By Damon Martin- MMAWeekly.com
After weeks of training, and a cast of fighters that helped to redeem The Ultimate Fighter after a pretty abysmal second season, the last three fights took place to determine the finalists in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. First up were the middleweights, as the always outspoken Ed Herman from Team Shamrock took on Rory Singer from Team Ortiz.

The Middleweights

Throughout the show, Rory Singer drew the ire of many of his housemates, including several from his own team, for his ultra neat freak attitude when it came to the living situation. With only days remaining until the end of the season’s taping, the other fighters finally started to let him know how they felt.

With the words “Rory is gay” written all over his food trays and other items, Singer had to focus and find the necessary motivation to move forward and get ready for a very tough opponent in Ed Herman. The two roommates eventually faced another breaking point when Herman decided that he couldn’t stand living with Rory anymore and moved out of their shared room just before their fight.

When Rory arrived for one of the final training sessions before his fight with Ed Herman, he found the “Rory is gay” theme extending from the house into the gym, specifically on to his training apparel and locker. In retaliation, Rory decided to grab his marker and put some words of wisdom together for both Ed Herman and Jesse Forbes from Team Shamrock, whom he believed to be the culprits of the “Rory is gay” parade that ended up on his gloves and locker.

When Ed discovered the writing on his gloves and locker, he decided to hide Rory’s things all over the gym and with one final spritz (apparently the Team Quest guys like to pee on things) put his own “personal touch” on Rory’s head gear.

Finally, the two came to a confrontation outside the training center, at which point it was revealed that it was Kendall Grove, Rory’s teammate, who started the “Rory is gay” writing in the house, not Ed or Jesse. Rory then confronted his teammate, who offered no denials. Instead of more words being thrown around, the coaches told Rory and Kendall to spar with body shots for a couple of rounds in order to work out their aggression.

Finally, fight day arrived and Ed Herman faced Rory Singer for a spot in the middleweight finals against Kendall Grove. In the first round of action, Ed was effective in taking the fight to Rory, securing an early takedown and landing some good shots inside of Rory’s guard. Ed looked confident throwing elbows throughout the round, continuously punishing his opponent and controlling the action.

Later in the first round, Rory worked himself up against the cage and got the fight back to the stand-up position, where he managed to score a takedown on Ed. While trying to work his ground and pound, Rory was briefly stunned by an illegal up-kick from Ed, causing referee Herb Dean to pause the action. Rory was able to continue, and the first round ended shortly thereafter.

The second round started in much the same way, with Ed taking Rory down at will. Eventually, Rory unable to withstand the pressure and gave up his back to Ed, who was very quick to sink in a rear naked choke for the submission victory. Ed celebrated with great enthusiasm, knowing that he was going to be in the finals. He even seemed to finally let go of all the built-up tension that he had towards Tito Ortiz during the season for not picking him to be on Team Ortiz.

The Light Heavyweights

Matt Hamill was released from the hospital and went to the training center to rejoin all of the other fighters, and he was greeted by his teammates from Team Ortiz. On last week’s episode, the doctors removed Matt from the competition due to the injuries to his head and arm. Matt asked his teammates what happened in his fight against Mike Nickels and also asked, “How did I win?” Having apparently suffered a concussion, Matt did not remember anything about his victory over Mike Nickels, other than the fact that someone told him that he won the fight.

When it was mentioned to Matt that Ross Pointon would be fighting Michael Bisping in one of the light heavyweight semi-final fights, Matt said, “Who am I fighting? I’m fighting on Friday.” When Tito Ortiz broke the news to Matt that he was out of the competition for medical reasons, Matt was upset and said that he still wanted to fight. A dejected Matt asked Tito to let him fight despite his injuries. Tito explained that it’s up to the doctors, not him, and that the doctors were not going to let Matt fight.

The first light heavyweight semi-final match-up was Josh Haynes vs. Jesse Forbes. Of course, this was Jesse’s shot at redemption after he was dispatched by Noah Inhofer earlier this season, but was invited back after Noah left the show to be with his girlfriend of six months. Josh has talked all season about how much he wants to win the competition, and about the inspiration that he draws from his family.

As the fight began, Josh looked somewhat reluctant to engage, knowing that Jesse was a good wrestler who was sure to look for the takedown. After a brief exchange, Jesse did get a takedown and quickly secured the mount position after Josh was unable to keep his guard tight.

A brief exchange on the ground led Josh to give up his back. For the next two minutes or so, Jesse sunk his hooks in and tried to submit Josh with a rear naked choke. It was pretty apparent that Jesse was very green to the sport because even after Josh reversed his way out of the position and then landed right back in the same position, Jesse still was unable to sink in the submission.

With the first round easily going to Jesse, if for no other reason because of his definitive control of the fight on the ground, Josh needed to come out aggressively in the second round. Jesse appeared to be winded in his corner between rounds, and it looked as if cardio would end up being a factor.

Within seconds of the beginning of round two, Jesse shot in to get another takedown. Since he was so arm-weary from trying to sink in a rear naked choke for much of the first round, Jesse was only able to push Josh against the cage. Jesse left his head up in the process, which left him temporarily vulnerable to a guillotine choke. Josh capitalized on his opponent’s mistake, locking in a tight guillotine that left Jesse with no choice but to submit, which made Josh Haynes the first finalist in this season’s 205-pound weight class.

Now only days away from the show being over, all of the fighters (other than Michael Bisping and Ross Pointon, who still had to fight) decided to have a fun night of drinking, wrestling, throwing fruit at each other, and having ketchup and mustard fights. No one seemed to care who won previous fights, as everyone just looked like they were having fun, probably for the first time in weeks.

Michael Bisping, who was one of the favorites going into the show, stepped in to face off against fellow countryman Ross Pointon, who returned to the show and went up one weight class for the fight after a couple of other entrants decided that they weren’t “mentally prepared” to fight for something that could have given them a career in the UFC.

To the producers’ credit, they did acknowledge the fight that Bisping and Ross had just months prior to the season, in which Bisping submitted Pointon by armbar in just about two minutes. The verbal sparring between the two Brits provided some of the best back-and-forth exchanges that anyone had during the entire season. With the talk all but done, the two semi-finalists stepped into the octagon for the chance to take on Josh Haynes and win the TUF 3 light heavyweight competition.

Both fighters came out swinging heavy leather, and Ross caught Bisping in the opening seconds with a heavy punch that stunned Bisping and let him know that he had a fight on his hands. The fighters seemed very comfortable trading strikes on their feet, with Bisping going for the only takedown of the fight and Ross pushing it away fairly easily.

After a few more striking exchanges, Michael Bisping opened up his arsenal a bit, landing a flying knee that caught Ross flush on his head and sent him back against the cage. Sensing that the end was near, Bisping opened up with a barrage of punches and proceeded to unload some knees as Ross was standing up against the cage, causing referee John McCarthy to step in and call a stop to the fight.

With the win, Michael “The Count” Bisping took one more step towards winning the competition. In losing, Ross Pointon may have solidified himself as one of the most stand-up guys who truly is willing to fight anyone on a moment’s notice, and should get chance after chance to compete in the UFC before other fighters who weren’t “mentally ready” for the challenge.

After all of the semi-final fights had been completed, one last stand-off took place between the two coaches. Ken Shamrock seemed hell bent on getting a little more face time, as he tried to get at Tito Ortiz even though Ortiz’ team thoroughly dominated the competition on the show, and despite the fact that the last time Shamrock fought Ortiz, Shamrock hobbled out broken and bloodied.

The finals are now set for The Ultimate Fighter 3. In the middleweight division, Ed “Short Fuse” Herman will take on Kendall Grove, while in the light heavyweight division, Michael “The Count” Bisping will square off with Josh Haynes. The live season finale takes place on June 24th.

The main event of the June 24th broadcast will feature TUF 1 competitor Kenny Florian taking on Canadian Sam Stout in lightweight action. The winner of the Florian-Stout fight is sure to be on the short list for a title shot when the UFC reintroduces the Lightweight Title later this year.