This week on the UFC's The Ultimate Fighter Live, Urijah Faber is once again in control as he chooses his #5 pick Michael Chiesa to face Dominick Cruz #8 Jeremy Larsen. We've been a bit spoiled by big fights the past few weeks, so this one, while definitely containing some intrigue in the stylistic match-up, is a bit lackluster. On paper at least. In the cage? We'll have to see just what these two deliver. Once again, here we'll break down the match-up, including video of each contestant to get you ready. The Ultimate Fighter airs live on FX Friday night at 10 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT.
After Al Iaquinta defeated Myles Jury last week, Team Faber regained control of the fight picks, setting up this contest. This choice stands as a sharp contrast to Cruz's style from the past two weeks. Where Cruz was trying to push his guys with tough match-ups and take out Faber's legs, Faber is favoring a more conservative matchmaking style built around pairing guys who match up advantageously for his side. At least, that's the hope. Last time he tried that, Daron Cruickshank ended up knocked out.
One last quick note - unlike previous weeks, there is not much footage from either man available, so my analysis is based primarily on their TUF fights. That's not much to draw from, but it's the best we can do.
MICHAEL CHIESA (7-0)
6'1" | 24 years old | 76" reach
TUF record: def.Johnavan Vistante (Sub, R1)
Chiesa is, sadly, best known at the moment for the passing of his father in the first week. It's a sad story, and one that really shows you just how much these guys are human beings, dealing with all the same issues of family and responsibility as the rest of us. It's also a heavy mental burden to carry. Now, Chiesa fights for his dad - which could either be a great motivator, or provide too much pressure. Chiesa fights out of the Pacific Northwest. He's undefeated at 7-0 with 5 submission wins, though he has not faced any particularly noteworthy competition.
When picking the fight, Faber described Chiesa as a wrestler, and while that is true, Chiesa uses his wrestling in a different way. He's quick to shoot and get inside, then drag the fight to the mat. Once there, he focuses his attack on submissions instead of just maintaining control or ground and pound as many wrestlers do. He has long limbs and uses them to tie up his opponent, never releasing his grip. He's very active with those submissions, transitioning between attempts. I'd say his submission style is based strongly on that Gracie model of position, then submission, meaning he establishes a controlling position, then attacks for the sub. It's a good style that he employs well. On the feet, there is very little to judge, but what I've seen looks pretty sloppy and only serves to set up the takedown.
Against Larsen, I expect Chiesa to close the distance quickly, take the mat, and start working his submission game. Hopefully, he's spending some time this week working with Cristiano Marcello, who has a very similar grappling style.
JEREMY LARSEN (8-2)
5' 8" | 21 years old | 67" reach
TUF record: def. Jeff Smith (Dec)
At this point in the show, Larsen is pretty much a total unknown - I couldn't even remember anything about him before I started looking into him this week. He's from the Arizona area, but previously spent some time in California where he trained with his TUF coach Dominick Cruz. The fact that he has trained with Cruz and Cruz picked him last does not fill me with confidence. Nor does Cruz's statement that he struggles against wrestlers (which Faber rather brilliantly brought up at the fight announcement last week). However, he has faced some of the best competition of anyone in the house. His two losses come against TUF champion Efrain Escudero and UFC veteran Edgar Garcia.
The Smith fight, and Cruz's comments during that fight, are all I have to go on here. Larsen describes himself as a boxer who wants to trade, but he also looked comfortable on the ground (and Cruz said he was indeed comfortable grappling). He has decent submission defense, and did a good job regaining position against Smith. On the feet, he didn't show good cage control in that fight, allowing Smith to close the distance quickly and secure the clinch. His striking style looks to be from the Chris Leben mode - a swinging brawler looking for the KO.
For the Chiesa fight, he'll need to control that distance and keep Chiesa away. If Larsen keeps the fight standing, he'll be playing to his strengths and his opponent's weakness.
Prediction: Mike Chiesa by submission
Larsen is resilient, and I suspect he'll put up a fight on the ground. But I don't see him keeping this standing against Chiesa, and I also think Chiesa's relentless submission attacks will eventually get through.
Fight footage in the full entry.
Like I said, not a lot of footage from either man this week. Sorry.
Michael Chiesa vs. ???
No details on this fight, and it's not even complete, but it's all I've got to share.
Also, you like slams? Chiesa (in green) throws a beauty here.