Sherdog.com’s Guide to the “Ultimate Fighter” Finale

By Scott Holmes Apr 11, 2005
Holy Crap on a crutch.

Saturday’s Spike TV "The Ultimate Fighter" finale will go down as one of the best Reality TV endings of all time. It's official: T.U.F will now be whispered among experts as the gold standard along with "Seinfeld," "M.A.S.H.," "Newhart" and “Two of A Kind,” the show that finished its run by having the Olsen twins die in an elevator accident.

Every time I have a new lady in my life there is a very important moment that serves as a litmus test for how our relationship will blossom. There is always that awkward moment when she stumbles onto my extensive collection of fights. Boxes and boxes of old boxing matches, submission fights, DVDs and tapes from all sorts of MMA organizations, documentaries, instructional videos and who knows what else that I have to compulsively get my hands on.

They always looked stunned and slightly sick, like an FBI agent entering a serial killer’s trophy room. It is the moment when she realizes that she will never have full control since my heart belongs to fighting.

I admit that my addiction is very sad and I will surely die lonely, but I only bring it up because you could go through all those boxes and the hundreds of hours of fights and find maybe 10 that are as good as last night's light heavyweight finale.

How is that for a teaser? I'll discuss that fight later but first let's talk about the episode as a whole. It was part T.U.F highlight reel, part usual UFC pay-per-view. The usual broadcast team of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg were on hand for the play-by-play. These two went through the lineup and talked about each fighter that was on the TV card. Highlights of the first season were shown and then as each contestant was discussed they showed the usual small clips that show you a small bio of each fighter.

They showed us Diego back home in Albuquerque and Kenny Florian in Massachusetts. They did the same for Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner. You know the routine: here are our families; this is why I fight; this is whom I train with and all that jazz.

(Has anyone noticed that most of the middleweight contestants talk as if they are fighting a war of some sort or they speak of their skills in these real grandiose terms and most of the light heavyweights are pretty laid back and self deprecating? Just a thought.)

With all the highlights and background pieces out of the way, we get to the middleweight finals. Kenny Florian makes his way to the Octagon first and then Diego arrives to the sweet sounds of a mariachi band. A couple of “Three Amigos”-looking guys are in the center of the Octagon laying down the law with their trumpets.

I found this to be refreshing. I love me some heavy metal but I get tired of seeing every other fighter come out to “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” or some other nonsense. Mix it up or do what Diego did and show your culture and play bagpipes or something.

“Big” John says, "Let's Get It On" and we are under way. For a full minute the middleweights do nothing but circle. Diego bull rushes Kenny and pins him against the fence. Diego can’t get a takedown and they separate. Diego throws a wild punch and as Kenny backs away he goes low for the takedown. Kenny ends up on his back and Diego stands back up. Kenny kicks a few heels upward at Diego while he’s prone. While standing, Diego throws a few bombs on Kenny’s face. Kenny continues to kick at Diego but he’s in a bad spot, balled up against the fence. Diego is patient and keeps frustrating Kenny until he gets his legs out of the way and just sits right down in the mount. Kenny is in a bad spot and desperately he tries to get out, but every move he makes lands him back in trouble.

Diego can’t be bucked off so Kenny keeps switching from being on his back to on his stomach, trying to get something going. While Kenny is fighting to get out of this position, Diego keeps getting off big punches to either Kenny’s face or head. Blood appears on the mat and it’s obvious that Diego is getting some good shots in. After trying his hardest to get Diego off of him, it’s to no avail and Diego keeps punishing him until McCarthy stops the match with 2:14 left in the first round.

Diego has gone through all of his opponents like Leben goes through doors — quickly and brutally. He is rewarded with a six-figure contract in the UFC. Dana presents him with a nice watch, a dirt bike and the keys to a new Scion. Diego pockets the watch and then throws the keys to the Scion into the garbage.

Just kidding, he grins like a fool and basks in the moment. His parents are the crowd going justifiably nuts and it’s a great scene. What can I say? The guy tore up everyone he fought and took care of business. He deserves to be the Ultimate Fighter.

Now we move on to the light heavyweights. Both competitors are humble and have good things to say about each other. In their bio scenes they are both pretty entertaining, but Forrest is hilarious. They don’t take themselves too seriously and they possess the maturity that most successful UFC fighters have. And by the tone of their comments you can just feel that a good fight is about to happen. Except that it doesn’t turn out to be just a good fight, this is a war of attrition.

In the first round Forrest gets the fight started with a nice overhand right. From this point on I can’t describe this fight and give it justice. Each man has his moments where he looks to be in control but as soon as one guy starts to impose his will the other comes back harder.

Every punch, kick and elbow is answered in kind. After the first round my buddies and I are looking at each other with arched eyebrows and tossing out “oh my gods” and “wows.” Forrest ended that round by attempting an armbar on Bonnar but time ran out, remember that.

In the second round it’s just more of the same intensity. Bonnar will get off excellent stiff jabs and then Forrest will counter with some bombs. Bonnar would try a spinning back fist and seconds later Forrest is throwing him against the fence. Halfway through the second round Forrest gets a huge cut and blood is everywhere. Momentary panic hits us as we don’t want a stoppage, but then we realize the blood is from his nose and not over the eye. The doctor checks the cut and lets the fight continue.

Back to the action and these guys are still going at like insane men. With about a minute left in the round Forrest is dying, you can see that he is gassed but still keeps punching. Seconds later they separate and Bonnar’s hand are on his hip and he’s gasping. Both guys are dying in there but they keep coming at each other. The round ends and there is blood everywhere.

At this point everyone in my den is speechless. This is something special — this is two guys fighting for everything you could imagine, and it shows. The crowd is going nuts. The corner men work on the guys and then the break is over.

Stephan stands up and he’s staring across at Forrest while blood and sweat runs down the back of his neck. Forrest stands up and looks at Stephan, his nose has a hole across the bridge and is bleeding profusely. They pan across the crowd once more and a 60-year-old woman is holding a Pepsi and pumping her fist. It’s so beautiful I almost cry.

Why should the third round be any different? It’s just more of the same as both guys gut it out and keep wailing on each other. They are spent but they both won’t give up. We see jabs, power punches, Muay Thai clinches and everything else. Just about everything you could try to come up with under the rules of an MMA fight is used. The beauty of this fight is that the guys are both knowledgeable in everything and so evenly matched.

The round ends and both men hug each other. Dana makes his way to the Octagon and we cut to commercial. Commercial!!? Crap! Oh wait this is free! It dawns on me that the masses of newbies that are watching tonight just got treated to one of, if not the best fight in UFC history. Once again, hot tears.

Time to announce the winners, everyone in my den thinks it was a tie but maybe the nod should go to Bonnar just because Forrest looked so drained. They announce the decision 29-28 twice and 30-28. Forrest Griffin is the Ultimate Fighter. No one can really argue since it could have gone either way. Then I remember in that first round how Forrest had a near submission and we all agree that maybe that one thing was the tipping point.

However, something even better happens. Dana gives Forrest his contract, watch, dirt bike and crappy car and then announces some more great news. The Fertitta boys — or Zuffa however you want to look at it — are going to give Stephan Bonnar a six-figure contract with the UFC as well.

Cheers all around. Goodbye Hugh Hefner, Dana White is my new hero.

Looks like the UFC’s attempt to bring this sport into the mainstream was a runaway success. They put on a gripping reality show that revealed the best parts of MMA. The Ultimate Fighter had some good drama, some great stories and, most of all, great fighters.

Personally, I enjoyed the show immensely and really appreciated the fact that it didn’t need melodramatic music and sound effects to make people care about it, like “The Contender.” This show was raw and had an honest portrayal of what these guys go through in order to compete. The reality side of it helped make a rather complex sport more accessible to the general public and new fans. The fights appealed to seasoned fans like Sherdog.com readers.

If you weren’t able to watch it because it was on cable or you live out of the U.S. then I hope you are able to get a copy of the DVD when it is released. Whether you like the show or not it will definitely entertain you and it’s just a nice chapter in the story that is Ultimate Fighting.

I saw my first UFC (No. 2) the night before I went away to college in 1994. It’s 2005 and I’m still just as excited to see my next one. This sport evolves at the speed of thought because of the people behind it. There have been many bumps in the road but the people behind the scenes continue to fight just like Bonnar and Griffin. Keep on supporting these guys and it will just keep getting better.

Oh yeah, and one more thing, if you care, Ken Shamrock got beat down by Rich Franklin. It’s ironic that a living legend versus the new bad ass is the snoozer of the night.
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