Long Journey Home: Evan Tanner's Make or Break Fight

Evan RossCorrespondent IJune 19, 2008

Could it be because we have the same first name?

Could it be because his fights are always exciting?

Could it be because of the beard?

There is no doubt about it that this writer loves Evan Tanner as one of his favorite fighters of all time.

Tanner's popularity among certain diehard fans is not easily explained however.

Tanner has never defeated top competition and the big names he has defeated have all but faded into mediocrity with the exception of Robbie Lawler. Along with that his run as Middleweight Champion was derailed hardly before it ever got off the ground.

But this author will contend that there are several reasons why Tanner should be part of MMA lore.

The first is that we got to see a real glimpse at a well rounded game.

Tanner cannot be pegged into a certain style. He had good submissions, ground and pound, wrestling, and decent hands. That being said none of these are phenomenal with maybe the exception of his ground and pound.

Secondly he could take a beating.

Tanner fights like a junkyard dog. I remember watching the Terrel fight when he took punishment for about two minutes, waiting for an opening. Then bam! He lands the take down and delivers a gorgeous display of ground and pound.

Lastly is his "everyman" appeal. Evan Tanner is just a guy who always just seemed appreciative of the opportunity. He never let his ego show. This is best contrasted with Phil Baroni in their two duels.

Since his plunge into alcoholism Tanner has come back sober and ready to make one last shot at glory. His ring rust showed as Yushin Okami obliterated him.

Which leads to his fight this Saturday in which Tanner will be in a do or die battle against Kendal Grove. With each fighter seeming to know that a lose will put them out of the UFC.

Look for Tanner to capitalize on Grove's more than suspect chin. I expect Grove to maybe take the first round before Tanner fights his chance and puts him away with shot that wobbles Grove and then is proceeded by ground and pound.

As big a fan as I am though I also know that the rest of the competition at middleweight will stifle Tanner's chances at a belt.

That is why I'd like to see Tanner make the move to EliteXC where we could see a Robbie Lawler rematch where a real war would almost be a guarantee.