by Ken Pishna (photos courtesy of theultimatefighter.tv)
(Joe Stevenson and Brad Imes. Photos courtesy of TheUltimateFighter.tv)

The last episode featured Rashad Evans not only getting to the finals by defeating a very tough Keith Jardine, but establishing himself as the favorite heading into Saturday night’s finale. As an added bonus, he and Matt actually made nice.

Tonight’s show, the final regular season episode, featured not one, but two fights, the second welterweight final and the last of the heavyweight semi-finals.

Not to waste any time, they did a quick breakdown of Rashad’s win over Keith. Dana stated it best, “I was very impressed with Rashad.” I think everyone was. He not only showed the skills that he’s possessed from the beginning of the season, but he displayed the heart and desire that sets apart contenders from pretenders.

Getting a quick check by Dr. Margaret Goodman, Jason Von Flue was cleared to fight Joe Stevenson tonight while Marcus Davis, brought in as an alternate in case Jason couldn’t fight, was sent home.

Skimming through the pre-fight gabbing and weigh-ins, Joe and Jason got right down to business. Joe was expected to attempt to take the fight immediately to the ground, but he surprised by standing for the first half of round one and he actually did quite well. Joe seemed to connect with the better strikes before shooting a double leg on Jason, picking him up and slamming him down a la Matt Hughes.

Methodically pecking away at Jason, Joe finally opened him up with a couple of well-placed forearms. In defense, Jason turned away, giving up an attempt at his neck. Not able to lock on the rear naked choke, Joe snagged an impressive arm bar when Jason attempted to escape with just 15 seconds left in the round.

Just like that, Joe Stevenson becomes the second finalist to become the first welterweight Ultimate Fighter. He will square off with Luke Cummo, who defeated Sam Morgan to make his way into the finals, on Saturday night at the Hard Rock.

Again, not much time was wasted getting to the second heavyweight semi-final. Following a brief weigh-in recap, Brad Imes and Seth Petruzelli entered the octagon with Big John McCarthy on hand as referee.

The first round saw Seth start out strong, landing some damaging leg kicks and some solid punches that hurt Brad. A couple of minutes into the fight, it was Seth taking Brad down in a surprising move. Most people felt that Seth would want to keep the fight standing to maximize his striking ability against Brad, who is much bigger and better on the ground. Despite his ability to take Brad down, the question had to be why did he do so? Once on the ground, Seth basically went into a mode of holding tight, even though he was on top, ignoring Rich’s instructions to stand Brad back up. Brad stayed busy trying to mount offense from his back, punching up at Seth. The first round pretty much finished out in this fashion.

With a fire under his ass, Brad came out quickly to start round two. He rushed Seth and peppered him with some strong punches, but Seth again took Brad down once they clinched. Seth seemed to be exhausted, as he seemed content to lay on Brad and take a pot shot at him here and there. Meanwhile, Brad continually stayed busy throwing punches, forearms and elbows at Seth. Brad’s experience as a professional athlete and Matt’s drop-dead training regime kept him on auto-pilot, never relenting while Seth seemed to perpetually fade as the fight went on.

Round three was Brad’s most dominant by far. He rushed Seth from the onset and immediately put the smaller fighter on his back where he stayed for the entire round. Brad used varying ground and pound tactics to punish Seth throughout the round. Brad finished the fight strong while Seth just could not find a way out from under the big man.

Despite a solid finish in the welterweight fight, neither fight was an attention grabber. The most dramatic moment of the show had to be when Dana White announced that the fight between Brad and Seth was judged a split decision. What the huh?!

Now, I live in Colorado and I’ve stood atop a 13,500-foot peak, but even that altitude’s effects on my coherency couldn’t have influenced me to score the fight in Seth’s favor. To say that the split decision ruling was shocking would be an understatement.

The taping of the show did occur over the summer, so maybe the heat got to judge Marcos Rosales, who scored the fight 29-28 in Seth’s favor. Fortunately, judges Dalby Shirley and Cecil Peoples took the time to get acclimated to the desert heat and scored the fight rightly in favor of Brad Imes, 29-28 each.

Coming Up – The Finale (Saturday, November 5th):
Main Event – Diego Sanchez vs. Nick Diaz
Welterweight Final – Luke Cummo vs. Joe Stevenson
Heavyweight Final – Brad Imes vs. Rashad Evans