And now the good stuff begins. Week 9 of UFC The Ultimate Fighter Live brought us to the end of the opening round, and with three weeks to go before the finale, we're ready to go with our quarter-finals.
We'll talk more about those in a minute, but first - the coaches' challenge. Which was, in all honesty, not bad at all. The super slo-mo walk through at the beginning was a bit much, but I liked that this was actually a tough physical challenge as opposed to the air hockey and ping pong of seasons past. Introducing that physical aspect was also very telling when Dominick Cruz absolutely smoked Urijah Faber on the pure physical sections, only to be undone by poor marksmanship. Interesting and dramatic, and surprisingly enjoyable.
With that challenge taking up a lot of time, we didn't get to see much of the quarter-final deliberation, which is a shame, as I like that vibe between Cruz and Faber. Still, some good bits in there, such as Cruz pickling Lawrence and Pichel as his top two (agreed) and Faber picking Iaquinta and Proctor as his (agreed again). When Dana announced the first two quarter-finals - James Vick vs. Joe Proctor and Justin Lawrence vs. Michael Chiesa - the strategy became clear. These quarter-finals will pair one of the top dogs up with one of the lower level fighters. Meaning we'll either get a stacked semi-final or we'll see a big upset or two in the next two weeks, because on paper, none of these quarter-finals seem like they'll be too tough to pick.
Speaking of picks, I got my first TUF pick wrong this week (plus some terrible Fox picks - was a bad week for my prognostication) as Andy Ogle surprised me by taking out Mike Rio. Big surprise there, but while I enjoy Ogle, I still am skeptical about his chances of making it farther in the competition.
- No Faber shoulder rub this week. Poor Ogle.
- Rio hopes to give fans the Fight of the Night. Since there's only 1 fight, I'd say that's a very achievable goal.
- I kind of loved Ogle running out of the cage and embracing Ross Pearson.
- Which Team Faber fighters will have to square off? I'm guessing Iaquinta and Ogle, while Saunders faces Pichel.
- I'm interested to see the structure of next week with two live fights scheduled. Should be a fun show.
Mike Rio vs. Andy Ogle:
- As I said above, I like Ogle, so am happy to see him win, and I thought he looked much better than expected. He was beating Rio on the feet, and managed to escape both a takedown and back control, both of which are key parts of Rio's game. Good showing, but enough to take out someone like Iaquinta? Not sure about that.
- As for Rio, I was surprised to see him finished off here. He was definitely losing the stand-up battle (and, while losing, seemed more focused on adjusting his hair, which was annoying), but I thought when it went to the mat he would take it. Didn't happen.
- For my money, I think Ogle broke Rio. After he escaped the takedown and the back mount, Rio seemed mentally defeated. He barely fought to escape Ogle's back mount or the choke and just seemed resigned to defeat.
- Because he was in week 1, James Vick is the one quarter-finalist I haven't really studied. I have a tough time seeing him defeating Proctor, though his reach will be a factor.
- Lawrence vs. Chiesa is meant as a gimme for Lawrence, but I keep replaying Rio controlling Lawrence on the mat and wondering if this is a bad match-up for Justin.
- More analysis on these two fights later this week.