Week 6 of UFC The Ultimate Fighter Live was, as anticipated, very Tickle-heavy. But somewhat unexpectedly, that wasn't entirely a bad thing. As he prepared for his fight with Joe Proctor, Chris Tickle was relatively focused and on task, leaving behind most of the pranks and obnoxiousness from weeks past. We also got to know him a bit more, and I have to admit, the scene with him quietly preparing an Easter turkey (Easter turkey?), then eating alone at the table while the voiceover discussed his family? Yeah, it mellowed me on him a bit. Add in the shot of him dejectedly sitting in the locker room post-fight with his head down, and I did indeed feel for the guy.
Of course, my big fear remains - that with his shot at the TUF finale finished, he'll use this time to amp up the irritating behavior. But that's for another week. For now, Tickle gets my grudging appreciation.
All that said, the Tickle story wasn't what most grabbed my interest this week. That distinction belongs to the brief sparring spat between Justin Lawrence and Mike Rio, which was fascinating. If you missed it, Dominick Cruz told Lawrence no spinning strikes when sparring to avoid the risk of injury, Lawrence threw a spin kick at Rio, Rio got pissed, words were exchanged. Now, here's where things got interesting. After the kick, a fired up Rio came hard at Lawrence, took him down, controlled him on the ground, and tapped him with an armbar. From the looks of things, Rio had a lot of success controlling Lawrence, who became incredibly frustrated.
From day one I've been high on Lawrence as a possible champion this season, but this gave me concerns. On a technical level, Rio's ability to win the ground battle was a bad sign. But the mental level was what really concerns me. We saw how Lawrence deals with frustration here, and it's not good. If he goes up against a tough fighter who won't break like Al Iaquinta, will that frustration be Lawrence's undoing? It's definitely a point to watch.
- I miss the Urijah Faber / Dominick Cruz dynamic from the premiere. You know, when they were just two opposing coaches? Their "fights" at weigh-ins and outside the gym (a short contest? really Cruz?) just seem so forced and reek of reality show producer influence. They're fast becoming my least favorite aspect of the season.
- Slip and slide day looked very enjoyable. On the whole, this seems like a good group of guys, which is kind of nice to see.
- I am 4-0 so far on my predictions, and feeling good. Which surely means I am going to fall apart from this point forward.
Joe Proctor vs. Chris Tickle:
- Proctor played this one as I thought he would, and he did a good job. He patiently waited out the opening flurry, then found his opportunity and seized it. He's definitely in the Joe Lauzon mode of grab a submission and crank it until you get the tap, and it's working well so far. I'm excited to see him next round.
- Tickle's personality pretty much guarantees him a shot in the UFC, and I think he has the talent to make a go of it. He just needs to get more focused and precise. He threw a lot into the opening, and as the round wore down, his output really dropped, allowing Proctor to get inside. If he joins a real camp, he could have future in the UFC.
- We're getting late in round 1 here, so here are two fighters you don't yet know much about. But Pichel? He's really good. Seriously. Off the cuff, I think Team Cruz evens it up 3-3 here. Check back later this week for more on both men.