five media sources scored the fight for Phan, with three giving him every round. As far as past performances, Adalaide Byrd turned in an unfathomable 30-27 score for Carlos Eduardo Rocha in his loss to Jake Ellenberger (to which Ellenberger responded he "thought one of the judges must be drunk") and Tony Weeks gave Chris Cariaso all three rounds in his loss to Michael MacDonald as well as Tyson Griffin a 29-28 score in his loss to Evan Dunham.
The head-scratching decision was awarded Sherdog's "Robbery of the Year" for 2010.
Analyzing rematches are convenient because we can jettison MMA Math entirely and simply revisit their first encounter.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Phan came out strong early, walking Garcia back against the cage and unloading his pro-boxing level hands.
Note the solid foundation Phan has underneath him before and as he flurries, as well as the impressive quantity and accuracy of strikes he gets off with his chin tucked.
He also bobs away from Garcia's left hook and continues the circular head movement to dig his right hand under the arm and sneak into the clinch.
Two minutes in and we see more of the same.
Phan is creeping forward with a high, emphasized guard to steer Garcia backward and deflect the haymakers.
He explodes with a beautiful one-two and tacks on his best punch, which is the left hook, catching Garcia square on the chin.
He darts out of range to avoid the overhand counter with his right hand cocked, as it usually is.
With one minute left in the first, Garcia goes on the offensive with his signature move; flicking his left out while vaulting into range to set up his overhand home-run punch. Though he dangerously retreats in a straight line, Phan blocks everything effectively.
What's confusing about Garcia's wild aggression is that he's rarely punished for it, such as after he misses with the right and stumbles forward with his hands down.
Let's be honest -- the left hand he throws after that is as sloppy as it gets.
Phan attacks aggressively again to open up the second round, landing some of the best blows of the fight.
This clip captures Phan's striking versatility: he leads with a double jab, follows with a right and left downstairs while keeping the gap tight, then prods with a long left before increasing the power with a big overhand right.
Phan steps back as if to reset, but flings a nasty left high kick to counter Garcia's duck-under left.
Smelling blood, Phan now applies his plentiful arsenal to prey on Garcia's wide and open style.
Notice how Phan tilts his head to the left while cascading a series of one-twos. It's a simple and safe ploy against Garcia, whose boxing is devoid of a distance weapon (like Phan's kick above). In order to catch Phan with a punch, Garcia has to duck into the whirlwind of his heavy leather.
After over a dozen punches, Phan's TMA roots shine through in the side kick he lands to the body when the roundhouse misses the mark.
Now Nam Phan's distinct advantage is apparent. A crafty BJJ black belt with spidery scrambling skills, he deftly snakes around to take Garcia's back.
Garcia, who has only been finished twice in his seven losses, shows veteran composure by staying calm and hand-fighting to prevent the rear-naked choke.
Notice how, as Garcia peels off Phan's left arm and is in the perfect spot to spin into his guard, Phan immediately underhooks Garcia's right arm to trap him.
Phan's dominance with more effective and the higher volume of strikes, the knockdown, dominant position and submission attempt warrant a 10-8 second round.
I have a lot of respect for Garcia's heart and spirit, and it was on full display throughout the final round.
I think Nam Phan deserved the decision. I think Phan, Garcia, Greg Jackson, Joe Rogan and the crowd did as well.
However, if anyone is going to get gift decisions, I have no problem with it being the fighter whose cemented a reputation for constantly attacking with endless aggression.
The prime directive for Nam Phan is replicating his methodical onslaught in the second round.
Though he's the smaller fighter, his assorted arsenal of kicks and footwork give him all the tools to pinpoint the openings Garcia leaves from a distance, his fierce boxing game, body shots and power can be applied in cautious increments to inflict damage at close range, and his ravenous submission acumen instills him with a landslide of advantages on paper.
His poise and mental faculties will be the key to implement those advantages whilst averting the small windows of opportunity where Garcia's predictable (but formidable) style can hurt him. Garcia is a smart fighter as well and his coaching team will have him well equipped, but I don't think it can make up for Phan's broader attributes.
My Prediction: Nam Phan by submission
All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com