UFC 141: How Nam Phan Can Become a Contender in the Featherweight Division

Adam ReiterCorrespondent IIIDecember 28, 2011

Nam Phan burst onto the UFC scene in the fall of 2010 as a member of Josh Koscheck's team on the 12th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," during which time he became the first person to ever beat the master of the "McKenzietine," Cody McKenzie, and almost knocked off Georges St-Pierre's top pick Michael Johnson in the semifinals.

Since the show, Phan is 1-2 with a loss to Mike Brown and a win and a loss to Leonard Garcia, though many people believe he won both of those fights.

In his second fight with Garcia on the main card of UFC 136, Phan and Garcia got into a slugfest that saw about as much defense being shown as there'd be in a New York Knicks game. The brawl earned both men fight-of-the-night honors as Phan won by unanimous decision.

If Phan wants to have any chance of beating Jim Hettes on December 30, the black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and karate will need a completely new gameplan.

Hettes comes into the fight with a perfect 9-0 record, with all of his victories coming by way of submission. Six of his wins have come within one round, and back in August he submitted fellow "TUF" Season 12 alum Alex Caceres with a rear naked choke.

Hettes will be one of Phan's biggest tests to date, and a game plan like the one he showed at UFC 136 may very well earn him his third official loss in his last four fights.

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To beat someone like Hettes, Phan will need to work on his ground game. Avoiding the ground for 15 minutes against someone like Hettes will be near impossible, and Hettes will look for the submission finish the second the fight goes to the ground, as he's used five different submission variations to finish fights.

Nam Phan has the tools to be a contender at 145 pounds. Now he just has to use them right.