In the coming months, merge is going to be a dirty word for lightweights struggling to scratch it out in a neck-deep division, and the contestants of
With an era of consolidation and contraction now upon us, there is almost no room for error as a lightweight under contract with Zuffa LLC. Just over a month after the Las Vegas-based company announced it will shutter the small-guy centered WEC and merge its talent with the UFC, there is overlap between the promotions at 155 pounds.
That means the axe will fall quick for those who don't win, in a game where the margin between spectacular and forgettable is often millimeter-thin.
As the reality show has trudged on, we've seen shorter and shorter shelf lives among
When Spike TV producers assembled 28 lightweights for a six-week
One of this season's competitors at this past Saturday's
So when it comes to the lightweights of
Prior to the show, Brookins made his living as a featherweight and in 2008 served a one-fight stint in the WEC, where he fought newly minted 145-pound UFC champ Jose Aldo. As it turns out, that fight had a -- pun intended -- striking similarity with the performance he delivered at the Pearl Theater in Las Vegas in that he took way too many punches for those he gave. Against Johnson, he battled back with superior grappling and won a decision. But he won't have that advantage against many of the UFC's top lightweights who are standout wrestlers in their own right. That means a trip back to featherweight, where size won't be as much of a detriment. And while he's a scrappy guy, he needs a lot of work on his standup -- particularly on defense -- before he makes a dent in the UFC.
"I think that's where my sights are set now, to play the part, (and) to really improve in the areas that are necessary to be a competitive factor in the UFC," he said following his reality show win. "I know me and Mike will have future fights here. Now, it's just up to us to pull the trigger and make our way up the ladder."
Although Johnson's aggressive style will present problems for many of the UFC's lightweights, he's got the opposite task of Brookins in that he needs work on his defensive grappling. If he can't create scrambles, avoid submissions and get back to his feet, he's in a world of trouble against even mid-tier guys. (All of his professional losses with the exception of Brookins come by way of submission.)
"From here on out, it's jiu-jitsu day in and day out," Johnson told MMAjunkie.com after the fight. "I've got to get better off my back. That's my weak part of my game."
The point is, Phan's a gamer. He doesn't always come out on top -- in fact, he's lost to pretty much all of the top-tier talent he's faced -- but he'll always bring a good fight. On Saturday, he soundly outstruck Leonard Garcia and by all accounts dominated the fight. Although the judges were apparently on their PSPs during judgement time, he'll be back and will put on several entertaining scraps in the 145-pound division.