by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
As season three of The Ultimate Fighter comes to an end, the fighters who made it to the finals will finally battle to see who will get the guaranteed contract with the UFC. Michael “The Count” Bisping will face off with Josh “Bring the Pain” Haynes in the light heavyweight division, and Ed “Short Fuse” Herman will square off with Kendall Grove for the middleweight crown.

After weeks of living and training together, the fighters have now been preparing for this showdown with their own coaches and teammates to get ready for the chance at winning and becoming the winners of the TUF 3 competition.

Middleweight Final: Ed “Short Fuse” Herman vs. Kendall Grove

For Ed Herman, just making it to the finals of the show won’t be nearly enough to cap off a season in which he carried on the legacy that was started by his former Team Quest teammate Chris Leben as one of the biggest talkers to ever set foot inside the Ultimate Fighter house. Herman said from day one that he not only intended to win his fights on the show, but he was also determined to be champion when it was all said and done.

When the fighters stood up for coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock to choose from, Ed thought it was a forgone conclusion that Tito, who had a formidable background in wrestling, would surely choose him. That didn’t happen, and Herman ended up being picked by Ken Shamrock. Tito admitted after the selections were done that he had never heard of Ed Herman, which is why he passed him up and allowed Shamrock to pick him instead. Herman was irate at the thought that Tito passed him up, and he proceeded to carry a very large chip on his shoulder for the rest of the season.

Tito pressed and prodded Ed at every turn just to get his goat, but Herman dispatched Team Ortiz member Danny Abaddi in his fight to get to the semi-finals, and then Herman got a shot at the fighter that Tito Ortiz did pick in front of him: Rory Singer. During their fight, Herman controlled the pace and punished Singer for much of the bout. Herman eventually ended the fight with a submission, sending Singer home and putting himself in the finals.

Herman’s opponent, Kendall Grove, was an unlikely candidate to make it to the finals when the show started. While his immense height (Grove clocks in at 6’5″) gave him a huge reach advantage over any other middleweight, he was fairly unknown to many of the other fighters on the show. However, coming from Hawaii, where mixed martial arts is becoming a statewide phenomenon, Grove knew how to fight and fight well.

In his first match-up, Kendall defeated British fighter Ross Pointon, and then he made it to the finals by defeating Kalib Starnes. In the fight against Starnes in the semi-finals, Grove displayed his solid striking strikes and ability to endure a fight into the later rounds.

For Kendall Grove to win the fight against Ed Herman, he will need to avoid Herman’s takedowns for as long as possible. While his ground game is solid enough and his length is an advantage over just about anyone, his biggest advantage will come in putting his reach to good use against the much shorter Ed Herman. It’s likely that the fight will go to the ground at some point. When it does, Grove will need to stay patient, avoid any big elbows or other strikes from Herman, and try to work the fight back to the stand-up position.

Ed Herman is the favorite to win the fight, as he should be, mostly because he is more experienced and has a better overall game. He has great takedowns, excellent ground and pound, and as he displayed in his two wins on The Ultimate Fighter 3, he can be very proficient with submissions as well. Herman never seemed to like being stuck in the house while they were filming the show, so it will be interesting to see if he’s more prepared now that he has been back in Oregon training with Team Quest.

Look for Herman to get the takedown early in the fight and try to punish Grove with strikes on the ground. As long as Herman doesn’t get too cocky and try to stand up with Grove just to show that he can do it, he should be able to put the fight on the ground and try to unleash his ground and pound attack.

If the fight stays standing or is stood up often enough due to lack of activity on the ground, Kendall Grove has a great shot, but it’s more likely that we’ll see Ed Herman’s array of classic Team Quest clinch techniques and ground work.

Prediction: Ed Herman by TKO in Round 2

Light Heavyweight Final: Michael “The Count” Bisping vs. Josh Haynes

As much as Ed Herman told everyone he would win the middleweight competition on TUF 3, Michael Bisping was expected by just as many people to end up as a finalist in the light heavyweight division. Like Herman, Bisping had two great performances on the show and proved that he can be a dangerous fighter.

Coming into the show with an undefeated record of 10-0, it appeared that Bisping would walk into the show with a target on his back. However, he fell under the radar a bit among the other contestants, who might not have known about him because of the fact that he has fought in England for his entire career. Bisping had a pretty easy time in his first fight on TUF 3, as he defeated Kristian Rothaermel in a one-sided fight.

After Matt Hamill couldn’t continue due to a concussion and an arm injury, Bisping got matched up against fellow Brit Ross Pointon in the semi-finals. Despite taking a good shot from Pointon in the opening seconds of the fight, Bisping was able to maintain his composure and finish the fight by TKO/submission due to strikes. He did so by landing a devastating flying knee, and then following up with more punches and knees until the fight was over and Bisping was in the finals.

Josh Haynes, who weighed over 300 pounds in his first MMA fight, will now look to live his dream when he faces Bisping on Saturday night. Training out of Oregon, Haynes started his career training with another former Ultimate Fighter competitor, season two contestant Mike Whitehead, and then moved on to work with Team Quest. Moving up and down between heavyweight and light heavyweight, Haynes has been steadfast in his work ethic to make it to the UFC. Haynes made it to the finals of TUF 3 by defeating Tait Fletcher and Jesse Forbes.

In an exclusive interview with MMAWeekly in July 2005, Haynes was asked where he wanted to be in a year and he stated, “I’d like to see myself as the winner of the Ultimate Fighter show and fighting in the UFC.” As if Nostradamus predicted it, just under one year later, Haynes will get his chance to make it all come true when he takes on Bisping in the light heavyweight finals.

Bisping and Haynes are both fans of striking who won’t be afraid to trade strikes with the other. Bisping is the more disciplined striker, while Haynes would appear to have more power, but swings more wildly with his shots. In his fights on the show, Bisping showed the ability to throw a barrage of punches, knees, and kicks, as he opened up a full arsenal of offense on both of his opponents. So far, Haynes seems to prefer to throw heavy punches, although he is also proficient in the clinch and with dirty boxing.

Neither man is a wrestling machine, but Haynes does train with Team Quest, so he has to have some takedown ability tucked away somewhere. If the does end up on the ground, Bisping might have the advantage because he has demonstrated that he is thoroughly impressive with his submissions. If he’s able to take Haynes’ back like Jesse Forbes did in his semi-final fight with Haynes, it’s likely that Bisping would be able to finish the fight from that position.

Taking nothing away from the heart and desire that Josh Haynes has shown in living his dream and fighting for his family, he just seems to be overmatched against Michael Bisping. The British stand-out could be one of the best fighters to ever come out of the Ultimate Fighter, and as long as he has trained hard for this bout, Bisping could end up being very impressive in victory.

Prediction: Michael Bisping by submission in Round 1