This week’s installment of “The Ultimate Fighter” 15 begins with a replay of Andy Ogle’s triumph over Mike Rio, making the final score of the preliminary round 5-3 in favor of coach Urijah Faber. Tonight, there will be two live fights, as Team Faber’s Joe Proctor and Mike Chiesa square off with James Vick and Justin Lawrence of Dominick Cruz’s red team.
We duck in on Vick’s fight preparation first. The lanky lightweight plans on using his boxing and while stuffing Proctor’s takedowns. “Vick doesn’t know how tough he is and how good he is for how green he is,” explains Cruz, who then tells his coaching staff that thinks Vick has a serious shot to make the finals.
Later on, UFC President Dana White makes a surprise visit to the gym, and both teams are assembled. White informs us that Cruz will be unable to defend his bantamweight title against Faber at UFC 148 due to a blown ACL. He will, however, remain coach of the boys in red for the remainder of the season.
It is now Proctor’s turn in the gym, and he’s drilling his boxing by working the pads. Faber tells us that his fighter’s goal is to close the distance, drag his larger foe to the mat and submit him.
Both fighters are now in the cage. Vick uses his range early and stalks Faber’s fighter around the cage before digging into his ribs with a left hook. Proctor counters with a pair of leg kicks, but Vick continues to move forward and cracks him with an uppercut before stuffing a takedown. Proctor then connects with an overhand right, but Vick clinches and rifles off a nice knee. Both men throw heavy leather, but neither can catch his man until Vick lands several long straights. A counter-right from Proctor serves as the last meaningful strike of the round, and the bloody combatants return to their corners.
Proctor comes out more aggressively in the second stanza, again threatening with his overhand right. Vick retaliates by landing a pair of nice kicks before Proctor briefly secures a takedown. Vick stands almost instantly, but Proctor has him caught in a half-cinched rear-naked choke. Vick’s face turns red, but he escapes the position by scoring a takedown. He allows Proctor to stand quickly, however, and guides a pair of beautiful knees into Proctor’s ribs. Faber’s fighter competes gamely for the remainder of the frame, but he is continually caught at the end of Vick’s range. Proctor does his best to steal the round, however, cracking his lanky opponent with a couple of hooks before time expires.
White informs us that Vick has won the bout by unanimous decision. Faber offers his congratulations as host Jon Anik interviews the victor, who thanks his team and wishes his mom a happy Mother’s Day.
On to fight two, folks. Chiesa reminds us of the adversity he has faced this season and begins putting in work to face Lawrence. Faber says he believes his fighter can finish the overall No. 1 pick, and Chiesa agrees. Meanwhile, Lawrence is running sprints with the rest of Team Cruz prior to jumping in the gym with his head coach, who tells Lawrence to take out Chiesa’s front leg to slow down his takedown attempts. The two work on Lawrence’s movement and counter punching, and suddenly it is once again time to scrap.
Chiesa closes the distance quickly and is desperately trying for an outside trip. Faber’s fighter nearly takes Lawrence’s back, but Lawrence reverses the position and lands in guard. Chiesa threatens with an armbar and then a triangle, but Lawrence escapes both submission attempts.
Chiesa is fishing for a kimura and trying to set up a hip sweep, but Lawrence defends, landing shots intermittently while eating elbows off the bottom. Lawrence is riding tight in guard, but suddenly Chiesa secures a legit triangle and lands a flurry of elbows. Nevertheless, he can’t find the squeeze to end the bout.
Lawrence lands a hard left hook to start round two, but Chiesa goes nowhere. Both men land a number of decent shots before Lawrence stuffs another takedown attempt and rifles off a combination. Lawrence drops his bearded opponent with a pair of snappy left hooks to the liver, but as he pounces to finish, he finds himself caught briefly in a kimura. After a mild scare, Lawrence escapes the hold and ends round two on top.
White tells us that the bout has been scored a draw. Round three begins, and Chiesa tries to jump for a triangle choke. Lawrence escapes easily, but Faber’s representative finally finds the leverage to execute the hip sweep he was seeking in round one. Chiesa starts to pound away from mount, and referee Josh Rosenthal stops the bout at 1:02. Chiesa leaps over the cage wall and jumps in a mosh pit with Team Blue.
“Everybody had Justin ranked No. 1, so it was a blessing to get in the cage [with him],” Chiesa tells Anik after the emotional win. “I’m here to fight the best. He hurt me really bad in the second, and I had to dig down deep to pick myself back up and fight that third round. That was the toughest fight I’ve ever had in my life.”
After the celebration ends, White gives us next week’s quarterfinal matchups: Chris Saunders will face Vinc Pichel, while Al Iaquinta meets teammate Andy Ogle.