With no Bellator this week, UFC has Friday all to its lonesome, airing the eighth episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Live with a fight that will break the deadlock between Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz's teams.
The fight this week features Sam Sicilia (Cruz) vs. Chris Saunders (Faber), made after Vinc Pichel defeated John Cofer by third round submission last week to get back control for Cruz. Sicilia was Cruz's second overall pick and admitted last week he was feeling a lot of pressure because of it. The fights between the two coaches are tied 3-3.
Sicilia was 10-0 before getting into the house with nine finishes while Saunders (9-2) had a seven fight win streak snapped by Chris Horodecki before joining the TUF cast. Also on this week's show, Strikeforce 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey will make an appearance.
Follow along with the episode here on Bloody Elbow after the jump and join the conversation in our comments section. The action kicks off 10 PM EST on FX.
After last week's show, Vinc Pichel is all fired up. Cruz and the team are ecstatic. "Cheers to hell," he says. Faber tells Cofer to keep his head up, but he gets emotional. Faber tries to joke, "There's not a mark on your face, man" which goes over about as well as most of his comments toward Cruz.
Ronda Rousey walks in with Cruz during a workout session, which gets all the fellas' attention. She teaches them some judo basics and gets their respect quickly by throwing everyone all over the place. She said she was nervous about coming in, but really liked the team after working with them.
Both teams and Rousey get together at the TUF house to watch UFC 145. Rousey jokes that she is the first girl in the house and none of the guys were brave enough to talk to her. "For the first girl in the TUF house, these guys kinda blew it," Faber joked.
Saunders reveals that his nickname ("So Cal Kid") is an homage to Faber, who is one of his idols. At quick glances, Saunders looks like Chris Lytle in his facial features. Faber wants him to stick and move and avoid Sicila's wild punches. Saunders was the last pick of the TUF draft and wants to avenge that.
Prank time! Tickle puts Saran Wrap on the kitchen faucet so it sprayed people when they turned it on. Frozen boxer shorts end up in the freezer and Chap Stick gets super glued to the table. There really hasn't been that many pranks this season considering we're in the eighth week.
Saunders talks about his background and bad upbringing (foster homes, parents were around, poor, etc). He gets emotional and has hipster glasses. Sicilia talks about his background as an amateur and going pro. He fought one of Cruz's training partners and beat him, which made the coach respect him. Cruz wants Sicilia to wrestle him and pressure him with his hands. "If I leave him leaking in the middle of the cage, I did my job right," Sicilia explains.
Team Alpha Male does a hard workout in the Team Cruz locker room, stripping down to black tight shorts and working out for 45 minutes, squirting water on each other. It was designed to mock Cruz and his intensity, but was kinda weird. Cruz dismisses it as Faber wanting to get on TV with his shirt off.
Both guys make weight and backstage, coaches are giving the same instructions as earlier on the show. Sons of Anarchy actor Theo Rossi is hanging with Dana White to watch the fight. The crowds here are definitely growing in size with the new live format.
Sam Sicilia (Cruz, 10-0, 25, 5'7", 66" reach ) vs. Chris Saunders (Faber, 9-2, 25, 5'8", 67" reach)
Round 1: Sicilia is forcing the action early, swinging wildly and getting Saunders up against the fence. Saunders gets a quick takedown off a Sicilia mistake but both guys are right back up. Saunders is holding his own in the clinch and is getting some knees through.
Saunders hits a head kick when Sicilia drops his left hand and falls flat but recovers quick. Right before that, he looked gassed and nervous. He is back up and now swinging away with wild rights. Saunders is sneaking some shots in and is pressing the action. Wild round. Sicilia with two hard rights and Saunders is down. He throws that right with bad intentions but is leaving himself open for counters. I say 10-9 Sicilia but this is razor thin.
Round 2: Both guys are trying to finish to begin the round. Sicilia throws a combo that slows Saunders. Cruz is yelling for him to drop to a single leg takedown, but no go. He wants a KO. Saunders is going back to the head kick well a bit too often. Sicilia is throwing more hard shots and Saunders is bleeding. Saunders gets his back for another quick takedown. More hard shots from Sicilia that you can hear.
Saunders now gets Sicilia on the ground and is ground/pounding. He briefly gets the back, but we're back standing in seconds. Sicilia drops Saunders with a wild left. Seconds later, Saunders have Siclia on his back and is throwing elbows. Did I say this was a wild fight yet? Saunders is working for something on the ground but Sicilia isn't having it. Saunders has got a great chin to take this punishment. Round ends and I think Sicilia took it 2-0 but I'd love to see a third round.
Result: Saunders wins by split decision. Team Faber goes up 4-3. I didn't see it that way, but this was an insane fight and the best one of the season. Sicilia isn't complaining about the decision and is gassed. Looking back to last week's episode, I think that was foreshadowing about the pressure of being Cruz's No. 2 pick. He never did wrestle like Cruz instructed, which I'm sure we'll hear more of next week.
White gave the first round to Saunders and the second to Sicilia.
Next week's fight: Andy Ogle (Faber) vs. Mike Rio (Cruz) in the season's final prelim bout