After losing to Michael Johnson in the semifinals of TUF 12, and losing his first two fights in the UFC afterwards, Nam Phan finally got his hand raised at UFC 136 in October, beating Leonard Garcia by virtue of landing a whopping 174 significant strikes over a 15 minute period. By doing so, Phan avenged a very controversial split decision loss at the TUF 12 Finale, where Leonard Garcia was given the nod despite appearing to have been clearly out-struck by his opponent. Between those fights, Phan suffered a decision loss to Mike Brown.
Loyal readers of this blog are probably aware that I’m not enthusiastic about Phan’s long term potential in the UFC. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that Phan has a distinct lack of success against high-level opponents. The best opponent Phan has defeated is your choice of Garcia or Hideki Kadowaki. Another reason is Phan’s loss on The Ultimate Fighter. Most TUF participants who move on to success in the UFC are some level of prospect when they compete on the show, but Phan was a veteran of nine years, already had a mediocre record of 16-7, and lost to Michael Johnson anyway. Your best hope as a veteran of MMA participating on TUF would probably be Roy Nelson, and while many have the tendency to overrate “Big Country,” he’s not the most encouraging example for Phan to follow.
Phan’s opponent at UFC 141 will be Jim Hettes, an undefeated featherweight who debuted at UFC on Versus 5 in August with a submission win over Alex Caceres. It was, to be frank, a discouraging debut for Hettes. Even though he did manage to submit Caceres, he didn’t look very good in the process, as Caceres landed the better strikes, and I’m not enthusiastic at all about Caceres as a UFC fighter. On the flip side, Caceres went on to beat Cole Escovedo pretty decisively, and while Escovedo has clearly seen better days, the result of that fight was still a big surprise to me.
Regardless, it appears if Hettes wants to win this fight, he’ll have to do it by submission, and that’s a problem. Nam Phan has lost decisions, and he’s been stopped by TKO, but he’s never been submitted. If Hettes can’t submit Phan, he would almost certainly lose by either TKO or decision, as Phan strikes with extremely high volume and great cardio. Hettes is still in his early MMA career, so it’s quite possible he could debut an improved striking game, but the safe bet is for Phan to out-strike him by a large margin.
SILVA PREDICTION: JIM HETTES (47.22) OVER NAM PHAN (23.78)
It’s easy to see why Jim Hettes is the underdog here. He has one clear path to victory: get Nam Phan to the ground and submit him. It’s also the type of victory no fighter has managed to achieve against Phan. Still, with Hettes’s ability to get fights to the ground, with his undefeated record, and with Phan’s lack of success against tough competition, it’s not hard to see why SILVA would make this prediction either. It’s a dice roll for sure, but I’ll take Hettes to upset Phan in this fight.