Welcome back to MMASucka’s very own recap of The Ultimate Fighter: Faber vs. Cruz, otherwise known as The TUFest Report. I’ve got beer and chicken within reach, Ronda Rousey is set to appear on this episode, so let’s see what bantamweight hijinks take shape this week, shall we?
We open with a shot of Team Cruz’s no. 2 pick, Sam Sicilia, entering the training center as Jon Anik’s voice reminds us that he will be carrying the Cruz flag into battle this week. Chris Saunders gets his own entrance shot, clad in more pink than Bret Hart would find acceptable.
In the pre-episode recap, Saunders’ story is told as he was the last pick but has impressed Faber and the rest of the team in training. We take a look back at last week’s fight, as Team Faber’s John Cofer went against Team Cruz’s Vinc Pichel, with Pichel winning the fight by submission in the sudden victory round to bring the overall competition back to 3-3.
“Higher Ground” kicks in and we’re officially into the episode. I can’t say enough about how much better this intro is than the “you’re gonna get hit, you’re gonna get knocked out” crap that has opened the previous seasons.
Pichel is loving life after his victory. Cruz is happy Pichel folowed his advice about making it a “street fight”. Cofer is dejected, Faber understands his disappointment, but adds that it was Cofer’s fight to win.
Team Cruz is training and Cruz is a fan of Sicilia’s power in his hands. Ronda Rousey comes into the gym, to the delight of the team who don’t get to see women very often during this ordeal. Rousey shows the appreciate lads some judo pointers. The team agrees to a man, that Rousey is the baddest woman on the planet, after getting dropped on their heads by the Strikeforce women’s champ individually. Rousey is happy with the session and wishes the team well.
Faber and Cruz get yippy at each other as Faber says hi to Rousey. Is it just me or does Cruz just come off as completely unlikeable in these exchanges?
The coaches and Rousey join the fighters in the house to watch the Jones vs. Evans card. The fighters seem to be avoiding Rousey, the estrogen in the house seems to be throwing them off. Rousey wants a snack of some salted nuts, but doesn’t want to ask for them to bring on the obvious jokes. Faber admits the fighters blew it with the first woman to enter the house.
Faber is understandably confident in Saunders, despite him being an underedog. Saunders was born in SoCal, grew up in Montreal, then moved back to SoCal for college. Saunders lists Faber as one of his idols. Faber thinks if Saunders’ self-confidence grows then he can win. Saunders agrees. Faber wants Saunders to stick and move.
We look at the locker rooms and pre-fight rituals , as Jon Anik’s disembodied voice hypes the fight.
Chris Tickle pranks the house by putting saran wrap over the kitchen sink’s faucet. Cruickshank retaliates by gluing Mike Rio’s chapstick to his nightstand. Rio’s cool with it as long as no one touches his hair.
Saunders has an introspective moment in the backyard where he talks about his disadvantaged youth. They’re really pushing his underdog story hard. Sicilia’s bio moment focuses on his Jeremy Horn-like nature of taking a lot of fights in a short amount of time. Cruz compares him to a Tasmanian devil. Cruz wants him to come out high-octane and not give Saunders a chance to set.
Faber gets in a good line about Cruz’s “imaginary lat syndrome, creepy hairdo and fancy shoes”. Team Faber decides to punk Team Cruz by filling their locker room with exercise equipment and sweating it out in there. Cruz mopes about Faber just wanting to be on TV, his team seems to find the humour in it though.
We go to the weigh-ins and eveerything goes according to Hoyle. Andy Ogle thinks it could be the fight of the season. Saunders relishes the underdog role and declares he won’t break.
Jon Anik is here in person this time and throws it to the back for locker room footage before telling us to vote in their polls. I choose to abstain. Theo Rossi of FX’s Sons of Anarchy is in the house for the fight.
Sicilia enters the cage looking calm and collected. Saunders twitter handle is apparently @kidisgood, which makes me chuckle.
We’re underway and Sicilia has Saunders against the fence. They jockey for position and eventually separate. Sicilia is throwing away and landing some good shots. Sicilia is making Saunders carry his weight against the cage. Saunders spins and throws some knees to the body. They’re in the middle now and Saunders drops Sicilia with a head kick. Sicilia recovers and bullies Saunders back into the fence. Saunders separates and is landing. Sicilia works for a takedown but can’t complete it, and Saunders pushes him against the fence. Back to the center of the cage, where Saunders continues to be more effective. Just as I say that, Sicilia lands and forces Saunders to the floor. Back up and the last ten seconds see Sicilia land a couple of power shots again.
Round two begins with the obligatory shot of Brittney. Thank you. Sicilia comes out firing but doesn’t connect. Saunders with a nice combo, then a solid leg kick. Sicilia chasing Saunders now. Sicilia lands some good shots and again puts Saunders against the fence. Faber calls for more footwork from Saunders. Sicilia putting everything behind is punches but isn’t landing as many as he would like. Saunders with a takedown, but Sicilia bounces back up. Sicilia doggedly pursuing a single, but Saunders spins and winds up on top. Saunders lands some shot and has Sicilia’s back. Sicilia spins out and they’re back to the feet. Sicilia drops Saunders with a HARD left hand and goes for a choke. Saunders pops out and is on top. Saunders in Sicilia’s guard working some GNP. Saunders now has his back. Sicilia escapes and they’re back to the feet. Sicilia pressing. Saunders lands a kick. Saunders misses a spinning backfist and Sicilia swings at air as the round concludes. Great pace and we may be heading to Sudden Victory for the second week in a row.
I am incorrect as the fighters are standing in the cage for the decision. The win goes to Saunders via split decision. Saunders tells Jon Anik that it’s the result he saw coming. Sicilia is disappointed that he didn’t use his wrestling enough but credits Saunders.
Jon Anik stands with Dana White and Dana had the fight going to Sudden Victory, but admits he’s not a judge. There’s only two fighters left so the fight announcement is academic. Team Faber’s Andy Ogle will face Team Cruz’s Mike Rio. Team Faber enters the last preliminary round fight up 4-3.
Here’s the post-fight reaction from the fighters, coaches, and Dana White:
UFC President Dana White:
There’s no doubt Saunders won that first round but I thought Sicilia had the second round. He was dropping huge bombs and was all over Saunders. Everyone but the judges believed this should have gone to a third round. I praise the judges when they do a good job and I rip the judges when they get it wrong. They got it wrong tonight. Both guys fought like hell and deserved a third round.
This was a huge upset. Saunders was picked last and went out there and won against the no.2 guy. We’ve seen great back to back fights in the last two weeks. All these guys are going out there and blowing it away.
I definitely didn’t feel like I lost, but I definitely didn’t feel like I was winning either. I was in a scrap and I felt like a cartoon dust ball with legs and arms kicking out. I was blessed with a battle. My path and purpose led me to Chris Saunders and he was the better man tonight according to the judges.
I think it should have gone to a third round, definitely. But that’s part of the game. Sam fought from beginning to end and I have nothing but respect for the show that he put on tonight. I’m also proud of the camp that he has put in so far and that I know he will continue.
I like the match-up coming up. Rio has outstanding wrestling and great ground control along with submissions. Ogle’s a tough cookie but I think Rio’s size and control will win us this fight.
I feel good. I’m very excited and happy that I went out there and had a good performance for my team and the fans. The fight went how I planned. I knew that I had to go out there and use good footwork and that my Thai boxing skills would help give me the victory. I have to give all the credit to God though because without him none of this would be possible.
I’m super proud of Saunders, this whole thing has been about building his confidence. He has the skill to beat anybody on the show. He has a lot of natural talent and years of experience, now it’s just about bringing his a-game.
Andy Ogle is probably on the fastest learning curve on the team. He’s dangerous both standing and on the ground and he’s got a great attitude.