GLENDALE - [Update: 3:51 p.m.] With the latest episode on Wednesday night, the 12th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” concluded – at least in its pre-taped reality television form – with the finalists set for Saturday night’s live finale at The Palms in Las Vegas.
The Georges St. Pierre-coached tandem of Jonathan Brookins and Kyle Watson waged battle with Brookins, who had previously upended Glendale fighters Sako Chivichyan and Sevak Magakian, prevailing via decision. In the other semifinal bout, Team GSP’s Michael Johnson eked out a split decision in a hard-fought three-rounder against Nam Phan, coached by Josh Koscheck.
Thus, on Saturday, Brookins and Johnson will meet in a matchup of Team GSP fighters to determine the next “Ultimate Fighter.” Also announced were a slew of other matchups, including Chivichyan taking on Watson. The fight will mark Chivichyan's official Ultimate Fighting Championship. It is unlikely the bout will be televised live on the Spike TV broadcast.
In the latest episode, with Team Koscheck shut out of the championship and with just one fighter in the semifinals, it was perhaps little surprise that some bickering came to the forefront from the Koscheck-coached fighters.
Wednesday’s episode began with as much, as fighter Marc Stevens led the way with a not-too flattering impersonation of Koscheck that the coach actually walked in on. Before that, other fighters aired their grievances about Koscheck’s coaching, as well. Chivichyan chimed in that while there were some negatives, he took a lot of positives from Koscheck. It was a statement that makes further sense now as Chivichyan and Magakian have been training with Koscheck and his team at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.
"I did see a lot of positives," Chivichyan said. "[Koscheck has] been like a mentor to me. He's given me advice everyday."
And for Chivichyan, the experience of being on "The Ultimate Fighter" was an eye-opening one he remains grateful to have undertaken.
"It was the biggest experience of my life," he said. "It opened my eyes to what I need to do to get to the next level."
It was a bit different for Magakian, who lost in the first round to Brookins and was hampered by a rib injury that was never made public on the show.
"I'm happy that I did it," Magakian said. "It was probably one of the best and worst experiences of my life. ... I know I could've done better, but I got this [expletive deleted] injury."
The first fight on Wednesday saw Brookins grind out a decision, 30-27, on all three judges’ scorecards, over Watson. Watson began with some solid striking in the first round, but the rest of the fight was controlled by Brookins’ takedowns and subsequent ground and pound. Chivichyan was in Brookins' corner for the fight. It was perhaps an odd turn of events to some considering Chivichyan lost to Brookins, but the local fighter said the two got along all show and he was pulling for him.
"If somebody's gonna beat me, I want them to go all the way," Chivichyan said. "I'm still upset I lost, but at least I didn't lose to a chump."
In the final fight, Johnson and Pham went back and forth, with Johnson using takedowns to state his case on the scorecards, while Pham used superior striking on the feet and on the ground off the bottom to state his. Johnson won, 29-28, on two cards, while losing the other by the same score.
With the finale on Saturday, Chivichyan said he believes Brookins is the favorite.
"I'm not taking anything away from Michael Johnson ... I just think Brookins is much more experienced than him and he's a better grappler than him," Chivichyan said. "I would say probably [I'm] 90% [sure] Brookins is gonna with that fight."
"That fight is gonna go for Brookins," he said. "I'm positive."
Magakian said he's now looking forward to moving up to San Jose to train fulltime at AKA.
"Right now, I'm just thinking about training," Magakian said. "I'm just gonna take it from there. I have to improve as much as I can."
As for Chivichyan's UFC debut - all fights on the taped portion of the show are exhibitions and do not count on fighters' records - he's confident a victory is in store, just like Watson (12-6-1).
"I think Sako will be a good matchup for me, but I'm not underestimating him," Watson wrote on blog for www.mmajunkie.com. "I don't feel he's an easy opponent by any means, but I think it's a good fight for me stylistically. I think I'm better in most areas. I know he has good judo, but when it comes down to it, we're both grapplers. Judo gets you to the ground, so it's just whether or not he wants to be there with me. I feel like I have better hands, and on the ground, I believe I will have the edge whether I'm on top or bottom. I feel like it's a good fight for me, and I hope to show I'm a much better fighter than everyone saw in the semifinals."
Chivichyan had a list of reasons as to why he believes he will prevail, not the least of which being he said he's in the best shape of his life and his confidence is higher than ever after training with AKA. More than anything, though, he believes he's vastly improved from where he was before the show, when he had already amassed a 5-0 record.
"I feel like I'm a much better fighter than I was before the show," Chivichyan said. "Now I feel I deserve to be in the UFC and I want to go out there and prove that."