Here in week 5 of UFC's The Ultimate Fighter Live, we seem to have settled into a groove with the show, for both good and bad. Episodes have been focused primarily on the actual fight and fight planning (good), interspersed with the occasional obnoxious reality TV nonsense tossed in courtesy of Chris Tickle (bad). But the heavy emphasis remains on the fights, and so I remain happy.
That's not to say there isn't some bad. This week, there were two potentially irritating storylines at play. First, Dominick Cruz tried to get Sam Sicilia to help him and Jeremy Larsen strategize for the Michael Chiesa fight. And Sicilia refused. Cruz pushed him a bit, but gave up and it became sort of a non issue. For my money, I'm with Sicilia here. Cruz was arguing that to make it to the top, you have to fight friends sometimes. And I get that. But this wasn't about Sicilia fighting Chiesa, it was about him helping some guy he met a few weeks ago and has artificially been put on a team with figure out how to beat his best friend. Why do that? It felt like Cruz and Sicilia were talking apples to oranges here, and I'm glad it ended up not becoming much of a thing.
The other annoyance was, of course, Tickle. I'm hesitant to talk much about him simply because he seems like a guy who feeds off attention, so why give it to him, you know? But it has to be mentioned, especially since he's fighting next week. The impression I get of him is that he is mentally weak. Oh sure, he would go berserk if you said that, and probably threaten to beat me up, but in my experience, the people who talk the most about their mental toughness are the ones that most lack it. He approaches everything like a man with something to prove, but when push comes to shove, his actions tell the story. And those actions don't say he's a mentally tough fighter to me. Now, there is of course some reality TV editing work at play here, so take his actions with a bit of a grain of salt, but at the same time, they are not creating this persona out of thin air. We'll see next week how well he backs it up.
Also, Tickle wins the award for worst staredown ever. Seriously, EVER.
Other random points:
- I'm not horribly anti-Urijah Faber, but he seems kind of... I don't know, weird? The whole Cruz shoe thing was odd, and the man uses a lot of unnecessary words when making fight picks.
- No mention of how Rio's injury is going, which is probably a good thing for him.
- A random thought I had this week - when are Cruz and Faber training for their fight? Normally there is a big gap between the end of filming and the finale, but with this year's live format, their fight is coming up in July and they will be focused on this show often between now and then.
Mike Chiesa vs. Jeremy Larsen:
- Chiesa was paired with Larsen because of his wrestling, and I was impressed by the takedowns the Team Faber fighter showed. He was tenacious and resourceful with them; I liked how he would switch from a double to a single to a trip until he got the fight down. But as impressed with his takedowns as I was, I was equally unimpressed with his stand-up, which was sloppy and rudimentary. I like Chiesa's personality, but I would pick any of the other 4 quarter finalists over him at this point.
- Larsen is tough and has heart, but he's just too sloppy to make it in the UFC I think.
- I've seen some complaints about the 1 point deduction for the illegal knee, but I thought it was the right call. It was an illegal blow and it's on fighters to show the needed control in order to follow the rules. That said, Faber didn't help Chiesa there, calling repeatedly for the knee, but then not clearly telling Chiesa when Larsen grounded himself. If you're going to be very vocal in calling for the knee (which, as a coach, is a good thing), you need to be equally vocal to tell your fighter NOT to throw it when that time comes.
Joe Proctor vs. Chris Tickle:
- This feels like a pretty big fight, as both Tickle and Proctor impressed in their opening fights. The clear downside is it means a very Tickle-heavy show next week. Luckily, there's good footage available from both men's pre-TUF careers, so check back later this week for an in-depth preview.