by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com (Photos by Scott Petersen)
LAS VEGAS – In the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale, Evan Tanner went old school on Kendall Grove. But Grove, as he stated before the fight, also went old school and it served him better than it did Tanner.
Prior to the fight, Grove talked about how he went back home to Hawaii to prepare for the bout. He said it helped him take the pressure off, to remove the distractions, and just get back to the scrappy Hawaiian fighting attitude.
Tanner utilized a strategy that relied heavily on clinching and in-fighting, which makes for a tough, drawn out affair. Grove, however, was able to force separation and score with his striking game, accumulating damage and bloodying Tanner’s face with his punch combinations and knees. At least twice during the bout, Grove, one leg locked up as Tanner tried to take him down, wowed the crowd with a jumping knee to Tanner’s chin.
In the end, to most, it seemed obvious that Grove had earned the decision. He did, but it was a surprisingly lop-sided split decision. Two judges scored it 30-26 in Grove’s favor, while Al Lefkowitz inexplicably scored it 29-28 for Tanner.
“Depends on who’s looking at it, you know what I mean?” said a humble Grove after the fight, referencing the scoring. “He did good recovering. He put me against the cage. He was strong like I expected. Like I was taught, if he takes me down, get up. Pressure him getting up and I knew he was going to get tired.”
His workman like attitude paid off, even if it seemed he should have earned a unanimous decision. “I had to come in here and keep my job.”
C.B. Dollaway went into The Ultimate Fighter 7 final expecting to exact his revenge on Amir Sadollah, who submitted him during the season. Amidst a bit of controversy, Dollaway was unsuccessful, again losing to Sadollah via armbar.
Dollaway controlled the opening moments of the bout, using his wrestling skills honed at Arizona State University to maintain position and start a ground and pound attack, but Sadollah remained patient, again finding the armbar. Dollaway defended briefly, but then appeared to tap and referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the bout.
Afterwards, Dollaway seemed surprised. He later said that he tapped once with his hand then decided midstream that he could defend the armbar, but it was too late as Dean had already called a halt to the bout, making Sadollah the Ultimate Fighter.
Humble after the win, in his post-fight interview, Sadollah commented, “I’m trying to think of funny stuff to say, but it won’t come out so I’ll just say that I’m blown away by the fact that that just happened and I’m talking to Joe Rogan and thank you guys for coming. That’s about it right now.”
Unlike his bout with Josh Koscheck, where Diego Sanchez focused primarily on his boxing skills, “The Nightmare” utilized a much more dynamic set of striking skills to defeat Luigi Fioravanti.
Aggressive throughout, Sanchez continually drove forward unleashing everything from uppercuts and crosses to head kicks and flying knees. It was the latter that ultimately finished the bout in his favor.
Deep into the third round, he landed a left high kick to the head of Fioravanti. He followed with a driving right knee that crumpled Fioravanti to the canvas. Sanchez immediately followed the American Top Team fighter down, unloading a barrage of punches until the referee stopped the bout.
“It’s been a long time,” said Sanchez of the development of his striking skills. “People have just underestimated the striking ability. I’ve been working on it. Joe Riggs wasn’t no fluke, you know.”
In a battle between Midwestern lightweights, Spencer Fisher controlled the better part of all three rounds with Jeremy Stephens en route to a unanimous decision. Stephens had his moments in the fight, but Fisher consistently countered any offense that Stephens mounted and chipped away with a solid ground and pound attack throughout.
In the opening bout of the live telecast on Spike TV, Matt Riddle out-positioned Dante Rivera throughout most of their bout, utilizing his knee strikes to effect as the two often clinched along the cage. But it was primarily Riddle’s hustle, takedowns and aggression that led the judges to score a unanimous decision in his favor.
“I’ve never really done that before,” said Dustin Hazelett about his finish of Josh Burkman. “Once you reach a certain level (in jiu-jitsu), you really have to focus on concepts more than moves.”
Burkman started off strong, but Hazelett’s jiu-jitsu “concepts” saw him move through various submissions in the opening round that looked to have the fight finished. Burkman defended well though, making it to round two.
The pace slowed through much of the second stanza, but late in the round, the two clinched and as Hazelett used a whizzer to drive Burkman to the mat, he slung his leg over Burkman’s back, deftly locking on and extending an armbar that immediately had Burkman submitting.
The bout earned “Fight of the Night” honors for both, and the finish scored Hazelett the added bonus for “Submission of the Night.”
Drew McFedries opened by with a flying, but he got caught and slammed by Marvin Eastman for his trouble. Back on their feet moments later, McFedries quickly took over landing powerful punches and knees that stunned Eastman. As Eastman dropped to all fours, clutching at McFedries’ leg for the takedown, McFedries continued to hammer away with punches until the referee stopped the bout little more than a minute in.
“I couldn’t waste time on this guy,” said McFedries in his post-fight comments. “I knew if I didn’t come out with something big he was going to take over.”
His stoppage of Eastman earned McFedries “Knockout of the Night” honors.
Matt Arroyo, who was forced to withdraw from The Ultimate Fighter 6 season due to a rib injury, was moving fluidly and landing some crisp punches early in his bout with season seven’s Matt Brown. But it would be Brown that turned on the gas at the end of round one, landing some damaging punches and knees as the round closed.
He continued to up the pace in round two before putting Arroyo on his back and eventually pounding him out from inside the guard.
Competing at 185 pounds on The Ultimate Fighter, Brown dropped back down to his natural weight of 170 for this fight, and he plans on staying.
“I never fought above 170 (pounds) before the show,” he said after the fight.
Jeremy Horn continued his losing skid, getting submitted for the third straight bout. He was doing well on his feet, striking and stuffing Dean Lister’s takedown attempts early on, but it didn’t take long for a finish once the fight went to the mat. After Lister scored the takedown, Horn tried to reverse position and got caught in a tight guillotine choke for his efforts and tapped out.
In the opening bout, Rob Kimmons survived an early takedown by Rob Yundt, reversed position and caught Yundt in a guillotine choke to finish the bout near the end of the first round.
-Kendall Grove def. Evan Tanner by Split Decision, R3
-Amir Sadollah def. C.B. Dollaway by Submission (Armbar) at 3:02, R1
-Diego Sanchez def. Luigi Fioravanti by TKO (Strikes) at 4:07, R3
-Spencer Fisher def. Jeremy Stephens by Unanimous Decision
-Matt Riddle def. Dante Rivera by Unanimous Decision
-Dustin Hazelett def. Josh Burkman by Submission (Armbar) at 4:46, R2
-Drew McFedries def. Marvin Eastman by TKO (Strikes) at 1:08, R1
-Matt Brown def. Matt Arroyo by TKO (Strikes) at 3:40, R2
-Dean Lister def. Jeremy Horn by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 3:52, R1
-Tim Credeur vs. Cale Yarbrough – CANCELLED
-Rob Kimmons def. Rob Yundt by Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 3:58, R1