UFC: Ultimate Fighter V Finale review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on February 3, 2009, 2:30 PM
UFC: Ultimate Fighter V Finale
Las Vegas, Nevada
-People harp on about how good the original Ultimate Fighter series was, but for me Season 5 was the point where the show reached its greatest heights. Think about it for a second – the rivalry between coaches Penn and Pulver, the chaotic team picking incident, Corey Hill and Manny Gamburyan’s general craziness, the Gabe Ruediger weight cutting debacle, Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas: Backyard Fighters, the randomness of the ping-pong match, and the clash between Nate Diaz and Karo Parisyan. And that’s not to mention the actual fights – Cole Miller vs. Joe Lauzon is probably the best fight ever to take place inside the confines of TUF – and the fighters the show produced – Diaz, Gamburyan, Maynard, Lauzon, Miller, and Wiman stand up against any other crop produced by the reality show.
The Finale itself was quite unique, as for the first time the coaches were headlining the show with their grudge match, rather than being placed on PPV a few weeks later. For me this was a far better idea too, as using Pulver and Penn not only gave a good grudge match, but it didn’t sideline any of the UFC’s World Titles either. A couple of additional matches were then added alongside the usual mix and match of that season’s TUF cast, and voila, the UFC’s fifth free TV show of 2007 was on tap.
Wiman had been pegged as one of the early favourites to take the TUF crown as he was one of three fighters in the house (the others being Ruediger and Lauzon) to have already competed inside the UFC, but he ended up being eliminated in the quarter-finals by Manny Gamburyan. He’s probably best remembered, as bizarrely as it sounds, for the random, no-apparent-reason “feud” with Gabe Ruediger early on. Geraghty was practically a non-entity, squashed by Joe Lauzon in the first round and largely pushed to the back due to a quieter (as in, not borderline insane) personality.
Wiman comes out throwing some kicks, lands a leg kick and then comes forward for a takedown, leaning downwards in a dangerous manner. He manages to force Geraghty back against the fence, and gets a single leg to guard. They manoeuvre around by the fence for a bit before Wiman takes over with some big elbows from the top. Wiman stands to drop some bigger shots, but eats an upkick in the process, right on the jaw. Wiman drops back down and then leaps right over the legs to the full mount, and right away Geraghty gives his back. Wiman gets both hooks in and starts to pound away, and a few moments – and big punches – later the ref steps in.
Quick and easy win for Wiman who never looked in any sort of trouble and blew through an overmatched opponent quickly.
‘Monstah Lobster’ Berubie was kicked out of the house after his part in the backyard fight debacle, but was surprisingly brought back for the Finale. Apparently his original opponent was Corey Hill, but Corey picked up an injury and because Messrs Ruediger, Sims and Thomas were effectively blackballed by Zuffa (along with poor Wayne Weems, who didn’t actually do anything wrong per say) it left him without a castmate to fight so he was faced instead with Texan Leonard Garcia, who took the fight on relatively short notice.
Round One and Garcia throws a low kick and then a head kick, but Berubie catches it and gets a takedown, where Garcia locks up a guillotine in full guard. Monstah quickly breaks free into the guard, where he works punches to the body as Garcia stays busy from the bottom, looking to lock up a triangle. Strong punches land from Berubie from the top, but Garcia looks calm. Garcia tries to roll, but gives his neck and Berubie looks for a guillotine choke, pulling guard, but Garcia breaks free and gets to his feet. Berubie looks for the takedown, and gets it, sitting Garcia down with the ‘Bad Boy’ holding a front facelock. Berubie works through to half-guard, but fails on a mount attempt and Garcia reverses over into top position. Big elbow lands from Garcia in half-guard. Leonard passes to side mount, and then takes full mount and lands some big punches. Berubie gives his back and Garcia immediately swings both hooks in, and quickly locks up a rear naked choke for the tapout.
Decent little grappling match actually but Garcia was on a higher level than Berubie and despite Monstah putting up a decent fight, there was only ever going to be one winner here.
This was actually the first televised bout of the night but on the DVD for some reason they haven’t moved the prelims back into their proper order, leaving them in the order they were shown on the live show, whatever. Huerta was put on this card on short notice in his fourth fight of 2007, after putting on a FOTYC with Leonard Garcia last time out. I guess they wanted to showcase him on free TV after the whole Sports Illustrated cover deal. Evans was largely unknown, an Alaskan wrestling champion brought in most likely to provide Huerta with a highlight reel opportunity. Still, he was undefeated, can’t sniff at that.
They exchange some punches early and Evans stumbles on a leg kick attempt, but gets a clinch and shoves Huerta into the fence. Evans goes for a takedown and switches to a rear waistlock, where he tries to pull Roger down, but Huerta rolls free. They clinch up again and muscle for position, where Evans lands a nice inside elbow. They break off, and exchange a few punches, neither man gaining the upper hand. Couple of flashy kicks land from El Matador. Huerta shoots in but Evans does well to block the takedown, reversing and hopping onto Roger’s back with both hooks. Evans locks up a body triangle and lands some punches, as Huerta spins, looking to escape. Huerta finally slips out and stands, shooting for a takedown, but again Evans manages to stuff it. They break off and Evans lands some strikes standing as they brawl wildly, back into the clinch. Evans gets another takedown and ends the round in top position.
Huerta comes out aggressively for the 2nd, landing punches in bunches right away including a big left hook. Couple of hard body kicks land as Evans begins to backpedal a little. Two good leg kicks from Huerta land, but Evans gets a takedown to guard. Huerta spins and avoids Evans hopping onto his back again, and they come back up to the clinch by the fence. Evans gets another takedown to half-guard, but Huerta struggles and regains guard, then reverses with a sweep and puts Evans on his back in side mount. Evans tries to regain guard, but Huerta drops some punches from the top and then passes and this time takes the back with both hooks. Evans looks in trouble as Huerta takes the back mount and flattens him out, and then lands some bombs from the top and Steve Mazzagatti steps in to stop things.
Evans fought a pretty great first round and clearly surprised Huerta, who may well have underestimated the unknown opponent, but once the second round came in Huerta just kicked things up a gear and try as he might, Evans just couldn’t really cope with the pressure. Fun fight as always with Roger Huerta.
Leites, like Huerta, was another guy Zuffa were looking to showcase on free TV here after a strong win over Pete Sell at UFC 69. Sword I believe trains with Greg Jackson’s team and was making his UFC debut here sporting a record of 9-2, after a career spent mainly in promotions like KOTC and IFC.
Round One begins with a good leg kick by Leites. Spinning back kick from Thales narrowly misses. Sword bulls forward with some punches, and then catches a flying knee attempt and looks for a takedown. Leites avoids and they end up clinched by the fence, where Leites gets a nice takedown to side mount. Sword works back to half-guard, and then full guard as Leites tries to move him to the fence. Sword uses the fence to work to his feet, doing well, as Leites tries to get him back down again. Beautiful judo trip puts Sword down, but he manages to get half-guard once more. Leites works to pass, and then stands as Sword tries to push him off. Couple of kicks to the legs land and then Thales drops back into the guard. He passes and takes Floyd’s back, where he gets one hook and drops some punches. Leites gets the other hook and then transitions over from the back right into an arm triangle choke, sliding out to the side to tighten it up for the tapout.
Total squash to be fair but it was a fun one as it’s always great to see a guy with Leites’ submission skill get a showcase like this.
Emerson was eliminated by Nate Diaz in the first round, but was given a rare second chance after Ruediger’s weight problems, only to lose a controversial decision to Corey Hill in his second first round match. Wrestler and Xtreme Couture member Maynard, on the other hand, while largely inexperienced, had made it all the way to the semi-finals before being tapped out by Nate Diaz. General consensus here was that Maynard – another potential “new Josh Koscheck” would run right through Emerson here. Just a side note, Emerson’s nickname of ‘The Saint’ given his shady background is dope.
Round One and Emerson clips him with a right early, but Maynard gets MAD AGGRESSIVE and they wildly brawl, trading bombs. Big jumping knee from Emerson lands and then he surprisingly tackles Gray into the fence! Maynard instantly reverses him and dumps him on his back, but Emerson quickly tries to lock up an armbar. Frenetic pace so far and it’s only been 30 seconds. Gray pulls out and stands, eating a couple of upkicks before dropping into full guard. Emerson uses an active guard to keep Maynard at bay, but Gray works and passes, only for Emerson to stand. Maynard grabs him in basically a standing half-nelson and lands some knees, before dragging him down and looking for a choke variant from the position after flipping him over to the bottom position. Looks like a D’Arce choke actually. Emerson gets half-guard and works free, getting full guard where he looks for an armbar. Gray passes to side mount though in the process, and lands a series of brutal knees to the body, especially the rib area. Gray steps over to full mount, but Emerson scrambles back to half-guard quickly. Emerson tries to sweep, and then spins for a heel hook, but Gray avoids and stands, where he lands a nasty body shot down into the ribs. Another bodyshot lands before Maynard drops down to side mount. Emerson rolls and Gray takes the back with both hooks, landing some heavy punches as Emerson looks in trouble. Emerson scrambles though and gives up mount before escaping to half-guard, but Gray continues to pound away at the head and body, taking the back once more as the round ends. Hell of a round.
Between rounds Emerson looks really hurt, staggering to his corner holding his ribs in pain.
Second round gets underway with a touch of gloves. Maynard presses as Emerson looks to protect the body, but a big uppercut lands from Gray and he shoots in, lifts Emerson into the air and delivers a BIG SLAM! Emerson screams in pain upon landing and taps out, but as the ref steps in we get TOTAL CONFUSION!~! as Maynard rolls off Emerson and looks completely out of it himself. Replays show that Maynard’s head connected hard with the mat on the slam, knocking him out cold, so basically Emerson tapped out with an unconscious guy laying on top of him.
Goldberg comments that still, Maynard has won the fight....until we go to Bruce Buffer who announces that referee Steve Mazzagatti has decided that because neither man could continue, it’s a No Contest. Crowd boo as Maynard is PISSED. Post-fight interview is HILARIOUS as Maynard is like “I was NOT unconscious!” and Rogan is like “Dude you were totally unconscious bro!”. Maynard continues to protest, claiming he was just stuck because his arm was under Emerson’s back, but Rogan is adamant. “You were out, bro, you were totally unconscious.” “I WAS NOT UNCONCIOUS!” Wooord. More comedic stuff follows as Rogan interviews Emerson who apologises, claims he had a rib injury during training, and then goes on to say “I won’t be counting this as a win”. Well, yeah, it’s a No Contest dude.
Really exciting fight as both men came to fight and threw down from start to finish, with Maynard using his brutal strength and ground skill to work over Emerson, who credit to him, was game throughout and never gave up until he genuinely couldn’t continue. Couple that with the bizarre finish, almost reminiscent of Hughes-Newton, and a post-fight interview that ranks as one of the most hilarious in UFC history, and you’ve got an outright classic here.
Wang was one of the more unfortunate members of the cast, losing a decision to Brandon Melendez in a fight that saw him basically ignore his corner’s pleas to take Melendez down and use his BJJ black belt, crying post-fight while claiming to be a “warrior”, and finally having the indignity of being kicked off Team Penn for, well, no apparent reason to be fair (notice a trend here?). Miller meanwhile had made it to the quarters before being eliminated by Joe Lauzon in the best fight of the season, a grappling war reminiscent of Diego Sanchez-Nick Diaz, and for me had one of the biggest upsides of all the cast; being a huge, lanky 155lber with excellent submissions and a great team in American Top Team behind him.
Miller throws out some long jabs to open and then clinches, but Wang breaks off. Wang again, like on the show, looks happy to trade off with a clearly better striker, and once again he pays the price as Miller lands a BIG LEFT HIGH KICK that puts him on his back, where Cole pounds him out for the stoppage.
Kick looked almost freakish with Miller’s ridiculously long leg. Post-fight Wang protests an early stoppage, but he clearly wasn’t defending intelligently. Another total squash, but with a fun finish at least.
Lauzon was an odd choice to take part on TUF V, as he’d already knocked out Pulver in Jens’ big UFC comeback in September 2006. This made him an early favourite to take the title and sure enough he made it to the semis, defeating Brian Geraghty and Cole Miller, but then stumbled at the last hurdle as Manny Gamburyan grinded out a decision over him. Still, most people saw him as a possible future star, and striker Melendez, who had made it as far as the quarters, looked on paper to simply be a likely victim for ‘J-Lau’. Interesting note, Melendez only made 157lbs for this fight and got fined by the NSAC for his Gabe Ruediger-like crime.
Brandon throws some combos early, but Lauzon gets a single leg and a takedown into side mount. Melendez gets half-guard, but eats some punches and elbows en route to getting full guard back. Joe picks him up and then drops him back down before mounting and taking the back. Both hooks are in and he looks for the rear naked choke, but Melendez scrambles and ends up mounted again. Brandon rolls once more, giving his back again, as Lauzon again looks for the rear naked. Lauzon loses control in a transition and Melendez escapes to his feet, blocks a takedown and so Lauzon pulls guard and instantly goes for a sweep. Brandon stays on top in the guard though and moves him to the fence. Melendez stands and lets him up, where he lands a nice right, but on a body kick Lauzon takes him down to half-guard. Couple of short elbows land from the top as Lauzon controls him. He passes and takes the back again, with just over a minute remaining. Side note now as I only just noticed, Melendez looks like Wolverine with his sideburns and wild haircut. Melendez does a good job of flipping out into Lauzon’s guard, where he narrowly avoids a heel hook attempt to end the round.
Into the 2nd then, and Melendez fires off some combos, but Lauzon ducks under a shot and gets a takedown to half-guard. Mount follows once again, and Melendez again gives his back. Lauzon has both hooks in, but he’s pushed into the fence which is a problem with leverage, and Melendez stays relaxed and looks to escape into Joe’s guard. Brandon does a good job of defending the choke, and finally manages to slip free, but ends up rolling right into a triangle choke for the tapout.
Solid fight as Lauzon put on a very good showing to submit a game Melendez after a number of attempts. Melendez fought well and I daresay if he hadn’t missed weight like he did he may not have been released after this fight.
This, to me, was the most intriguing TUF Finale since Griffin-Bonnar, as both men had been pivotal characters on the show and seemed well matched, with Gamburyan’s strong ground control and punishing GNP facing off with Diaz’s strong technical boxing and submission skill from his back and on top. Both had taken tough routes to the finals, Diaz beating Rob Emerson, Corey Hill and Gray Maynard, while Gamburyan took out Noah Thomas, Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon. They had also been good friends on the show, which always makes for an interesting matchup. My pick was Manny, as he’d been my absolute favourite character on the season after his random outburst on episode 2 (“I don’t give a fuck bro, I’ll fight anyone!”) and had been my pick to win the show from the beginning. Diaz is cool too though, don’t get me wrong.
Staredown is crazy here as both men do their best Wanderlei Silva impression despite Diaz being like seven inches taller than Manny. Man is Diaz thin.
Manny shoots right away and gets him down, but Nate looks for a kimura quickly. Manny avoids with a front facelock and goes for a guillotine, pulling guard, and then he elevates him over into almost a Monson choke, but Diaz pops free and goes to full guard on his back. Gamburyan looks to pass and works to half-guard with some punches, and then Diaz turtles up and eats some shots, giving his back standing. Manny gets a rear waistlock as Diaz tries to turn into him, and they end up clinched with Manny forcing him into the fence. Takedown by Manny follows as Diaz spins into full guard. Diaz turns his back again and eats some really heavy shots to the side of the head, but he works to his feet only for Manny to force him to the ground again. Diaz stays active from the bottom, trying to answer with some punches, but Manny lands a hard right hand. Diaz tries an oma plata, but Gamburyan yanks out immediately. Kimura attempt follows as Diaz tries to roll into it, but Manny avoids again and ends up back in the guard. Exchange in the guard continues before Manny passes to half-guard. Diaz tries to escape but gets caught in a front facelock, and they stand back up before Manny drags him down again. Hell of a first round that has to go to Gamburyan in my book.
Second round, and Diaz opens with a combo, answered by a missed high kick from Manny. Gamburyan shoots in and Diaz sprawls, but suddenly Manny taps out there, and Rogan immediately points out that he’s dislocated his shoulder. Damn.
Terrible ending to what looked like it was going to be another classic TUF Final based on that first round. Gamburyan had suffered with shoulder problems before, but nobody could’ve guessed it’d cause a shitty ending like that, but such is MMA I guess. Post-fight Diaz admits that he had a slow start and the ending wasn’t a great way to win, which is understandable, but it wasn’t his fault at all. Very unfortunate for Manny as he’d taken the first round in convincing fashion, too. Still, outside of the ending the fight was really good. It looked for a while like they would build to a rematch between these two, but some unforeseen circumstances have happened since so who knows whether we’ll ever see them square off again. Personally I hope they do.
People thought Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz had a bitter rivalry, but to me that felt much more staged and pro-wrestling-esque than the rivalry between Pulver and Penn, who clearly didn’t get along in the slightest, neither man – particularly BJ – being able to let go of their first fight five years prior, which of course saw Pulver defeat Penn by decision to retain his Lightweight title. Shenanigans in the house had seen the rivalry escalate even further (it was even hard for the two to settle down and discuss match-ups) and in a live interview Pulver had promised to knock Penn’s teeth out, while BJ had promised to break Jens’s left arm. Both had changed a lot since their first meeting, as Pulver had largely fought in Japan in the 145lbs class before moving to Pride for a stint and then back to the UFC, where he’d been KOd by Joe Lauzon in his last fight, while Penn had fought for the past three years as a Welterweight or even higher, losing his last two fights to Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes. My pick was Pulver, but it was more of a sentimental pick from the heart rather than the head, as most thought Penn had the big advantage in most areas and would blow through Lil’ Evil this time around.
It’s immediately obvious from the entrances alone that Penn’s in amazing shape for this fight, unlike the Hughes and GSP fights he’s clearly trained himself to the best of his ability here, even sporting abs. Size difference is noticeable too as Pulver is coming in at just 152lbs.
Penn comes out like a house on fire, landing a right hand that stuns Pulver before unloading with more punches as Jens covers up. Big slam from BJ follows and he works to pass right away, getting to half-guard. Pulver stays calm as Penn stuffs him into the cage, and tries to stand, but Penn gets him down in half-guard once more. Penn works and passes to full mount, locking his legs underneath for more leverage. Pulver gives his back and BJ immediately goes for the left armbar, rolling through, but Pulver spins out, right into a triangle choke! It looks tight as BJ pulls down on the head, but Jens postures up and manages to escape! Good job from Pulver. BJ locks on a body triangle from the bottom, as Pulver tries to work from the top, but only manages to land one decent elbow really. They come back to their feet, and exchange some punches inside close quarters, trading off to end the round.
2nd round and Pulver lands a good left in an exchange, but BJ gets the takedown to half-guard. He looks to pass, and sure enough slips over into mount, although Pulver manages to sneak his leg out and get a butterfly hook back. Penn mounts again though, and lands some hard shots from the top, right to the head. Jens squirms and gives his back, but takes more shots and rolls to mount again. Pulver gives his back once more, trying to shake BJ off, but Penn has him firmly controlled and he flattens him again. This time though BJ traps his left arm using his left leg, and sinks in the rear naked choke. Pulver taps, but Penn holds the choke on for a moment for good measure before releasing.
Post-fight they share a hug and finally quash the feud, with Penn telling Pulver he can come and train with him in Hawaii any time. Pulver tells Rogan that the animosity is over, and he respects Penn for the way he fought and he can’t thank him enough for motivating him to train so hard. He also tells us that he’s going down to 145lbs after trying to build the 155lbs weight class into what it is today. Penn meanwhile simply tells us to go to BJPenn.com.
As a Pulver fan this was a heartbreaking fight to watch as it was just as one-sided as the Penn followers said it would be; Jens didn’t get any significant offense in and Penn worked him over throughout. BJ obviously came in at absolutely his peak shape, while as much as I hate to say it, Pulver is clearly past his prime at this point and it showed here. Still, if it took a feud like this to finally motivate Penn to live up to his massive potential then as an MMA fan I can’t really complain. A fitting way to end the night.
-And a highlight reel as always closes us out.
The TUF V Finale is admittedly full of squash matches for the most part, but they’re all fun squashes with cool finishes, and there’s not a bad fight on show here to be honest. The actual TUF Final obviously had an anticlimactic ending, but it was nobody’s fault really and the first round of that fight was ill at least. Add in the tremendous fight between Maynard and Emerson with the bizarre ending, and the pretty historic Pulver-Penn rematch, and you’ve got a card worth seeing. TUF V itself is definitely worth a high recommendation, and thankfully the Finale lived up to the high standards set by the show. There’s no classics here, but as a fun show it’s definitely worth a re-look.
Best Fight: Emerson-Maynard
Worst Fight: Diaz-Gamburyan (well, the finish anyway)
Overall Rating: ***
UFC: 75-92, Fight Nights 11-16, and TUF VI and VII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, 32, 33 and 34.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.