By Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Ultimate Fighter Episode Breakdown

The Semi-Finals Get Set; Kalib Starnes vs. Kendall Grove

As the third season of The Ultimate Fighter starts to wind down, the fighters left in the competition began to ready themselves for the semi-finals that would lead four of them to the June 24th finals.

The tenth episode of TUF 3 began with highlights from last week’s fight between Matt Hamill and Mike Nickels, in which Team Ortiz’s first pick, Matt Hamill, pulled out a unanimous decision win. Unfortunately for Hamill, the fight took its toll on him. After a medical examination, he was unable to continue in the competition.

Injuries have become commonplace on the show, so the news that Matt was unable to continue shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone, but the next set of events that unfolded were simply shocking. Both Tait Fletcher and Kristian Rothaermel were brought back to the gym to meet with Dana White, Tito Ortiz, and Ken Shamrock to discuss the opportunity at hand to come back with an automatic bid into the semi-finals.

Everyone in the room just assumed that Tait would jump at the chance to come back to the competition, but as soon as he stepped into the room and they mentioned the fight to him, he basically said no. Dana kept at him, telling him about the chance that he’s passing up by not taking the fight, but Tait stayed firm in saying that he wasn’t ready to fight and didn’t want to do it. Kristian was then brought in the room and given the same chance to fight in the semi-finals, and again Dana was turned down. Kristian gave the excuse of the two cuts he suffered in his fight with Michael Bisping as the reason for saying no, coupled with the fact that he didn’t want to lose on television again, leading just about everyone to believe that he already knew that he would lose his next fight as well.

The fact that Tait Fletcher and Kristian Rothaermel both turned down the fight just goes to show that maybe not everyone is cut out for the big time. Champions in this sport constantly say that they will fight anyone at any time. When Chuck Liddell was just waiting for his shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, he was offered a fight against Renato “Babalu” Sobral that he certainly did not have to take, but he did take it because he’s a fighter and that’s what a fighter does. After so much talk from different fighters, and the knowledge that being on this show is an instant path to success, seeing two separate fighters turn down a chance like this just shows that some guys are built to talk the talk, while others are made to walk the walk.

So, to remedy the lack of an opponent for one of the light heavyweight semi-finalists, Dana instantly thought of a fighter he knew would jump at the chance to fight again. English fighter Ross Pointon, originally on the show as a middleweight, came into the room and was ready to go within a second of the potential fight being mentioned. No hesitation. No questions asked. He just wants to fight. Ross may not have the best skills on the show, but he sure as hell showed that he had more heart than a few other guys by accepting the fight and also stepping up to light heavyweight to take a shot at getting into the UFC.

The fights for the semi-finals were announced at the gym. In the light heavyweight division, Team Ortiz’ Josh Haynes was set up against Team Shamrock’s Jesse Forbes, and then Team Ortiz’ Michael Bisping found out that he would be taking on his fellow countryman, Ross Pointon of Team Shamrock. The matchmaking was a bit strange if the powers that be took into consideration the fact that the last time Bisping and Pointon fought before the filming of The Ultimate Fighter, it was against each other last November, in a fight that Bisping won by armbar in the first round.

The middleweight semi-finalists were then paired off, with Team Shamrock’s Kalib Starnes set to take on Team Ortiz’ Kendall Grove, while Team Shamrock’s Ed Herman would face Team Ortiz’ Rory Singer. The middleweights went on throughout this season without any significant injuries, so it truly is the best of the original eight middleweights who are left to compete for the contract. Dana then announced that the middleweights would fight first, with Kalib Starnes taking on Kendall Grove, and the winner would be the first participant to make it to the finals of the show.

In the first round, Kalib Starnes shot in for a takedown on Kendall Grove early on, as most predicted. Starnes executed a powerful slam, putting the Hawaiian on his back. Kalib worked from the top to try and land some shots, but Kendall did a great job defending and not taking any real damage. The fighters eventually made it back to their feet and exchanged blows throughout the round. Kalib did land some very solid shots that caught Kendall off guard. This was a close round, but it most likely went to Starnes for his great slam and overall control of the pace. However, Grove did land a few really good punches in the closing moments of the round, and it looked like Starnes was already breathing pretty hard.

The second round saw more stand-up exchanges to start the round, this time with Kendall getting the better of the exchanges. At one point during a clinch, Kendall threw a heavy knee that landed right in Kalib’s bread basket and stunned him. As the round progressed, Kalib had to be warned a couple of times by referee Steve Mazzagatti for grabbing and holding his opponent’s shorts. When the round closed, it was pretty obvious that Starnes was very winded, and Grove had landed the more effective strikes in the second round. When the fighters were in their respective corners, Kalib was wincing from the pain and could be heard saying that he thought one of his ribs was cracked.

When the third round started, Kendall knew that his opponent was favoring his mid-section, so he immediately fired off a few strikes that were aimed directly at Kalib’s ribs. After just a brief exchange, Kalib again tried to grab at Kendall’s shorts to get a takedown. The referee stepped in to warn Kalib again or possibly take a point away, but then Kalib verbally submitted, as he said that one of his ribs was broken and he couldn’t continue. The fight was stopped, and Kendall Grove was announced as the winner and the first middleweight finalist.

Next week, as the third season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close in preparation for the finale, two episodes will air back-to-back starting at 10:00 PM, with the first episode focusing on the battle between Rory Singer and Ed Herman for the other slot in the middleweight finals.