The Ultimate Fighter 3 finale did not disappoint as usual and provided us with a clear picture of the future for the fighters involved.
– “This is heart”, said Groves, “and I got the biggest one”.
Kendell Groves proved he has a ton of heart after his close victory over Ed Herman. I thought the fight was so close it should have gone to a fourth “sudden victory” round. Ed won the first round, Kendell the second, and the third was a draw. I can’t knock the judges decision though. Herman put it perfectly by stating, “It was a close fight. It could have gone either way”.
That fight showed MMA fans everywhere that the sport continues to improve in the talent of the fighters. The lead role of the new television series “Blade” said, “In my mind, MMA has overtaken boxing as the most exciting combat sport”. Anyone who has followed MMA for any length of time has got to be ecstatic about the direction that the sport is going in. Spike TV and the UFC are signed in for at least four more Ultimate Fighter seasons, and ratings for the show are constantly beating out the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, and any baseball game that happens to be on for their Thursday night time slot in the hard to reach 21 to 35 year old male demographic. That means that the future of the sport is all but secured with millions of young men becoming huge fans.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale had many great fights on the card that did not disappoint. The first fight televised was Keith Jardine vs. UFC newcomer Wilson Gorveia. Anyone who has seen Jardine in action knows he brings hard core intensity to his fights and is always going 100 mph in the octagon. Everyone thought this fight would be a walkthrough for Jardine, a filler fight to get him back on his feet after he got shafted by the judges against Stephan Bonnar. Gorveia was an unknown Brazilian fighter, so everyone always assumes he is another mindless Gracie Jiu-Jitsu disciple with no stand up and no wrestling skills. This turned out to be a terrible assumption as he took it to Jardine in the first round, bloodying him and almost blowing out his knee with repeated leg kicks. Gorveia lost steam and a unanimous decision to Jardine, but he will definitely be fighting in the UFC again.
The Groves/Herman fight is one of the best ground fighting matches I have ever seen. They both almost locked in multiple submissions and showed great Jiu-Jitsu training in the way they weaseled out of each other’s submission attempts. A UFC fan that only watches for blood and broken bones may have been disappointed, but anyone appreciative of ground fighting was in constant elation. UFC President Dana White gave both fighters six figure contracts. I for one thought Dana’s decision was a great choice. I feel that when you really break it down, the most important thing to the UFC is the marketability of the fighters, not who technically won the bout. By and large, UFC fans like to watch both Groves and Herman compete and both fighters have a huge future with the UFC.
The light heavyweight finale pitted Michael Bisping vs. Josh Haynes. Vegas had Bisping listed as a huge favorite to beat Haynes and with good reason. Bisping dominated in his two fights on the show and Haynes squeezed out victories against Tait Fletcher, Joe Rogan’s personal bodyguard (believed to be the only reason he was on the show), and Jesse Forbes, who had already lost once on the show. Bisping ended up running a train on Haynes’s face, which we all knew would happen. Bisping is one of the fighters whose fighting skills improved immensely from being on the show. I think that he will be fighting top tier competition within a year.
The main event was lightweights Kenny Florian vs. Sam Stout. The UFC recently reopened the lightweight division for competition and are planning on having a championship fight very soon. Rumor has it that the winner of the Florian/Stout fight will be one of the two fighters who will participate in the bout. Sam Stout is a lightening quick kick boxer from Canada who figured to open up a can on Florian. Apparently, the UFC forgot to inform Stout that ground fighting is legal in the UFC. Florian quickly took him to the ground and began pounding him Diego Sanchez style, eventually securing a rear naked choke for the win. Stout looked completely bewildered on the ground, offering no semblance of any defense on his back, and managed to put himself two steps back in ever having a chance to compete for the lightweight belt. Florian looks like he has found a home in the lightweight division where he is not dwarfed in size or strength by the competition and he looks impressive thus far.
The untelevised fights on the card yielded few surprises with Matt Hamill dominating Jesse Forbes and Kalib Starnes doing all of us a favor and dispatching Danny Abidi quickly. The Ultimate Fighter 4 show began filming last week and debuts in August. I for one can’t wait. Any comments/critiques would be much appreciated, and I will be posting an Ultimate Fight Night preview on Wednesday.