TUF Guys: Bisping, Grove Crowned; Florian Dominates

TUF Guys

By Mike Sloan Jun 25, 2006
LAS VEGAS, June 24 — Deep inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, sheltered from the scorching 106-degree heat that ravaged Sin City, Zuffa LLC displayed yet another example of why their brand of mixed martial arts dominates North America.

The season finale of the third installment of The Ultimate Fighter, which was televised on Spike TV, was an outright success. Two new “champions” were crowned off of the show and in the main event a perennial underdog was sensational in victory. The off-TV bouts weren't bad, either.

Michael Bisping (Pictures), arguably the most beloved figure of TUF 3, mauled Josh Haynes (Pictures) for almost two full rounds before the abuse was mercifully stopped.

Bisping pummeled his opponent from start to finish, as he landed every single strike in the book and avoided virtually each of Haynes’ powerful attacks. Bisping controlled the pace from the outset and never relented until his hand was raised in victory, allowing him to be crowned the light heavyweight “champion” of the largely popular reality television series.

The Brit unfurled a vicious onslaught onto Haynes and it was amazing to watch the blue-haired Oregonian absorb so much punishment. Strike after strike bounced off of Haynes noggin, but the tough-as-nails Team Quest fighter wouldn’t quit. Unfortunately, it was his toughness that allowed him to soak up so much torture, a consequence that he’ll be dealing with for about a week’s time. One can rest assured that after taking so many shots to his head, Haynes will be begging for some to, “answer that damn phone already!”

Haynes tried everything in his power to take Bisping off his feet and when that didn’t work, he mustered strength from mysterious places in order to unload random furious bombs. He actually caught Bisping with a looping right hand midway through the second stanza, but the Englishman was able to recover quickly and resume his game plan. From there, it was all downhill for Haynes as his stamina, coupled with the frightful beating Bisping dished out, caved into the attrition.

Bisping unfurled a series of strikes that forced a completely gassed and bloody Haynes into the fence and finally, after another crisp combo of punches, the Smurf-haired Haynes flopped onto the canvas. Completely bereft of energy and the recipient of way too many blows, Haynes was finally rescued by referee John McCarthy, who halted the bout at 4:14 of the second round.

At that exact moment, Bisping’s American dream finally came true.

He had to endure several weeks cooped up inside a house with 25 other men and had to literally fight his way out of those (un)friendly confines. He vowed to be deemed the champion of season three and his prophecy was fulfilled. He also walked away with a new “six-figure” contract as well as a spiffy new watch.

The absolute war between middleweights Kendall Grove (Pictures) and Ed Herman (Pictures) was so outstanding, so close and so riveting that both fighters walked away from the Octagon with official UFC contracts. Sure, Grove won the fight in the eyes of the three official Nevada State Athletic Commission judges, but the winner was actually anyone involved with this great sport.

For three rounds Grove and Herman seesawed back and forth between dominator and victim. The two mighty men latched on seemingly inescapable submission holds, only to somehow be reversed or swept aside from having the locks picked. It was almost a carbon copy of the brilliant action between Diego Sanchez (Pictures) and Nick Diaz (Pictures), but so much more was on the line tonight.

Both fighters refused to budge no matter how badly beaten they were or how low the gauge on their gas tanks. In fact, the action was at a dramatic climax — literally — until the final horn sounded to end the fight. Herman was caught in a rear-naked choke and was somehow able to hang on until time expired.

Herman has been criticized as a somewhat boring fighter even before the show aired, but for anyone to call him boring now would be foolhardy. His war with Grove will go down in the books as one of the best, most action-packed and dramatic battles in the history of the UFC. The Joint inside the Hard Rock was split evenly between fans of both fighters and by the fight’s end, the opposing fans were cheering for the other guy out of respect.

The fight was that good.

Grove wound up nabbing the victory after being awarded scores of 29-28 (thrice) but it could have gone either way. Sherdog.com, which was in the venue for the tussle, actually scored it 29-28 in favor of Herman, though the outcome of the war won’t be argued. Both survived multiple submission attempts; each had their moments of sheer ground-and-pound brutality; and both were bloody and limping around the venue after the fight finally ended.

The UFC is known for rematches and there will undoubtedly be one for this fight. While it wasn’t as epic as Griffin-Bonnar, Ortiz-Frank Shamrock (Pictures) or Goodridge-Frye I or II, it ranks up there with the best.

UFC president Dana White did the right thing by giving a six-figure contract to Herman even though his hand wasn’t raised in victory.
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