We're getting near the end of round 1 on UFC The Ultimate Fighter Live, and I have to say, I'm mighty happy about this week. After complaining about last week's overly staged "rivalry" dialogue between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, this week we got some actual antagonism. Their confrontation in the hallways after the Tickle vs. Proctor fight felt authentic and not TV inspired. Cruz was frustrated and, to a degree, taking it out on his fighter, while Faber wanted to give Tickle a proverbial pat on the back. Things escalated from there. A nice example of two pros getting frustrated at the way the other one does business.
That conflict was one of the big points this week, and I'm a bit on the fence how I feel about it. I agree with Cruz that Tickle needs to understand why he lost and needs to know the importance of listening to your corner if you want to win. But Chiesa also summed up my feelings by saying why not wait until the next day to have that conversation. While Cruz had Tickle's interests in mind, he also seemed clearly driven by his own loss there, and taking that frustration out.
Lots of other moments worth noting this week, including Sam Sicilia and Andy Ogle breaking down a bit, and Dana White giving them the traditional mid-season pep talk. Luckily, this season it focused on the need to stay tough, not the "stop partying and being idiots" talk we often get. I think that's a testament to the generally higher level of focus we've seen from fighters this season. And I'm glad Ogle seemed to get his focus back - he's been one of the more enjoyable personalities to develop so far and his breakdown this week was rough.
- It was a very small moment, but I loved the kick to the midsection Chris Saunders delivered during practice. In case you missed it, his partner was regaining his feet after a takedown, and Saunders hit him with a nice body kick as he kneeled. Great move that I would like to see more of in the UFC to get around the downed opponent rules.
- Faber said Pichel had "terrible" takedown defense, which I found odd, as I just don't see that. Great? No. But terrible?
- Looking over the schedule, we have 5 weeks left of regular shows before the finale. That means Sicilia vs. Saunders this week, Rio vs. Ogle next, then 2 quarter-finals, another 2 quarter-finals, and the semi-finals. Those last three weeks are going to be interesting, as the finalists will have to fight 3 times in a 3-4 week span including the finale. Certainly opens the door up for injury if guys aren't careful.
- Interesting that Cruz chose Sicilia vs. Saunders this week, by default choosing Rio vs. Ogle next week. A possible sign that he has more faith in Sicilia and wants him to have more rest before the next round?
- It took Pichel a bit longer than expected, but he came out heavy to start round 3, capitalized on having more in the tank than Cofer, and finished him off. I said before that the guy is a finisher, and he showed it again. That said, I was surprised at how much success Cofer had standing. Gives me a bit of pause on where to put him in the overall standings.
- Cofer didn't really use his wrestling, which I thought would be death for him, but wasn't. He remains rather green, but there's some decent talent there to be shaped into a better fighter. A UFC level fighter? Not right at the moment I don't think.
- Very good fight overall, with a lot of fun action. Probably my favorite fight of the season to date.
Sam Sicilia vs. Chris Saunders:
- Obviously, Sicilia is the easy pick, as he has that huge KO while Saunders's prelim fight was lackluster. But Saunders has some big experience, and like I said, his stand-up looked nice in training. I'm looking forward to digging into his career a bit more this week.