Tonight, we get an exciting change in the UFC Ultimate Fighter Live format. Because for the first time, we are entering the quarter-final round, and that means two fights a week from here on out. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as the potential for 6 rounds of action means they'll need to set aside a lot of time for the fights, but if the first fight ends in seconds, they'll need to fill that time. Which likely means less time for wacky shenanigans. Tough challenge for the editing team this week, and I look forward to seeing how they handle it.
Our two quarter-finals this week both pit Team Faber vs. Team Cruz, and both have an easy favorite. Dominick Cruz #1 pick Justin Lawrence will face Urijah Faber #5 Michael Chiesa, while Cruz #5 James Vick fights Faber #4 Joe Proctor.
As always, the Ultimate Fighter airs live on FX Friday night at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.
For this week's preview, we'll take a look at how each man did in his last TUF fight and how they stack up in these match-ups. For footage from previous fights, plus even more analysis, check out the previews from last round.
Breakdowns of both quarter-final match-ups plus my predictions in the full entry.
Joe Proctor is the Joe Lauzon trainee who has quietly stepped up as a real candidate to win it all. Like Lauzon, he's a submission pro who likes to use his striking to create an opening, then slaps on a submission for the win. And that's exactly what he did against Chris Tickle.
In that fight, Proctor allowed Tickle to dictate the pace of the stand-up in the opening minutes. Tickle was the aggressor, pushing the action, while Proctor mainly countered and retreated. Overall, he did a decent job avoiding the strikes, though did get tagged a few too many times for my liking. Once Tickle faded a bit, Proctor was able to move in, take him down, and immediately move to the back where he secured the rear naked choke for the win. It was a patient performance where he waited for the right moment, then struck. My question - how will he respond if when he strikes he does not get the win? What's the next step in his gameplan?
Against Vick, he'll look for the submission, though he may need to push the pace of the stand-up somewhat.
Because he fought on the first episode, Vick is the one quarter-finalist I did not do a preview for. He's undefeated, but has only been a pro since June 2011. He comes out of the Texas area, and claims to be a boxer, though seems better with his grappling game. He's a young, inexperienced fighter, and it shows. He's very tentative and hesitant to throw. What he does have going for him is his lanky frame. He has long legs and arms and uses them well, both with his kicks, and in his grappling game via submission attempts and sprawls.
Against Cruickshank, he scored what very well may win the KO of the season bonus, but he did so, by his own admission, as essentially a fluke, going for a kick when Cruickshank shot in for a takedown, and catching him with a knee. I hate calling any strike a lucky shot, but that's about as close as you can get. In that fight, that hesitancy to throw was on full display - Vick threw only 6 strikes in the 2+ minute duration of the fight. Against Cochrane, he had a similarly meager offensive output. That, plus the way he strikes, shows me that he is not very confident just yet, though I'll be interested to see if this show has improved that confidence.
Against Proctor, his tentative style may prove to be an asset, as he will force Proctor to bring the fight to him. He also has decent takedown and submission defense, though I don't think it's enough to stop Proctor.
Prediction: Joe Proctor, Submission, round 1
This might be a slow start, but Proctor should heat up and be able to create that opening he needs, then lock on the sub. Vick's size might give him some troubles, but I suspect he will find a way through.
Justin Lawrence is the #1 overall pick for the season, and for a good reason. He's a superb striker with excellent aggression and finishing power. Against Marcello, he also showed that he can be patient. For that fight, Lawrence took his time, setting Marcello up with nice feints and movement before finally catching him for the KO. Rewtaching the fight, I realized that I greatly underestimated that KO. Lawrence catches Marcello with what looks like a lead left hook, but is more of a Tae Kwon Do ridge hand. For that technique, Lawrence hit Marcello with the side of his hand near the base of the thumb. By combining that with the motion of a lead hook, he maximizes the distance of the punch. It was really well done and a fantastic technique that he set up throughout the fight. I am interested to see if he uses it again here.
From training footage, Lawrence's weakness may be wrestling, as Mike Rio was able to control him on the mat and get him frustrated. Which is an ominous sign considering his opponent this week. To take out Chiesa, he'll need to do exactly what he did against Marcello - use motion to stay away and win the striking battle.
Michael Chiesa is a clear-cut specialist. He's a wrestler who uses takedowns and ground control to gain an advantageous position, then lock on the submission. But against Larsen, he had some troubles. Larsen was tough and managed to escape both the takedown and the submission. Chiesa stayed on him and earned the decision though, showing good perseverance.
In that Larsen fight, we also saw more of Chiesa's stand-up, which is very weak. A southpaw striker, Chiesa has serious fundamental flaws in his striking game. In particular, he leaves huge defensive holes in his hand positioning. He also drops his head too soon when going for a takedown. The purpose of his striking is solely to get inside and get the takedown, but for him to advance his career, he needs to improve in this area, as it's a real detriment for him.
Prediction: Justin Lawrence, KO, round 2
I'm going with Lawrence, but this is primed for an upset. If Chiesa gets Lawrence down and keeps him down, he could frustrate the striker and pick up a decision win. But those stand-up holes are huge, and Lawrence looked quite good against Marcello. I'm nervous about this pick, but I'm sticking with it.
Again, check out the earlier previews for more, but here's footage from Vick:
James Vick vs. Jimmy Taylor
July 23, 2011
A decent submission win from Vick, but Taylor all but gives the sub away - twice.