UFC: Ultimate Fighter III Finale review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on September 21, 2007, 10:03 AM
After TUF I succeeded hugely thanks mainly to the personalities of the fighters, and TUF II largely failed due to the lack of personalities, TUF III took a different approach and stepped away from the fighters as the main selling point for the series. Where in TUF I coaches Couture and Liddell had largely played a backdrop role, and TUF II saw Franklin and Hughes doing little more, it was clear from the off that TUF III was sold primarily on the rivalry between coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, and the crop of fighters for the show was secondary to that. So while there were undoubtedly a handful of skilled fighters taking part, I think itís fair to say that Season 3ís crop was probably the weakest of the first three seasons, and this meant that many of the fights were a little predictable, leaving us with, for the most part, finals that couldíve been predicted from the beginning.
Still, thatís not to say that the show was bad. In fact, you could argue that it was on par with the first season in terms of drama in the house, and it certainly beats season two in that category. The Ortiz-Shamrock dynamic turned out to be even better than couldíve been expected, as Ortiz did a surprisingly tremendous job coaching while Kenís methods were questionable at best, and some of the personalities (Bisping, Hutcherson, Herman, Grove) were as entertaining as any the show had thrown up thus far. With the majority of the fighters healthy following the show, the finale was filled with fights between the TUF III contestants, albeit with a somewhat weak-on-paper main event of Kenny Florian vs. Sam Stout. And following the first two stellar finales, both of which threw out bona fide FOTYCs, hopes were high for this one too.
Nickels had looked pretty terrible in his lone fight on the show, losing a sloppy decision to Matt Hamill, and immediately Goldberg talks about him looking for redemption in this fight. Combs was one of the few fighters on this card not from TUF III, and he was carrying in an unbeaten record of 12-0, mainly from King of the Cage bouts.
Combs comes out for the first round swinging some BIG punches, and Nickels avoids before Combs grabs the back of his head and lands some heavy shots that appear to stun him. Combs shoves him into the fence but Nickels comes back by grabbing a plum clinch and landing some knees to the body while Combs continues to throw some uppercuts. They break off and exchange some crude punches, and then Nickels manages to drag Combs to the mat. Combs manages to stand back up, but Nickels gets a rear waistlock and drags him down again, and now Combs looks pretty tired. He forces his way up again, but this time Nickels lands some hooks from behind the head, and then drags him down again. Combs looks in trouble now as Nickels gets both hooks in and flattens him out in a backmount, before slapping on a rear naked choke for the tapout.
Nickels looked alright here, weathering an early storm from Combs before settling down and taking over, but it was a pretty sloppy fight again while it remained standing with Combs just throwing wild bombs and Nickels looking really crude too. You canít really knock Nickels for putting this guy away, but Combs was tired after like two and a half minutes, so...yeah.
Hamill was of course one of the more recognizable personalities on the show, thanks to his deafness, great wrestling skill, and also some of his questionable training methods, namely going too hard in sparring and grappling sessions, which angered his teammates. Pegged by Tito Ortiz to be one of the finalists, Hamill was eliminated after picking up various injuries in his winning effort against Mike Nickels, and ended up being paired here with the other wrestling-based LHW from the TUF cast, Jesse Forbes.
Round 1 begins, and they exchange some shots standing, with Hamill using a Greco head clinch to land some good uppercuts and punches inside, ala Randy Couture. Hamill gets a takedown to guard, but from there things slow down as Hamill lays in the guard and only lands a few punches. Referee predictably calls them back to their feet, and from there Hamill throws some crude punches from the outside, but then gets the Greco clinch again and works Jesse over with some more ďdirty boxingĒ. Forbes ends up falling down to guard, and from there Hamill works with punches inside the guard before Forbes simply stops defending and the ref calls a halt to things.
Hamill looked surprisingly good standing here I thought; not with his actual boxing which was just as crude as it had been on the show, but his clinch work and dirty boxing looked great and really broke Forbes down quickly. It was clear though that Jesse was the ideal opponent for Hamill in that his main skill Ė his wrestling Ė didnít come close to Hamillís skill in that area and he didnít have anything else to really challenge Matt with. Decent win for Hamill to start his UFC career with though and heís since improved a lot.
Hutcherson Ė definitely one of the more antagonistic personalities on the show thanks to his hyperactive character and constant trash-talking Ė had been training with Tito Ortizís camp in Big Bear leading up to this fight, attempting to fix what had been his main problem on TUF, his poor conditioning. Unfortunately for ĎKingí Solomon, his opponent was switched at the last minute from hapless boxer Mike Stine to the very tough brawler Luigi Fioravanti, who was looking to bounce back from his UFC debut loss to Chris Leben.
They get underway and Hutcherson comes out aggressively, and they exchange punches into a clinch. Quick exchange inside follows before they break, but Hutcherson quickly presses forward into another clinch. They break again though, and exchange punches, and from there Luigi catches an attempted knee and gets a takedown. He works to pass the guard, and takes Solomonís back, but Hutcherson manages to get to his feet and gets a SWANK shoulder throw, dropping Luigi on his neck. Luigi manages to reverse position though and takes his back again, but this time Hutcherson escapes and turns into Fioravantiís guard. He passes to half-guard, but Luigi gets full guard back and reverses to his feet, where Hutcherson lands a good knee into the clinch. They exchange knees inside before breaking and trading some punches, until Luigi decides better of it and backs away. Hutcherson presses forward, but walks into a NASTY short left hook that buckles his knees and puts him down, and Luigi follows with a right hand for good measure before the ref calls the TKO.
Short, pretty entertaining fight that was dead even until Luigi landed the punch that finished things off; just a beautiful short left hook right on the point of the chin. Good win for Luigi but I have to wonder why UFC never brought Hutcherson back; it wasnít like he embarrassed himself in any way here, and his personality was one of the more marketable from the show. When you consider that they brought back the likes of Rob MacDonald and Danny Abbadi, I really have no idea why Solomon was left in the wilderness. Ah well.
This was possibly the easiest fight on the undercard to predict, as skilled groundfighter Starnes had looked likely to make the Middleweight finals before a rib injury derailed him against Kendall Grove, while Abbadi appeared to be a largely one-dimensional striker with minimal experience in actual pro MMA. Still, nothing wrong with throwing a dog a bone I guess.
Round 1 begins, and Starnes closes the distance and clinches immediately, looking for the takedown. Abbadi manages to block and breaks away, but Kalib catches him with a nice front kick to the body that knocks him backwards. Danny tries desperately to land some strikes, but Kalib closes the distance again and trips him down to half-guard. From there Starnes works the body and then steps into full mount, landing a series of punches that cause Abbadi to turn his back, and as soon as he does Starnes applies a rear naked choke for the tapout.
Quick and easy win for Starnes, just as was expected. Abbadi had nothing for him on the ground and he was just completely unable to get anything off standing. Kalib looked good here and he was definitely a keeper from the TUF cast; a strong addition to the UFCís Middleweight division.
Englandís Pointon is the only man to fight in two different weight classes on TUF, as he moved up to LHW to step in for an injured Matt Hamill after losing to Kendall Grove at MW, but his step up was just as unsuccessful as he was quickly stopped by his countryman Michael Bisping. Singer had made it to the semi-finals after KOing Solomon Hutcherson, but ended up being eliminated by Ed Herman by submission. This was pretty much a match of a crude brawler in Pointon against a more skilled, but possibly less explosive fighter in Singer.
Ross comes out throwing BOMBS to begin, and Singer avoids most of them until the Englishman connects with a BIG LEFT HAND that puts Rory on the mat. Pointon tries to go down and pound away in the guard, but Singer throws up a triangle attempt that Ross manages to avoid. Ross goes back into the guard, but a second triangle attempt is more successful, and Rory locks things up to get the tapout inside 44 seconds.
Very quick and exciting fight, as Pointon came out predictably throwing bombs, but as soon as the fight hit the ground he was doomed, despite the ground portion coming from a knockdown! Singer did well to recover that fast and slap on a triangle when he did, so this was an impressive victory for him despite Pointonís general lack of ground skill, I would say.
One of two fights on this card to not feature TUF III veterans, TUF IIís Jardine Ė coming off the controversial decision loss to Stephan Bonnar Ė was faced with the debuting American Top Team fighter Wilson Gouveia, a man holding a BJJ black belt as well as some solid Muay Thai skills.
Round 1 gets underway, and they circle, with Gouveia working Jardine over early with some stiff leg kicks and some counterpunches, bloodying Keith up. Jardine continues to press the action, coming forward, but takes some more hard leg kicks and then a nice left cross. Jardineís leg looks hurt at this point as Gouveia continues to pick him apart, landing more leg kicks and some nice punches. Jardine swings for the fences, but Gouveia avoids and begins to taunt Jardine, before landing a couple more leg kicks en route to getting a takedown. Jardine works back to his feet to end the round.
Into the 2nd, and Jardine comes out aggressively, pushing forward to open and it looks like Gouveiaís slowed down a lot from the opening round, as Jardine lands more punches in the opening exchange. Keith opens up with a couple of leg kicks of his own, but Gouveia answers with a right hand that knocks him off balance to the mat. Jardine gets up quickly though and begins to catch the tired-looking Gouveia with some more punches, as well as a glancing right high kick. Jardine begins to work some combinations using a right low kick, but the ref calls time as Jardine lands an accidental groin strike. They restart, and Jardine continues to press forward and land more combinations for the remainder of the round.
Third and final round, and they exchange some NASTY leg kicks to begin, with Gouveia pushing the action again, pretty much jacking Jardineís left leg with the kicks. Gouveia lands a glancing right high kick, but Jardine answers with a flurry of punches that stuns the Brazilian! Gouveia manages to recover quickly, but Jardine gets a single leg takedown to guard, where he bleeds all over Gouveiaís chest. Wilson throws up a triangle attempt but Jardine avoids and they stand back up, where Jardine opens up with some more leg kicks, until Gouveia counters with a right hand that puts Jardine down momentarily. Keith comes right back up though, and begins to land more strikes again, landing some very good punches and really starts to push the action as the fight comes to an end.
Weíre going to the judges; I have it 29-28 for Jardine, giving him the last two rounds, and the judges all agree, giving him the unanimous decision. Actually turned into one hell of a war, as Gouveia pretty much owned Jardine in the first round with much crisper Muay Thai, but he slowed down a lot after that and Keith fought his way back into the bout, landing better strikes and really taking over with his aggression at the end of the third round. Strong fight to open the televised portion of the event.
While Team Questís Herman was basically everyoneís pick to make the finals if not win in the Middleweight division, his opponent here was a bit of a surprise as Grove was one of the less heralded fighters coming into the reality show. A strong work ethic as well as some natural athleticism and the first opportunity for him to really work with top-level fighters caused Grove to become the most improved fighter on the show though, and an upset win over Kalib Starnes put him in the finals. Grove has his TUF coach Tito Ortiz in his corner here, while Shamrock, Hermanís coach on the show is watching from the stands.
Herman comes out swinging to open the first round, and he gets into a clinch where they muscle for position until Ed gets a takedown to guard. Grove immediately rolls into an armbar attempt and looks to have it locked up, but Herman does well to block the submission and lands some knees to the body for good measure. Finally he manages to work his way free, and drops some good punches on his way into half-guard. Grove escapes to his feet though, where he lands a good knee to the body, but Ed gets another takedown where he works into half-guard and lands some punches and elbows, working Grove over with more ground-and-pound until the round ends. Close round but Iíd probably give it to Herman.
They briefly exchange to begin the 2nd, before Herman gets another takedown to guard. This time though Grove locks up a triangle choke from the bottom! He canít get it completely locked up though, and Herman fights it, trying to slam his way out, but Grove keeps the triangle synched in. Ed holds on though, refusing to tap, and finally manages to pop free into Kendallís guard. Before he can get anything going Kendall throws up the triangle again, and this time he uses it to sweep into top position where he goes into the north/south position. Kendall lands some knees to the shoulders before Ed rolls and reverses to his feet, only for Grove to reverse *that* and stuff a takedown en route to getting on top in guard. Kendall lands some good elbows, but now *Herman* locks up a triangle from the bottom! Grove looks in deep trouble and it looks like heís ready to tap out, but then he rolls and manages to escape! Herman gets top position though and looks to take the back, only for Grove to reverse again, ending the round on top! Whew, hell of a round! Probably Groveís round but it could definitely have gone either way.
Third and final round, and these guys look EXHAUSTED now, for good reason. Herman comes out lunging for a takedown, but he leaves himself open for some strikes and Grove capitalizes, landing a beautiful jumping knee to the body. Ed gets a clinch off it though, and charges him down, getting a takedown to guard. Kendall tries the triangle again, but Herman avoids it and passes to side mount. Grove rolls and tries to reverse, but Ed grabs a front facelock and they come up to their feet, exchanging inside before Herman gets another takedown to half-guard. This time he takes the back, and works to get both hooks in! Grove looks in trouble as Herman flattens him out and lands some shots, but the Team Quest fighter decides to switch out to the side for an armbar, and this allows Grove to pull free and take Hermanís back! Now Herman looks in trouble, and Grove gets both hooks in and LOCKS UP THE CHOKE! Crowd are going INSANE as Herman looks doomed, but somehow he reaches up and PULLS THE HANDS OFF, managing to survive the final seconds blocking the choke!
Aw man, what a fight. Up there with Griffin-Bonnar as the absolute classic TUF final, and like that fight itís almost impossible to call a winner. Judges have it unanimously though, for the winner....Kendall Grove! First time watching this I actually scored it for Herman, giving him the first and third rounds, but rewatching it itís basically impossible to score and I canít blame the judges for going for Kendall after he almost ended things with the choke. Of course, post-fight Dana White decides to give Herman the six-figure deal as well, which is the best decision on TUF since, well, Dana gave Bonnar the six-figure deal after the Griffin fight. Unbelievable action from start to finish in what was definitely a high-end FOTYC. These TUF finals definitely bring out the best in these fighters, thatís for sure.
-We take a break from the fights momentarily as they induct the completely retired Randy Couture into the UFC Hall Of Fame, complete with a cool video package set to Hendrixís Star Spangled Banner. Nice segment to honour Couture and the Hall of Fame is just another accolade to add to the list for him.
Englandís Bisping was coming into this a massive favourite after blowing through his two opponents on the reality show, while Haynes had struggled past Tait Fletcher and Jesse Forbes in close fights, and was also giving up a lot of size to Bisping, being more of a natural (chubby) Welterweight. Still, as weíd seen in the past with Cummo-Stevenson, having one finalist as a huge favourite doesnít necessarily equal a one-sided fight, especially with a fighter with the sheer heart of Haynes. Tito Ortiz joins us on commentary for this one, playing the neutral as both of these men were on his team.
Round 1 begins and Haynes comes out swinging into a clinch, but Bisping trips him down to side mount. Haynes rolls into a front facelock and they come back up, where Haynes swings his way to a clinch again. This time they exchange inside before Bisping takes over with some sharp knees, one of which drops Haynes down by the fence. Haynes crawls for a takedown but Bisping counters with a knee to the head...which is deemed illegal as Haynes was on his knees at the time. Ref calls time out and docks Bisping a point, and they restart with Bisping landing a body kick into the clinch, where he knees the body and gets a takedown to side mount. Bisping takes the back with both hooks, but Haynes does well to defend the rear naked choke, and ends up reversing to his feet. He swings away again, but Bisping avoids and gets the clinch, but they break off quickly. Bisping lands a jab, and then stuffs a takedown and ends up in full mount, before taking the back to go for the rear naked choke once more, but the round ends before he can finish it.
Into the 2nd round, and Bisping opens with a flying knee to the body before clinching. They muscle for position and then break, and Haynes finally catches him with a right hand that causes Bisping to backpedal a little. Haynes comes forward swinging, but Bisping avoids and drags him to the mat, where he tries an armbar and then switches to a weird kimura/triangle combination from the back, bending Haynesí arm back like a police hold. A bloody Haynes refuses to tap though, so Bisping switches off to the back and tries the rear choke, only for Haynes to escape into the guard. Bisping keeps an active guard though, and reverses into top position, where he begins to pound Haynes badly, like a shark smelling blood in the water. Haynes looks in deep trouble but somehow manages to stand, where he takes some more abuse from the Brit. Bisping drags him down again and tries a keylock, but Haynes escapes to his feet, only to take more nasty punches and knees. Haynes tries to fire back, but itís just wild swings at this point as Bisping nails him again and again, and finally he collapses and the ref steps in to stop the fight.
After a somewhat entertaining fight that ended up turning into a vicious beating, your TUF III Light-Heavyweight Champion is Michael Bisping, the man who was most peopleís favourite to begin with. This was almost reminiscent of TUF Iís Florian/Sanchez fight, with the favoured guy winning in the fashion most people expected coming in, albeit Haynesí heart and determination kept him in there longer than most had anticipated. Haynes tried, but he was always overmatched and Bisping did his job in finishing him, although it was clear from this that the Brit was (and still is) far from the finished article. Fun fight though, even if it didnít come close to the earlier finals bout.
-Before the main event we are re-introduced to the UFCís latest signing, former Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver, who is unsurprisingly stoked to be back in the mix. He stays on to commentate on the main event.
Main event here was a match originally scheduled for UFC 58, before Florian had to pull out with a back injury. Stout had defeated Spencer Fisher, who took the fight on short notice, at that event, while this was Florianís debut fight at his more natural weight of 155lbs. General consensus was that this was a classic striker vs. grappler match, with Stout wanting to keep it standing and Florian wanting to get it to the ground as quickly as possible.
They begin, and Florian immediately closes the distance, clinches, and gets a quick takedown. Stout gets full guard, but takes an elbow strike and then Florian passes into side mount. Kenny takes full mount and works him over with punches, and this causes Stout to roll, giving his back, and from there itís all she wrote, as Florian secures a tight rear naked choke, forcing Stout to tap out.
Surprisingly one-sided affair, as Stout was never given a chance to get any of his strikes off; Florian closed the distance instantly and from the takedown onwards this was clearly his fight. Very impressive debut at 155lbs for the TUF I runner-up, and after beating Fisher, this was a disappointing show from the Canadian Stout. Bit of an anticlimax after the last TUF Finaleís incredible main event, but such is MMA.
-And we run the highlights shortly after.
The TUF Finales always seem to deliver for some reason, and TUF IIIís last stand is no exception. Undercard is full of fun, relatively short matches, and the televised portion is extremely good too, with a total war between Jardine and Gouveia and then the tremendous fight between Herman and Grove, which would be worth a recommendation by itself. Main event is a bit underwhelming and Bispingís fight is a little one-sided, but theyíre still entertaining enough and any show with a fight the level of Herman-Grove is an easy thumbs up anyway. High recommendation for the TUF III Finale, and come to think of it, a high recommendation for TUF III itself too.
UFC: 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, Fight Nights 6-11, and the TUF IV Finale.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.