Tuesday, 24 June 2008

UFC The Ultimate Finale on Bravo - TV Review

Having recently reviewed the DVD release of The Ultimate Fighter 5, what better time is there for me to review the finale of the latest series (even though I’ve never seen any of the other episodes, so you‘ll have to excuse me if I don‘t exactly know much about some of the fighters), which was shown on a twenty-four hour delay on Bravo this past Sunday. As always, Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan are there to call the action, so let’s get on with this thing.

The show begins with action from the middleweight division, as Matt Riddle, making his professional debut, takes on Dante Rivera. If truth be known, the first round wasn’t really that exciting, as both fighters seemed to spend most of the time up against the cage vying for position in a clinch, and things only got slightly better when Rivera pulled Riddle into his guard as the round came to an end.

The second round looked like it was following the same script as the first, until the final minute or so when Riddle took Rivera’s guard. Rivera was able to reverse the position, but as the clock ticked down Riddle went for an armbar, and then a triangle choke, but couldn’t synch either in properly.

The third round had a bit more action, and Riddle in particular looked good, although Rivera had his moments. However, the referee had to constantly warn them about the lack of action, until Riddle got the guard again towards the end of the round and went for the ground and pound as the clock ran out. So with the fight going the three round distance, the judges gave the unanimous decision to Riddle. A deserved win, but I just couldn’t get into this one for some reason.

Down to the lightweight division next, with Spencer Fisher taking on Jeremy Stephens. Now this was more like it. A very good first round saw Fisher take Stephens down early, and even though Fisher was working almost constantly in the guard and the side, Stephens also worked well, unleashing with blows of his own and a couple of submission attempts. It seemed that Stephens had an answer for everything Fisher did.

The first half of round two saw both fighters take the stand-up route, with both me getting off some good blows and showing some good work in the clinch, until Fisher reversed Stephens’ takedown attempt so he had the advantage on the ground. Once again both fighters worked all the time while they were on the mat, with Fisher seemingly able to transition at will. The round ended with the fighters returning to their feet, and Stephens taking Fisher straight back down to the mat at the end.

Round three saw more stand-up action, until Fisher went for the takedown which Stephens defended with the sprawl, before almost getting a guillotine choke locked in. Fisher was able to escape, and it wasn’t long before both fighters were back on their feet. Stephens quickly took Fisher down and began to work in the guard, opening up a cut near Fisher’s left eye to join the cut he already had on his right arm. As the fight entered it’s final seconds, Stephens went for another guillotine choke, which Fisher was able to defend from as the fight came to an end. The judges gave the unanimous decision to Fisher, although one couldn’t help but feel sorry for Stephens in what was a very good and very entertaining fight.

Action from the welterweight division follows, with Diego Sanchez facing Luigi Fioravanti. The first round was interesting to watch. The intense Sanchez unleashed with some good combinations, but Fioravanti was able to go like for like with him. As the round came to an end Fioravanti was able to take Sanchez down, but Sanchez immediately got back up to his feet.

Round two saw action from the beginning. Fioravanti seemed to injure his right leg or ankle while moving away from Sanchez, before getting caught with a right hand that sent him crashing to the mat. Sanchez jumped on him immediately, looking to finish things off, but Fioravanti’s defence was enough to keep him away until they returned to their feet. A few moments later both men connected with good shots, but only Fioravanti went down. Once again Sanchez went to work, and once again Fioravanti showed some good defensive skills as he was able to get away from Sanchez’s finishing attempts.

Although both fighters were visibly tiring as the third round began, it proved to be just as action packed as the previous two. Whenever Sanchez went for a takedown, Fioravanti was able to counter. Even when Sanchez was able to take his back, Fioravanti was able to escape. However, things soon changed when Sanchez connected with a head kick which staggered Fioravanti before a big knee sent him to the mat. Sanchez went in for the kill, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to stop the fight, Sanchez getting the TKO victory. Another good fight here, with two good performances, especially from Sanchez.

Then it was time for The Ultimate Fighter final, middleweight action with Amir Sadollah facing C.B. Dollaway. A very short, and somewhat controversial fight saw Dollaway take Sadollah down early before showing some good skills on the mat, transitioning well as he went to work. However, Sadollah came back soon and locked in an armbar. Dollaway tapped Sadollah’s leg just once, and the referee stopped the fight, with Dollaway claiming that he didn’t tap. Despite the protests the result stood, with Sadollah getting the submission victory, the title of The Ultimate Fighter, and a six figure UFC contract. This was certainly an interesting fight, and one that will be discussed for quite a while.

Main event time in the middleweight division, with Evan Tanner, now looking like Grizzly Adam’s illegitimate son with his bushy beard, facing off against Kendall Grove, a battle of the generations as it were. The first round was the proverbial game of two halves, with both fighters putting in some good work. Grove opened up a cut on Tanner with an elbow in the clinch, while also connecting with a good jumping knee. Tanner had his moments as well, and was able to use some good defence as Grove tried to take his back.

Round two looked like it belonged to Grove. Although Tanner spent a great deal of the round in the clinch with Grove, the former Ultimate Fighter winner was able to do the most damage, again connecting with his jumping knee, as well as an elbow that clearly stunned Tanner, who looked spent as the round came to an end, which allowed Grove to connect with more blows and kicks.

Tanner began the third round by getting in the clinch up against the cage again, trying to take Grove down to the mat. Tanner’s failure was met by more inside elbows from Grove. Tanner looked more exhausted as the round went on, especially when the two fighters tried to exchange blows as he realised that the only way he could beat Grove is with a knockout. The fight ended with Grove connecting with another big knee. So with the fight going the distance, the judges gave the decision to Grove via split decision, which was a little surprising to some as it seemed that Grove was dominant throughout. Another very good three rounder, which leaves me wondering where Evan Tanner will go from here.

Finally, a fight from earlier in the evening, with Marvin Eastman and Drew McFedries in the middleweight division. Action packed from the beginning, with McFedries coming out with a flying knee, and Eastman with a takedown, before countless blows from McFedries took their toll, and with Eastman holding on to a leg and clearly suffering, the referee stepped in to call a halt to proceedings. Explosive and impressive stuff from McFedries here.

In conclusion - proof that you don’t have to have a good fight card filled with quick stoppages. With four fights going into the third round and providing great entertainment along the way, The Ultimate Finale proved once again that the UFC are the best they are at what they do. I did consider declaring a fight of the night, but it’s a hard decision to make, so I’ll just give kudos to everyone here for their efforts. Well done again UFC for putting on another good show.