By Thomas Gerbasi
On June 21st, just days before Independence Day, the fireworks will get started a bit early at The Pearl Arena inside The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas when some of MMA’s top prospects and contenders clash on the undercard of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs Team Forrest Finale.
In the headlining bouts, middleweight fortunes may be decided when former champion Evan Tanner collides with The Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Kendall Grove, and the two to be determined finalists from the Spike TV reality show square off for a shot at a UFC contract.
Stakes are just as high on the undercard though.
In Spike TV (9pm ET / PT) televised bouts on June 21st, season one winner and current welterweight contender Diego ‘Nightmare’ Sanchez looks to continue on his road to a title shot when he takes on hard-hitting Luigi Fioravanti, who is currently on a two fight winning streak that he confidently plans on extending. The Floridian knows he’s in for a tough night though.
“Diego is a top ten welterweight, he is very tough and has very good jiu-jitsu and ground and pound, and he always comes in with good cardio,” said Fioravanti, who most recently decisioned Luke Cummo over three rounds in March.
Also on the main card is a lightweight war in the making when streaking Jeremy ‘Lil’ Heathen’ Stephens squares off against always-exciting veteran Spencer ‘The King’ Fisher. Following an injury-induced layoff, Fisher is returning to the Octagon for the first time since last November, and he will be met by the equally furious fists of Stephens, who is on a three fight winning streak that includes an impressive January stoppage of Cole Miller.
In off-TV action, the welterweight theme continues in a highly-anticipated bout between Josh Burkman and Dustin Hazelett, both of whom are looking to get back in the win column after competitive defeats to Mike Swick and Josh Koscheck, respectively.
“Dustin Hazelett is a tough kid, and from what I hear has great game on the ground,” said Burkman, 20-5 overall, 6-3 in the UFC. “To tell you the truth I haven't watched film on him and I probably won't. I don't think he'll be able to fight me like he's fought other people. My coach Rob Handley has watched his fights and I'm confident in the game plan he will come up with. As far as me, I'm just gonna watch film on (Mike) Tyson. I'm knockin this dude out.”
Ohio’s Hazelett, 12-4 overall, 3-2 in the UFC, has impressed in each of his five UFC fights, win or lose, but with the lessons picked up in the March fight against Koscheck, the Team Jorge Gurgel standout wants to begin a new winning streak on June 21st.
“I think that he (Burkman) is a tough opponent, but it's a good match up for me,” said the 22-year old. “His style is very similar to Josh Koscheck's, I learned a lot from the fight, and I have made certain changes to make sure that what happened in that fight won't happen in this fight.”
But it’s not all welterweights on the card, as middleweight knockout artist Drew McFedries returns against Marvin ‘The Beastman’ Eastman, and 185 pound vets Jeremy Horn and Dean Lister look to stay in the title hunt in a diehard fight fans dream matchup.
Tickets for The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs Team Forrest Finale are on sale now.
Finale Fireworks on June 21st
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - On June 21st, just days before Independence Day, the fireworks will get started a bit early at The Pearl Arena inside The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas when some of MMA’s top prospects and contenders clash on the undercard of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs Team Forrest Finale.