Last week, the UFC premiered the new format for its flagship show The Ultimate Fighter. The first episode featured all of the fights to get into the TUF house shown live. This week's episode is what we'll be more likely to see this season.
It starts with a recap of all of the events of the week, with a live fight taking place at the end of the episode.
I have to say that so far, I'm fan of the new format.
The UFC's slogan is "As Real As it Gets," and this format brings the show ever closer to achieving that notion. I got the sense in past seasons that sometimes events weren't exactly as they appeared (events not occurring exactly the week they were shown, etc.). Editing can change a lot. This isn't to say that there isn't a lot of editing still going on; I mean you're still essentially condensing a week's worth of events into about 30 minutes.
What's satisfying about the new format is that you feel as if you're watching things exactly as they happen. It feeds that voyeuristic nature of reality television. I like how they sometimes put the day and time in the corner of a scene, so you know exactly when it occurred. There's a certain immediacy to the format, as there's also a countdown to the live fight.
Now, onto the actual episode:
With the 16 fighters moved into the house, the coaches get to choose their fighters.
Team Faber won the coin toss, so they had a choice between picking the first fighter or the first matchup. They chose the matchup, therefore Team Cruz picked the first fighter.
Cruz took Justin Lawrence, who probably was the most intriguing fighter from last week's episode. He really does seem like a star in the making, although it's still way too early to tell.
Faber took Al Iaquinta with his first pick, and here are the rest of the fighters, in the order they were picked:
Sam Sicilia (Cruz), Cristiano Marcello (Faber), Myles Jury (Cruz), Daron Cruickshank (Faber), Mike Rio (Cruz), Joe Proctor (Faber), James Vick (Cruz), Michael Chiesa (Faber), Vinc Pichel (Cruz), John Cofer (Faber), Chris Tickle (Cruz), Andy Ogle (Faber), Jeremy Larsen (Cruz) and finally, Chris Saunders (Faber).
Apparently, Chris Tickle wanted to be on Faber's team, so Cruz used a little psychology and picked him up instead.
This eventually proves to be a non-issue, as Tickle eventually states that he loves being on Cruz's team.
Faber picks the matchup and decides to pit his third pick Daron Cruickshank against the lanky boxer James Vick. I thought Cruickshank was the second-most impressive fighter of last week. Faber thinks this will be a guaranteed win.
Michael Chiesa learns that his father passed away. He's allowed to return home and later returns to the show.
We're then shown Vick and Cruckshank's training sessions:
Vick works on using his length to his advantage and works on his submission game. Team Faber suspects that Team Cruz will try to emphasize Vick's lankiness, so they work on Cruickshank's submission defense. This should be a shoo-in.
The fight starts, and all goes as expected. The fighters don't engage too much, and it's mostly a stand-up affair. Vick seems hesitant, but stays at range, trying to utilize his reach. Cruickshank throws many flashy kicks, but doesn't land anything too big. Cruickshank ducks down for a takedown, and Vick nails him with a knee.
Cruickshank is out cold.
Team Cruz goes nuts, and you can tell that Vick is elated. We head to the post-fight interviews, and Jon Anik does his best impression of Joe Rogan. The best part is when Anik interviews Cruickshank. He asks him to describe the challenge in staying focused in the house if he potentially gets a chance to return to the competition due to another fighter's injury. Then, his parting words are "congratulations." Got to love live TV.
Anik interviews Dana White, and White says that Faber may have underestimated Vick, seeing as how Vick beat Dakota Cochrane last week. Cochrane has a win over former WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner.
To be fair, I thought Vick was a big underdog. Cruickshank looked well-rounded in his preliminary fight, while Vick wasn't very impressive. What Vick does having going for him, besides his boxing, is his size. There's literally no substitute for his size at his weight class. He used it to his advantage and nailed Cruickshank with a knee he never saw coming.
It's time for next week's fight announcement, and Cruz picks his No.1 guy, Justin Lawrence. To everyone's surprise, Cruz decides to let Faber pick a fighter to go against him. Faber is taken aback and hesitates while he makes a decision. Faber asks, "Who's ready to scrap now, guys?" And no one responds.
Faber gives control back to Cruz, and he chooses Faber's No. 2 pick, Cristiano Marcello. Cruz obviously seems very confident in Lawrence, and this should be an interesting matchup. Lawrence primarily displayed striking skills in his preliminary fight, while Marcello was the former BJJ coach for the Chute Box gym in Brazil.