WEC veteran Leonard Garcia (15-7-1) will meet TUF alumni Nam Phan (16-9) once again, in a Featherweight clash designed to repeat the excitement of their first encounter and quell the controversy that immediately followed.
Neither man will want to leave it in the hands of the judges this time around, particularly Phan who in contrast with Garcia, has often been on the wrong end of close decisions.
In what was the first televised featherweight bout in UFC history, Garcia was awarded the split decision, even though it appeared to all but two of the three judges at ringside, that Phan was comfortably outmaneuvering and out-striking him. The decision caused quite a furor among the UFC brass and spectators alike, with Phan still receiving his win bonus and the state of MMA judging once again being called into question.
It is difficult to believe that Garcia made his debut as far back as 1999, as his style appears to confound the longevity it has produced, yet it is precisely this marauding approach that has made him so watchable and it is hard to recall a recent Garcia fight that has not fashioned great drama or spectacle. His record has been littered with several tenuous decisions since his move down in weight to join the WEC- including an eventful draw with George Roop, and the win in an absolute slug fest with Chan Sung Jung AKA “The Korean Zombie” (which was named ‘fight of the year 2010′).
Phan’s rise to mainstream prominence was facilitated by his appearance on the Ultimate Fighter Season 12, where he fought his way through to the semi-final, (eventually losing out to Michael Johnson via Split Decision). No one could accuse the Vietnamese-American of looking for a quick route to the big time, Phan had already faced a higher level of competition before his appearance on the reality series with notable stints in both Strikeforce and K1, though falling short against the more renowned names, including former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thompson and K1 Grand Prix Winner Gesias “JZ” Calvacante.
Although it appears as though Garcia’s aggressive scrappy style has continually won favor with many a more hapless MMA judge, the Greg Jackson trained fighter is unquestionably an extremely resilient and dangerous warrior, who always delivers the excitement that fans crave. He has never been finished standing and holds decisive stoppage victories over such stellar names as former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver and current Dream Featherweight title holder Hiroyuki Takaya. He will be intent on making sure that this rematch ends in nothing like his last, where he was spectacularly twisted into submission by “The Korean Zombie” Chan at UFC Fight Night 24.
Like Garcia, Phan is a very durable and experienced fighter, with seven knockouts and five submissions to his name. He combines excellent boxing with a tricky submission threat, but his record is still shy of a victory over a standout opponent and after that “loss” to Garcia he has garnered a third consecutive defeat, this time against former WEC featherweight Champion Mike Brown.
I see this contest unfolding in a similar manner to their first encounter, with Garcia winging his way forward (as only he can) with menacing shots from the get-go and Phan countering the “Bad Boy” with lateral movement and more precise strikes both to the body and head. Neither man has particularly strong wrestling but both are comfortable on the ground and have excellent Brazillian Jiu Jitsu making a submission win for either man unlikely. I believe at the end of a hard fought three rounds it will be Phan who will emerge victorious and take a posthumous decision victory.
Tags: Leonard Garcia, Mixed Martial Arts, Nam Phan, UFC, UFC 136