We begin with the recap from the previous week’s episode, where James Vick took a unanimous decision from Joe Proctor and Mike Chiesa upset Justin Lawrence via third-round TKO in the first two quarterfinal matchups. In Episode 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter 15,” two more semifinal berths are at stake, as Vinc Pichel locks horns with Chris Saunders and Al Iaquinta battles Andy Ogle.
During the Team Faber training session, the former WEC titlist talks about how Saunders has evolved from his last pick to one of the squad’s standouts. Saunders explains how a difficult childhood led him to this point and of the need to be a role model for his younger brothers. Part of the key to Saunders’ success, he explains, is getting his mind right.
Meanwhile, Dominick Cruz wants Pichel to work a top heavy game against Saunders by imposing his will through physical ground-and-pound. Implementing that game plan includes pressuring Saunders, in order to limit his dangerous array of kicks.
With the scene set, Pichel and Saunders are ready to throw down. Pichel fires a low kick early, and the two men exchange near the cage. Pichel gets the best of it and lands a combination before shooting for a takedown. Saunders reverses the position and eventually moves into Pichel’s guard. “From Hell” remains active off his back, throwing elbows before he finally works his way back up. They break away and return to the center of the Octagon. Pichel continues to be aggressive, and he lands another combo and attempts a single-leg takedown. Saunders successfully defends; Pichel responds with knees against the cage. Pichel dumps Saunders to the canvas, but only momentarily. Pichel moves forward, forcing clinches and landing knees. The round concludes with both men engaged in a tie-up against the cage.
Saunders lands a low kick and a right hand to start round two before Pichel resumes his clinch attack. The Team Cruz competitor lands more short knees against the fence and then briefly wrestles his opponent down. Saunders is up quickly, however, and takes Pichel’s back as the two combatants stand. Pichel lands another combination. As they break away from the cage, Pichel tees off, landing a series of heavy knees and punches. With a little over 90 seconds to go, he gets Saunders down. As the two men battle for position, Saunders briefly takes Pichel’s back as “From Hell” stands. Pichel ends the frame punishing his foe with more punches and knees against the cage.
Dana White announces that Pichel has won a majority decision (20-18, 20-18, 19-19).
“You come in here thinking I’m gonna whip his ass, but everyone here is tough,” Pichel tells Jon Anik after the fight. “It’s definitely a battle. I just grinded it out and stuck with it.”
Meanwhile, Saunders expected a deciding third round. “I thought we were going to sudden victory for sure. I got the first round -- he got the second, clearly,” he said.
Next up are the two Team Faber stablemates, Iaquinta and Ogle. Faber decides that he will remain neutral and randomly assign coaches to each fighter on the day of the bout. Ogle describes his mentality, saying he expects the worst going into each of his fights. Ogle has impressed Coach Faber with how he has improved his mental approach since the season began.
Iaquinta believes he’s the hardest worker on Team Faber, and while he respects Ogle, he doesn’t think his opponent excels in any one area. Faber says Iaquinta has maintained a steady demeanor as the show has progressed, making him a difficult fighter to read.
Both Ogle and Iaquinta make their way to the cage, and it’s once again time to fight. Iaquinta moves forward, throwing powerful punches. Meanwhile, Ogle stays on the outside, throwing the occasional leg kick and combination. In the early going, neither fighter has a distinct advantage, but eventually Iaquinta settles into a groove. He lands a nice kick to the body followed by a right hand, establishing a pattern he will follow over the course of the round.
Ogle fires an overhand right, then moves forward with a quick combination. Iaquinta is blending his kicks and punches nicely, moving in and out of danger from most of Ogle’s attacks. Iaquinta continues to land with more power, all while mixing in leg kicks throughout the frame. With less than a minute remaining, Iaquinta stuns Ogle with a punch and moves in for the kill. A determined Ogle struggles to his feet, and Iaquinta floors him with a powerful right hand. This time, it’s academic: Iaquinta moves in and lands two more follow-up punches on the ground before Steve Mazagatti intervenes and stops the contest at 4:44 of round one.
“We’ve sparred the whole time here so we kind of knew each other. It was just weird,” Iaquinta said.
Ogle added, “Each dog has its day. It really hurts, but everybody loses. It’s what you do after the loss. You’ve got to come back and show everybody what [you’re] made of.”
With the quarterfinals concluded White reveals next week’s semifinal pairings: James Vick will square off with Mike Chiesa, while Vinc Pichel will lock horns with Al Iaquinta. The UFC president concluded the show by confirming that Faber will face Brazilian standout Renan “Barao” for the promotion’s interim bantamweight title at UFC 148.