UFC: Ultimate Fighter VII Finale review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on May 26, 2009, 10:01 AM
UFC: Ultimate Fighter VII Finale
Las Vegas, Nevada
-Talk about a disappointment - I went into Season 7 of the Ultimate Fighter – AKA Team Rampage vs. Team Forrest expecting one of the most entertaining seasons yet, and really we were left with a damp squib – probably the worst season since the disastrous Comeback in Season 4. First off, the idea of having the fighters win their way into the house, with 32 combatants to begin with and only 16 going into the house was a good one on paper, but didn’t really work in execution, as it meant for too many fights in the first two shows and less time to build characters. I mean I’m an avid fan of TUF and can remember even the most obscure guys from like Seasons 3 and 5, but I could barely remember anyone from this series outside of the two finalists, Sadollah and Dollaway. If I’m honest the only thing I remember at all on the series would be Jesse Taylor being kicked out of the finals after his random drunken attack on a limousine. Maybe I need a rewatch, who knows?
The other disappointing thing was the role of the coaches – while I never expected Ken-Tito like hatred, I was at least expecting them to play an entertaining role and that never really happened either, which is surprising for guys as charismatic as Griffin and Rampage. Forrest in particular didn’t really come across as the affable, self-deprecating guy we normally see. Many fans figured this was the point where TUF “jumped the shark”, but I actually thought they recovered nicely with Season 8. That’s another review though. As for this Finale, surprisingly for a TUF Finale they didn’t actually showcase many of the season’s fighters on the undercard – in fact only five of the sixteen made it to this show, counting the finalists (although a further four have debuted since) which goes to show the lack of quality talent on show. But this meant that we got a pretty solid overall show with the likes of Jeremy Horn, Dustin Hazelett, Drew McFedries and Diego Sanchez all fighting, and a decent main event of Evan Tanner vs. Kendall Grove.
Alaskan wrestler Yundt was being given another crack of the whip after taking a fight with Ricardo Almeida on short notice back in February and being submitted, while Kimmons is one of those guys with a really deceptive record – he was 20-3 at this point which is really impressive until you look and see his best opponents were Joe Riggs, Marvin Eastman and Ryan Jensen, who happen to be his three losses. Physically he looks like a guy who could easily make 170lbs, too.
They throw out some feeler strikes before Yundt shoots for a takedown, but as he grabs Kimmons he gets caught in a guillotine. Yundt slams him down though and then pops his head free. Punches to the body from Yundt but Kimmons locks up an armbar, only to release it when Yundt lifts him up for a slam. Yundt works some loose ground-and-pound against the fence, as Kimmons looks to lock up a kimura. Yundt continues to elbow the body, and Kimmons eventually gives up the kimura and gets a reversal, getting on top in Yundt’s guard. He passes to half-guard, avoiding a roll attempt, and he lands some shots from the top. Yundt tries to reverse, but like the Almeida fight he leaves his neck free and Kimmons quickly locks up a guillotine for the tapout.
Solid win for Kimmons, but a bit of a nothing fight really as Yundt just didn’t seem to have much outside of his wrestling game.
This was a rematch of a KOTC fight from 2003 that saw Horn win a four-round decision. Lister’s last Octagon appearance had been the dire December win over Jordan Radev, but I was still picking him to win as Horn had looked completely shot in his last few fights, particularly in a bad loss to Jorge Santiago in late 2007.
Both men throw out some jabs before Lister lands a low kick. Horn blocks a takedown and Lister drops to his back, before standing back up. Few punches land for Horn and then Lister shoots again, but Jeremy stuffs it and reverses, gaining top position in half-guard. Very little happens in the position as Lister tries to work back to full guard, only for Horn to stand. They exchange some punches and then Horn sends Lister to his back on a high kick attempt, but wants nothing to do with the guard and calls him back to his feet. Nice low kick from Horn. Lister comes back with a nice combination and then shoots, but Horn blocks into the clinch. Lister trips him down though and lands a couple of elbows in Horn’s butterfly guard. Horn tries a reversal, but leaves his neck open and Lister clamps on a guillotine and even from half-guard that’s enough for the submission.
Never expected to see Jeremy Horn lose three fights on the bounce via submission, that’s for sure. Even against a grappler like Dean Lister. Guess that’s what happens when hundreds of fights catch up with you though. This was probably Lister’s most impressive UFC showing actually, as he showed some decent striking finally before getting the submission.
Brown was one of the cast members from Season 7 to get a fight on this card, and he was faced with Season 6’s Matt Arroyo – a man he’d already beaten earlier in his career. I hadn’t been that impressed with Brown aside from a head kick KO he landed on the show though and thought the improved Arroyo would probably have enough to win by submission this time.
We get started and Arroyo comes out aggressively with an overhand right. Couple of good leg kicks land for Arroyo too as they circle around. Good combo from Arroyo puts Brown on the defensive and then Arroyo gets the clinch, but Brown reverses the position. Arroyo trips him down momentarily but Brown does a good job of popping right back up. Arroyo gets him down again though and takes mount momentarily. Again though Brown manages to use the fence to reverse to his feet. Arroyo continues to look for the takedown, but Brown hops around on one leg to avoid it. Beautiful combination of shots to the head and body seem to have Brown hurt, and he’s bloodied up now too. Brown comes back swinging, but Arroyo drops for a leglock only for Brown to slip free. They clinch again and Brown breaks with a knee. Brown throws some kicks into another clinch, where he stuns Arroyo with a knee. Arroyo looks a bit tired now as he steps off, and Brown follows up with a heavy combo into the clinch. Nice inside knees from the clinch for Brown, and then he breaks off and lands a big head kick! Arroyo swings right back though, and the buzzer sounds there. Pretty dope first round actually.
Between rounds Rich Franklin tells Brown that Arroyo’s will is broken and he’s about to gas.
2nd round, and Arroyo opens with a left straight. Brown continues to push forward though and lands a nice left kick to the body. Big right hand and follow-up left hook appear to have stunned Arroyo bad. Flying knee and head kick follows for Brown and Arroyo desperately lunges in for a takedown, and pulls guard as Brown stuffs it. Brown postures up and drops some punches down as Arroyo looks very tired at this stage. Elbows and punches continue to land as Arroyo’s not doing anything to control Brown from his back. Eventually Brown pins him into the cage, and from there more ground-and-pound follows until the referee decides he’s seen enough and stops things.
Really fun fight and Brown impressed me by coming back from the wrong end of a bit of a kicking in the first round to just take over and overwhelm Arroyo as he got tired towards the end of the first and throughout the second round. Good showing from ‘The Immortal’.
This was Eastman’s second UFC fight at Middleweight and like his previous one with Terry Martin, he was matched with another big puncher, this time Team Miletich’s Drew McFedries. McFedries is one-dimensional but he packs some serious power, and with Eastman’s lack of a chin I was expecting a heavy KO from ‘The Massacre’.
They begin and McFedries throws a HUGE flying knee, but Eastman catches it and slams him down. They pop right back up though and Drew breaks off. Nice leg kick from McFedries and Eastman closes the distance and gets a clinch. Good right from Eastman breaks, but McFedries comes forward and stuns him with a left hand. Eastman looks wobbled as McFedries flurries with uppercuts, but Eastman hangs in there and fires back. Eastman shoots, but McFedries steps off and drops him to his front with an uppercut. Eastman wobbles all over the place now and Drew tosses him to the ground and looks to finish, but Marvin somehow comes back and goes for an ankle pick. McFedries avoids it though and nails him with another right, causing him to fall face-first towards the cage, and the ref calls it there.
Fight went pretty much exactly as I suspected it would, as Eastman’s chin just couldn’t deal with the power of McFedries’ punches and in the end it was a quick and decisive beating. Final right hand was absolutely vicious.
This was probably the most intriguing bout on the untelevised portion of the card, as despite losing a decision to Mike Swick in his last outing, Burkman had proven to be a tough test for anyone at 170lbs, while Hazelett had looked very impressive in a loss to Josh Koscheck in March, and was considered as dangerous as anyone at Welterweight on the mat. I think in fact he got his BJJ Black Belt from Jorge Gurgel right before this fight, well, either right before or right after.
Round One gets underway and they exchange strikes with neither man really gaining an advantage. Burkman closes the distance and gets a slam down to guard, but Hazelett immediately goes into rubber guard. He twists into an oma plata, forcing Burkman to attempt to roll, but Hazelett keeps it locked and then grabs the head with an over/under for more leverage. Burkman slips his arm free but Hazelett transitions to a D’Arce and then a head and arm choke. Burkman escapes *that*, but ends up caught in a guillotine! He turns it into an anaconda choke and rolls, and you can actually see the veins bulging in Burkman’s head and arm as he tries to hold on. Somehow Burkman manages to break free, and then he goes WILD with some heavy elbows to the head of Hazelett, pinning him into the cage in half-guard. Burkman slows momentarily and then pounds away at the head again, but this allows Hazelett to regain the rubber guard. He ends up using a regular closed guard, and Burkman lands some shots to the body before Hazelett kicks him away to end the round. Well, that was pretty awesome.
2nd round, and Burkman comes out with a spinning wheel kick! He lands a right hand as Hazelett comes forward, and they trade punches before Burkman grabs him and lifts him into a nice slam. Another slam follows as Burkman lifts him to deliver it again, but once again Hazelett uses the rubber guard to control the People’s Warrior. Burkman pulls out and stands, and keeps switching stances to try to throw Hazelett off his game. Big right hook to the body from Burkman. Left kick to the body lands for Burkman but he misses a wild overhand right. Burkman keeps swinging and almost lands a jumping body kick, before grabbing Hazelett for another slam. Dustin locks up a guillotine in the koala position as Burkman lifts him though, but Burkman avoids the slam and manages to slip his head free. They end up clinched by the fence and then Burkman breaks off with a combo. Burkman continues to switch stances constantly and swing for the fences, but Hazelett manages to avoid the really powerful shots. Nice left hook from Burkman and he follows with a right hand-left high kick combo. Beautiful front kick from Hazelett to answer though and it snaps Burkman’s head back. Head kick from Hazelett stuns Burkman and now he goes for the takedown, but Hazelett blocks and they go into the clinch. Burkman tries to trip him down, but Hazelett hits a whizzer and JUMPS RIGHT INTO AN ARMBAR AND BURKMAN TAPS!~! WOW.
Amazing submission from Hazelett – easily one of the best I’ve ever seen in MMA. Hazelett literally hit that armbar out of nowhere, as I’ve never seen someone swing into one directly from a whizzer like that. Unbelievable finish to what turned out to be a great, great fight. I mean the first round with the chaining together of the submissions was insane enough, but that finish was just ridiculous. Post-fight Hazelett admits he made it up on the spot. Well, yeah.
Despite coming in with no professional bouts, Riddle had created a storm in his preliminary bout by KOing a guy and breaking his jaw in one of the sickest knockouts in UFC history. Everyone should remember it – it was the one where the guy was groaning in horrible pain for ages afterwards. Just horrible stuff. His opponent, Rivera, was the oldest guy on the cast and pre-fight he promises to retire if he can’t beat Riddle here. Riddle for his part had been training with the Arizona Combat Sports team coming in, which had to be awesome for him as he seemed to idolize CB Dollaway during the tapings.
Round One gets started and they circle before Rivera closes the distance into the clinch. They exchange knees inside the clinch and then Rivera grabs a front facelock. Riddle breaks free and they clinch up again, and they exchange some short strikes from close quarters. Some good knees land from Riddle and then they break off. Rivera swings into a clinch again, and they exchange knees to the midsection. Riddle tries to get him down, but Rivera avoids it and they continue to muscle in the clinch. Dante breaks with a knee and then lands a pair of excellent leg kicks. Riddle looks okay though and gets a bodylock into a takedown to half-guard, where he lands some elbows until the round ends.
Into the 2nd, and Rivera swings into another clinch, but Riddle drops and gets a takedown to half-guard. Riddle stands over him and kicks at the legs, before Rivera gets to his feet. They clinch up again, exchanging knees once more, before Rivera breaks with a combo. Rivera gets aggressive and swings before shooting, but Riddle stuffs it and they end up clinched again. Foot stomps from Riddle. More knees exchanged in close, and Rivera still can’t get Riddle down. They break off and Rivera throws an overhand left that clips Riddle, but they end up going to the mat and Riddle lands in full mount. Some good shots from Riddle but he goes for a totally telegraphed armbar and Rivera easily avoids it and stands, then goes down into Riddle’s guard. Riddle locks up a triangle from the bottom though and Rivera looks in deep, deep trouble, but the round ends before he can finish it off.
Third and final round, and they circle before Riddle lands a good right and a nice knee to follow up. They clinch again and Rivera just can’t get this guy to the mat. More knees are exchanged with Riddle getting the better of it, and then he gets a takedown to Dante’s guard. Rivera tries to go into rubber guard, but he can’t secure any sort of submission and Riddle begins to work through to half-guard. Nice elbow from Riddle from the top. They come back to their feet and Dante pushes forward to another clinch, desperately trying to get Riddle down. Riddle ends up taking him down though, back to guard, but little happens and Herb Dean stands them up. Less than a minute to go and Rivera clinches again, but once more Riddle goes for a leg and pulls him down, taking full mount. Riddle breaks Dante’s grip and lands some shots, and the fight ends soon after.
I’ve got this 30-27 for Riddle and the judges agree, giving the youngster a unanimous decision. Not the most entertaining fight if we’re being fair but Riddle is still young and inexperienced and this was a good showing for him to beat a veteran like Rivera. Probably shouldn’t have been on the televised card given they had Hazelett vs. Burkman in the prelims, but whatever.
Pretty solid match right here. Fisher was looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Frank Edgar (and a nasty staph infection) while Stephens was on a three-fight winning streak, including a TKO of Cole Miller in an awesome back-and-forth fight. My pick was Stephens using his takedowns to work Fisher over for a decision. According to the pre-fight package these guys are former sparring partners too which always makes for an interesting story.
They circle to begin and then exchange some punches into the clinch, where Stephens gets a takedown. Fisher pops right back up though, and then gets a takedown of his own to Stephens’ guard. He looks to pass to half-guard, but Jeremy does a good job of keeping full guard. Fisher postures up to drop some punches, as Stephens appears to be setting up for an armbar. Fisher avoids it though and continues to drop punches from the top. Stephens goes for a triangle, but Fisher escapes and uses the opportunity to pass, but Jeremy works back to half-guard. Odd rolling elbow from the top scores from Fisher; that looked like something out of a pro-wrestling match. Few more conventional elbows land now too. Fisher passes to full mount and then takes the back as Stephens rolls, but Jeremy does an excellent job of spinning over and getting back to guard. Fisher stands and drops some big shots over the top, as the announcers point out an odd cut on Fisher’s forearm that seems to have been there from before the fight. Round ends shortly after.
2nd round and Stephens comes out throwing bombs, but Fisher lands a leg kick and then closes the distance into the clinch. Stephens tries to take him down from a bodylock, but Spencer blocks and they end up pressed against the cage in the clinch. They exchange some elbows inside and then break, and Fisher follows up with a pair of nice low kicks. Nice combo from Spencer and he catches Stephens with a clean right hook as Jeremy lunges in with a knee. Another combination lands and finishes with a knee to the gut, into a clinch again. They exchange in close and then break off, and Fisher calls time to have his mouthpiece put back in. Nice right hand lands for Spencer off the restart and then he deflects a spinning backfist with his forearm. Into the clinch and they exchange elbows in close, before Stephens tries a trip, only for Fisher to reverse and take side mount as they hit the ground. Some good elbows land from the top to the side of Stephens’ head. Spencer tries to mount, but gets stuck in half-guard instead. Nice combination of elbows and punches by Fisher as Stephens tries to scramble back to full guard. Rolling elbow lands again for Spencer and then he stands and lands a nice right hand. Stephens avoids an ax stomp, but Fisher manages to pass the guard. Stephens reverses to his feet though, and ends the round with a good slam.
Third and final round, and I have Fisher up two rounds to nothing here. Stephens comes out aggressively, and answers a body kick with a nice combo. Superman punch from Stephens misses, and Fisher lands to the body. Nice knee to the body and right hand from Stephens and they go back into the clinch. Break off, and Fisher fires a couple of nice kicks. They keep exchanging shots, and then Stephens sprawls to avoid a takedown and grabs a guillotine, rolling to his back to look to finish. Fisher pops his way free though and he’s now in side mount again. Mount from Fisher and Stephens looks in trouble. Fisher decides to go back to side mount though, but botches it and ends up in half-guard, and from there Stephens gets full guard. They come back up and Stephens lands a glancing right hand, then presses into the clinch. Takedown from Stephens to guard. Jeremy lands some elbows, cutting Fisher over the left eye, and he continues to work from the top. Stephens decides to stand, and then tries a guillotine as Fisher goes onto all fours, but Fisher tackles him into the cage. Stephens tries the guillotine again, but Fisher guts it out and the round ends there. Stephens’ round, but that means its 29-28 for Fisher in my book.
Judges score it a unanimous 29-28 for Fisher, so no surprise there. Good fight if nothing spectacular, although Fisher’s rolling elbows were pretty dope. Fisher surprised me with his ground game actually – I guess I underestimated him after seeing Frankie Edgar take him down at will, but then Frankie is a fantastic wrestler so I don’t think you can blame me there!
Part two of the Diego Comeback Tour 2008 then, as he was faced with the always-tough Luigi Fioravanti in a fight that on paper, largely favoured Diego. Still, I’m never going to complain about seeing a Diego Sanchez fight! Word coming in was that he wanted to test his striking against Luigi, which did have me a little worried as Diego had never really displayed strong stand-up before while it’s Luigi’s forte. Once again Diego has the dope jeri-curl hairdo going. Gotta love the Nightmare.
Diego comes out aggressively to begin, closing the distance, but Luigi avoids a takedown. Crowd begin to chant for Diego as he misses a high kick. Nice leg kick from Luigi as they circle. Diego comes forward with a left-right and lands a big uppercut that snaps Luigi’s head back, but Luigi avoids another takedown. Flying knee now from Diego and he grabs the head in a plum clinch, and then breaks off with a nice uppercut. Diego keeps pushing forward as Fioravanti looks to counter, but Sanchez catches him with a hard left high kick that Luigi manages to deflect with his arm. Luigi avoids another takedown, though. Good combo from Luigi but Diego keeps on pushing forward, landing a combo of his own into the clinch. Knee from Diego and they break off. Left high kick misses, but Diego lands a left hand and then takes Luigi down, but Luigi manages to reverse instantly and pops up to his feet. Luigi clinches, but eats an uppercut from Sanchez to break off. Diego telegraphs a shot and once again Luigi avoids it, and then surprisingly Luigi gets a takedown on Diego to end the round.
Round Two, and Luigi lands a left as Diego comes forward. Luigi backs out, but appears to twist his ankle or something in doing so and Diego chases forward, but Luigi avoids his barrage. Right hook sends Luigi to the mat though and Diego closes in and looks to finish, ending up on top in half-guard. Sanchez looks to be setting up a kimura, and then he slugs away at the body before taking full mount. Luigi does a good job of moving his leg in back to half-guard, and then manages to scramble to his feet. Head kick stuns Luigi though and Diego closes in and grabs a waistlock, spinning to take Fioravanti’s back. He tries to hop onto the back, but Luigi does a good job of avoiding that and manages to spin away. Diego continues to press forward, but Luigi lands a good combo as he moves away. They trade some punches, both men landing, but Diego lands harder with a short right hook, and Luigi goes down again! Diego closes in with a flurry, causing Fioravanti to run, but he ends up down again and then grabs a single leg. Diego looks for a standing kimura but Luigi pops free and backs up. This is a dope fight. Big knee to the gut from Diego as he pushes forward, but Luigi answers with a heavy combo. Diego keeps coming forward like the terminator though, and the round ends there. Great round.
Into the third, and Luigi opens with a left hook. Luigi pushes forward now, but narrowly blocks a left high kick. Good combo from Diego as Luigi comes forward. This is easily the best I’ve ever seen Diego’s striking. Good leg kick from Diego. Fioravanti bulls into the clinch, but Diego breaks off pretty quickly. Diego goes for a single leg and tries to pull Luigi down, but again Luigi shows good takedown defence and manages to slip away. Good uppercut from Diego leads into the clinch again. Another good sprawl from Luigi to avoid a takedown though. Nice right hook from Diego, and then he takes Luigi’s back as Fioravanti slips, but Luigi does a great job of scrambling free and escapes to his feet. They circle off and then Diego lands a HUGE LEFT HIGH KICK that puts Luigi down to one knee! Diego charges in with a BRUTAL KNEE that drops Fioravanti down, and then he goes POSTAL with shots on the ground for the finish! AWESOME.
Tremendous action from start to finish there. I expected Diego to have little problem with taking Luigi down and finishing him on the ground, but it turned out that Luigi had really worked his takedown defense, only to have Diego come in with hugely improved striking and beat him at his own game. This was easily Diego’s most impressive showing from a striking standpoint as he looked much more natural throwing the combinations and especially his kicks than ever before. Hell of an exciting fight, too. You can’t go wrong with Diego Sanchez pretty much, well, unless he’s against Josh Koscheck.
Well, people thought Luke Cummo was a surprising finalist on Season 2, but he’s got nothing on Sadollah who didn’t even have a pro fight on his record prior to coming in. And it’s not like he fluked his way to the finals either as he beat probably the toughest guys throughout the show – UFC veteran Steve Byrnes in his prelim fight, then tough wrestler Gerald Harris, Matt Brown, and finally Dollaway himself – the hot favourite – in the semis with a strong kickboxing game and a surprisingly decent submission one too. Of course the original finals would’ve seen Sadollah take on wrestler Jesse Taylor, but after his drunken madness ‘JT Money’ was removed from the equation and Dollaway – a highly-rated collegiate wrestler out of the Arizona Combat Sports camp who had been the favourite to win it all – beat Tim Credeur to earn Taylor’s vacated spot. Despite the loss to Sadollah in their previous fight, Dollaway had been dominating until the submission and was the firm favourite to win this one, with most fans – myself included – thinking he’d learned from his mistake the first time around.
Round One gets started and Dollaway lands a low kick. Push kick from Amir lands to the stomach. CB continues to throw kicks and then gets a big takedown to half-guard. Sadollah immediately works back to full guard though. CB tries to pass, and then stacks up to deliver some punches, before working to half-guard and then side mount. He tries the Hughes crucifix, but Amir scrambles and tries a takedown of his own. CB stays on top though and stacks up for some more ground-and-pound. Nice punches from Dollaway, but Amir catches him in an armbar again! CB tries to slam his way free, but Amir tightens it up and straightens it for the tapout!
Post-fight Dollaway protests that he didn’t tap, which I don’t understand at all as it’s right there on camera, dude. Sad stuff and I really like Dollaway too, so I’m not needlessly bashing him. Did not expect lightning to strike twice for Amir, that’s for sure, but hey, he finished every guy who was put in there with him so how can you knock the dude? Some fans online were calling this the weakest TUF finals yet, but really both guys are young and relatively inexperienced, and I can see both making some noise in the future – Amir’s now dropping to a more natural 170lbs too – which I would argue makes them better hopes for the company than say, Mac Danzig from TUF 6. Fight itself was over too quickly to be considered one of the real classic TUF Finals, but hey, it wasn’t Serra vs. Lytle or anything horrid like that.
Interesting main event as they’d practically billed it as a ‘Loser Leaves Town’ match as Zuffa were trying to clear some roster space at this time. Personally I didn’t get it – why look to release a former champion like Tanner or a TUF winner like Grove when other fighters who I won’t name out of respect retained a slot on the roster? Good fight regardless, though. I was hoping Tanner could recapture the magic of 2004-5 and take the win, probably due to Kendall’s weak jaw, but really Grove was probably the favourite on paper after Tanner had looked really rusty against Yushin Okami in March. Must point out that Tanner has like the greatest beard ever here, this big bushy thing that almost doesn’t look real. Like the wild man of the woods or Tom’s fake beard on Lost or something.
Grove looks to be keeping his distance as the fight begins, but Tanner swiftly closes the distance and gets a clinch. Tanner looks to be working for a takedown, and he uses a bodylock to get Grove down into side mount. Grove gets half-guard back and manage to get to his feet, but Tanner whacks him with a good knee as they stand. Nice elbow inside the clinch from Kendall. Grove gets a plum clinch and lands a nice knee to the midsection, and then breaks off with an elbow. Tanner’s cut now and he wipes some blood out of his eyes, right as Kendall throws a head kick. The kick misses though and Grove slips to his back, but pops back up instantly. Tanner comes forward, but doesn’t land anything and Grove catches him with another knee and then a stiff right. They clinch up again and Tanner drops for a single leg, but Grove channels Urijah Faber and NAILS Evan with a jumping knee with the other leg! Tanner keeps driving for the takedown though, and despite some excellent defense from Kendall, Evan drags him down to guard. Grove tries a triangle, but Tanner pulls out of it and this allows Kendall to scramble to his feet. Tanner randomly tries a flying knee, but misses and ends up on all fours and this lets Kendall take his back, getting one hook in. He works to get the second hook in as Tanner looks to shake him off, and does so, standing over Grove and trying to avoid the upkicks. Tanner tries to drop a right hand back into the guard, then passes to half-guard. Evan peppers him with a few shots from the top, and the round ends there. Close round but I’d go with Grove methinks.
Second round gets started and Tanner comes forward aggressively, but almost eats another knee. Tanner bulls into the clinch again, but Kendall cracks him with a nice right hook and follows with some knees from the plum clinch. Tanner comes forward again, but walks into an uppercut and a hard right hand. Tanner’s stand-up is looking really stiff here which doesn’t bode well. Good body kick from Grove. Tanner throws a couple of hooks and gets a clinch, trying to drag him down again, but again Grove does a good job of defending the takedown. Jumping knee lands again, with less impact than the first one. Tanner manages to get a slam down to guard though. Lot of blood coming from Tanner’s face now. Grove looks to use the cage to get back to his feet, and then turns into a standing kimura, back into the clinch. Good knee to the body from Tanner. Tanner works to get him down again, but Grove scrambles out and then cracks him with a big elbow that puts Evan down on all fours! Grove lays into him with a combo of elbows and knees, but Tanner survives it and manages to stay in the clinch. Tanner lands an elbow to break, but Grove comes forward with another knee and a vicious elbow. Kendall’s elbows are looking awesome here. Tanner presses him up into the cage again and they exchange elbow strikes and then break. Head kick lands for Grove and he follows with one more as the round finishes. I’ve got Grove up two rounds now, 20-18.
3rd round and they clinch right away. Break off, and Grove lands a body kick. Tanner swings and shoves him into the cage again, desperately trying to force Kendall to the ground, but Grove continues to block. Couple of elbows land for Grove again. Kendall breaks off, but takes a leg kick from Evan. They exchange uppercuts in close quarters before clinching again, where both men land some knees. Tanner keeps trying to drag him down, but just can’t finish the takedown. They break off and then Tanner comes forward with a heavy right hook. He bulls to the clinch once more, but Grove breaks off. Exchange continues with Tanner lunging forward with hooks. Good combo from Kendall and he follows with some knees to the body. One more big knee finishes the fight for Kendall.
I’ve got this as a pretty clear-cut 30-27 for Kendall Grove, but somehow the judges score it 29-28 Tanner, 30-26 Grove, and 30-26 for Kendall. I have NO idea how the one judge could give that fight to Tanner, no idea at all. Tanner showed heart and never stopped fighting but he looked overwhelmed by Grove throughout and Kendall looked the best he’d done since the Alan Belcher fight, really good showing from him and the fight was a ton of fun too, with Grove showing some excellent Muay Thai, particularly with his elbows.
Unfortunately, this would be Tanner’s last fight, as he sadly passed away in September – in typical Evan Tanner circumstances, lost in the wilderness while apparently searching for buried treasure. What can you say about Evan Tanner that hasn’t already been said? He was perhaps the most unique character in MMA – not so much a guy who always wanted to fight as a guy who just felt that he had to do it because it was his calling in life and he happened to be good at it. Personally my favourite Tanner story was the one about how he went on an alcohol binge shortly before the fight with David Terrell, and had to have a friend find him in some woods. Of course three weeks later the guy goes on to smash Terrell and become the UFC Middleweight Champion of the World. The other memory that sticks out would be his title loss to Rich Franklin – the guy took a horrific beatdown that would’ve finished most fighters and yet he never backed down an inch. Then there was the Justin Levens fight, where after six months on the shelf he was able to dismantle a solid up-and-coming guy, before heading into another alcoholic haze (remember his ‘The Liver Is Evil’ t-shirt?). Crazy character, but let’s be fair, did anyone in MMA ever have a bad word to say about the guy? RIP, Evan Tanner. You will always be missed.
-Show ends with a short highlight reel.
Well, although TUF 7 in itself was a disappointment, the Finale is a pretty great show. All of the fights are decent-good outside of the dull Riddle-Rivera one, and most of them have pretty cool finishes too. No classic fight like Griffin-Bonnar, Diaz-Sanchez, Herman-Grove or Huerta-Guida places it behind those TUF Finales in the bigger picture, but Hazelett-Burkman is one hell of a fight and overall it’s certainly one of the stronger free TV shows that UFC put on in 2008. Add in the final fight of a true MMA legend in Evan Tanner and you’ve got a show that’s definitely worth a recommendation – even if you’ll have to buy the TUF 7 box set to get it. Thumbs up.
Best Fight: Hazelett-Burkman
Worst Fight: Riddle-Rivera
Overall Rating: ***1/2
UFC: 86-96, Fight Nights 14-17, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, and the Openweight Grand Prix.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.