By Thomas Gerbasi
After back to back losses to Patrick Cote and Jorge Rivera, Kendall Grove’s future in the UFC’s 185-pound division may have been riding on the result of Saturday night’s bout at The Palms against Evan Tanner. Subsequently, the Hawaii native put on perhaps his most disciplined performance as he decisioned the former UFC middleweight champion in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter Finale.
Scores were 30-26 twice and 28-29 for Grove.
“He did good recovering, he put me against the cage and he was strong like I expected, but just like I was taught, if he takes me down, get up and pressure him because I knew he was getting tired,” said Grove. “My last two fights I got embarrassed, but I grew up as a fighter during those losses.”
He showed it against Tanner, who has now lost two in a row following an almost two-year hiatus from the sport.
Grove came out jabbing, wisely trying to use his 6-6 frame, but Tanner closed the distance quickly, working his foe against the fence and onto the mat as the bout entered its second minute. Grove fought his way back up just as fast, and a hard elbow and a follow up knee broke Tanner’s grip and cut the former middleweight champ over the left eye. Grove tried to finish things off with a kick to the head, but he fell in the process, allowing Tanner to shake the cobwebs loose. Grove was getting more confident by the second, even jumping up and landing a right knee while Tanner held his left leg hostage. With two minutes remaining, Tanner got a takedown, but Grove broke free after attempting a triangle choke. Following that sequence, Tanner missed a knee and Grove got his back, but Tanner scored an escape of his own and looked to be controlling the action against the fence before the bell intervened.
Tanner immediately engaged to begin the second, but Grove’s heavier and more accurate hands seemed to be taking a toll on the Las Vegan. To cope, Tanner closed the gap between the two and bulled Grove to the fence. ‘Da Spyder’ scored with another jumping knee, but seconds later Tanner was able to finally secure the takedown. Grove got up with the aid of a kimura attempt, and he followed up with a hard right elbow to the head that hurt Tanner. Grove pounced, but Tanner fought off the onslaught, at least for the moment, and made it out of the round.
Despite an apparent two round lead, Grove didn’t let up in the third, and he kept his focus rock-solid as he landed with his strikes and kept Tanner at bay with his takedown defense. Not surprisingly, Tanner kept moving forward, looking for the one opening he needed to turn the fight around, and though he landed his share of shots, in the end, it wasn’t enough for the win.
With the victory, Grove improves to 11-5; Tanner falls to 34-8.
Watch the Unaired Prelims from the Ultimate Fighter Finale on UFC On Demand.........Click Here.