As the seventh season of the ultimate fighter of “TUF” comes to a conclusion this upcoming Friday we have an exciting card to look forward to. Some controversy remains regarding the main event for this finale where we see long term veteran and former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner (34-8) take on TUF season three winner Kendall Grove (10-5). I say there is controversy here for a variety of reasons, which will be addressed in the following analysis.
Ever since TUF first arrived there have been questions as to whether or not the stars are merely glorified reality contestants or true competitors. This was greatly felt within the organization where many TUF contestants had a difficult time earning respect (especially from non TUF competitors) in the earlier seasons. Grove may have been a winner on TUF but he is in a difficult position now, facing back to back losses through knockout. Consequently Tanner is also in a confusing situation. The former middle weight champion fell hard from grace and has gone 1-3 over his last 4 fights. Furthermore Tanner had a two year gap between his last two fights and its not surprising that man doubt his capability of a come back. I think that Tanner’s recent defeats are not as much a result of skill or fitness atrophy; rather that over the past few years the talent pool in MMA has only grown deeper. That is to say that since his return Tanner has not necessarily become far worse as a fighter, rather that the competition around him has become better. This trend was very noticeable with the likes of brawlers like David “Tank” Abbott who have found themselves consistently on the loosing end of the stick for a number of years now. As a result some are saying this could be “do or die” for both fighters here. Although it might not be that extreme, both fighters really need this win for their careers as professional fighters.
Intangibles aside, this fight is very stylistically interesting. Some suggest that grove has a significant size advantage over Tanner and that this will grant him a significant advantage. Grove is not however much heavier than Tanner, rather he is simply a half-foot taller. If Grove has an abundance of anything however, it is reach. So when you consider size in that regard, yes Grove has a significant “size advantage”. As well, it goes without saying that Tanner has the edge on experience and Grove with the element of youth on his side.
In terms of how styles line up; both men win most often through submission. However as mentioned, Grove can utilize his reach in the stand-up to make things far more difficult for Tanner that if it were to go to the mat. On the ground it is very probable that Tanner’s experience will become a much more pronounced threat to Grove. So when the fight begins it can be expected that Grove will try to stand and trade and Tanner will look for the take-down. Kendal’s height and reach will make a difficult for Tanner but Grove is a far less patient fighter than Tanner and this may again work to his favour.
There has also been some speculation as to how Grove’s training with UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn in Hilo Hawaii will affect his performance. Considering that I am not overly familiar with BJ’s training routine it is difficult for me to accurately speculate this. I will say though that the teachings of BJ Penn will not come without benefits. In regards to the fight this could help negate some of the ground skill discrepancies between Grove and Tanner. All in all my objective predictions for the Grove vs. Tanner fight are as follows: Tanner by submission or Grove by TKO. If the fight goes to decision I have a feeling that it will also go to Grove as he will most likely be pushing the pace (especially as he feels that he needs this, although he has been quoted that he does not feel he deserves it). At any rate, although this is the main event for the finale, I would not be surprised if the loser of this event fell off the main card entirely let alone slide down the middle weight ranks. AND while both fighters still attract attention, I would not put it past UFC management to discontinue one of their contracts if indeed this is do or die...
Calvin “Dump Truck” Funk