At UFC 130, Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove took on middleweight newcomer Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch in a preliminary fight aired on Spike TV. After being out-grappled and controlled by Boetsch almost the entire fight, Grove—the winner of season three of The Ultimate Fighter—lost the fight by lopsided unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring the fight 30-27 for his opponent.
The disappointing performance by Grove came on the heels of his uninspiring, unanimous decision loss to Demian Maia at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, and in the UFC, two losses in a row is sometimes enough to give you your walking papers. By that accord, no one should be surprised if Grove is cut from the UFC this week.
But should he be cut? If one looks at his mediocre 7-6 record inside the Octagon, then one might lean towards yes. After all, the UFC is all about housing the very best mixed martial artists in the world, and for a guy who has lost four of his last six fights, there probably isn’t room, even in a relatively shallow middleweight division and even if that fighter once won The Ultimate Fighter.
The UFC, by all their rights, should purge Grove from their active middleweight roster. But Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, should not let him get away so quickly. Instead, they should make Grove the first UFC fighter to directly crossover to Strikeforce.
When the UFC purchased Strikeforce, Dana White was adamant that there would be no super-fights featuring the best Strikeforce fighters coming over to the UFC while they still had contracts with Showtime.
This shut off all possibilities of superstar Strikeforce champions like Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez coming over to the big show, at least for the time being. Of course, once the Strikeforce fighter’s contracts were up with Showtime they were free to cross over, and Jason “Mayhem” Miller became the first one to do so, signing with the UFC just over a month ago.
But at the same time he said this, White also made it known that he wasn’t adverse to doing things the other way, with UFC fighters going to Strikeforce instead. An opportunity has presented itself for Grove to be the torchbearer of this.
Strikeforce, at present, has a relatively shallow middleweight division, especially with losing the personable and marketable Miller. Aside from middleweight kingpin Souza, the heavy-handed Robbie Lawler, American hero Tim Kennedy and the fighter-turned-actor Cung Le, there really isn’t much at 185 pounds in Strikeforce.
If Strikeforce is truly here to stay for at least a few more years, the promotion needs a new influx of middleweights because the fans are getting tired of stale rematches and want new challengers at 185 pounds, especially fighters they know. A UFC veteran like Grove, who is still only 28 years old, would be a good addition and a solid solution to this dilemma.
At 6’6” and only 185 pounds, Grove is a matchup nightmare for most middleweights, even if he has had mixed success in the cage up until this point. As seen in his submission victories over Jake Rosholt and Alan Belcher, and even in his recent loss over Boetsch, Grove’s long limbs have the capability to make fighters tap out at anytime.
And while he has been far from consistent inside the cage—he holds an overall record as a professional mixed martial artist of just 12-9—he has fought and defeated some talented fighters during his career, including the aforementioned Belcher and the late Evan Tanner.
It might not make sense to match him up with some of the top Strikeforce middleweights just yet, but at the very least, Grove would present a good challenge to the young guns trying to make a name for themselves on the Strikeforce Challengers cards.
After spending so many years developing and promoting him, Zuffa should not give up on Grove just now. He is just 28 and still has the opportunity to improve as a mixed martial artist. But it’s become obvious he is not talented enough for the UFC, at least not at this point in his career.
And after seeing Keith Jardine lose four fights in the UFC, win a few in smaller shows, and then take a short-notice (albeit controversial) draw over consensus top-15 light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi, exposing Mousasi’s porous takedown defence in the process, anything can happen in this sport.
So make Grove the first UFC fighter to directly crossover to Strikeforce, and let the chips fall where they may. At the very least, it would be an interesting experiment in seeing just what Zuffa is able to do now that they own the two biggest mixed martial arts promotions in the world.