‘TUF 15’ Recap: Episode 3

By Mike Whitman Mar 23, 2012

Episode three opens with a bit of backstory, and series host Jon Anik reminds viewers that Justin Lawrence will square off with Cristiano Marcello in Friday’s live bout.

We are treated to a replay of James Vick’s devastating knockout of Daron Cruickshank and coach Dominick Cruz’s unexpected decision to let opposing coach Urijah Faber pick his “best guy” to take on Lawrence in the next round. When no one volunteers, Faber allows Cruz to choose, and Marcello is selected.

Following the fight announcement, Team Cruz is whooping it up in the locker room and celebrating Vick’s come-from-behind knockout.

“When [Faber] said, ‘Who here wants to scrap,’ not only did nobody raise their hand -- they all looked away,” hollers Team Cruz assistant coach Lloyd Irvin over the raucous laughter of the boys in red.

The mood is less jovial next door, as Team Faber attempts to find the silver lining.

“Dominick putting us on blast was actually a pretty smart move, but the guy just gets on my nerves,” says Faber. “I’m doing my best to be a professional, but you know I want to punch him right in his face.”

Back at the house, the fellows are still discussing the UFC bantamweight champion’s Cobra Kai maneuver, and Team Cruz’s Chris Tickle is the first to press the issue. After prodding Faber’s squad, several members of the house explain that Tickle can be a bit demonstrative at times.

Suddenly, Tickle is wearing a gas mask and is now attempting to rip Faber’s parking marker from the asphalt. Instead, he accidentally snaps it in two and calls it a job well done. Cruz informs us that the “games” have begun.

Back in the world of things that matter, Lawrence is introducing himself on camera during a training session.

“I was very lucky. I was born and raised in a family gym,” he says. “I’ve been wrestling since third grade. I’ve been fighting since I was 6 [years old]. I have over 150 amateur fights. All I do is fight.”

As Lawrence works the pads like a mad man, Cruz explains the strategy behind choosing an opponent as tough as Marcello for his No. 1 pick’s quarterfinal matchup.

“I don’t want to say that the whole competition is at stake,” says Cruz,” but to take somebody like [Marcello] out of their squad is like taking one of their legs.”

On the other side, Marcello lists his credentials. A Royler Gracie black belt, Marcello is the former jiu-jitsu coach for the vaunted Chute Boxe Academy. While Team Cruz is hoping to make the fight a technical striking match, Marcello is instructed by assistant coach Justin Buchholz to go “mad dog” with his striking and turn it into a brawl.

Also significant, Team Faber is sticking some black duct tape to a giant portrait of Cruz, giving him a massive widow’s peak and a “unibrow.” That’s called “easing into the bad dog” apparently, but the team-on-team tension does not end there. John Cofer and others from Team Faber are now teasing Tickle for the way he walks, and Tickle gives them an earful for it.

“I got beat my whole life,” says Tickle. “Since I was 8 years old, I don’t put up with s--- from anybody. I’ll [expletive] you up. That’s why we’re here.”

Final preparations are now under way, as evidenced by Lawrence demolishing a grappling dummy. Cruz explains that he is hoping to challenge his fighter with the bout, enlisting the help of former EliteXC champion Wilson Reis to work on some jiu-jitsu subtleties with Lawrence.

Following Cruz’s training session, Marcello now has the floor. Faber and his fighter do some good work in the cage, as “The California Kid” instructs the Brazilian to keep his chin down and watch out for Lawrence’s left hook.

The night before the fight, Lawrence is pacing around the house and shadowboxing as he thinks about the impending confrontation. Meanwhile, Marcello says his love for his wife and two children will give him power in the fight. Both men make weight, and it is now officially time to get it on.

Referee Steve Mazzagatti starts the contest, and Lawrence whiffs on a pair of overhand rights as the men settle in and try to find their range. A game of cat and mouse ensues, with Lawrence trying to time his strikes as Marcello searches for an opportunity to rush his foe. Neither man is able to land a big shot, however, and round one expires.

Lawrence tags his man with a right hand early in the second round, and Marcello nearly grabs a body lock before Cruz’s pupil escapes. Lawrence times a Marcello right hand and dumps him, but nothing comes of it. Lawrence clips the Brazilian with a left hook that plants him on his posterior. Back on his feet, Marcello eats a series of solid shots that wobbles him. Suddenly, Lawrence launches a left hook that turns out Marcello’s lights at 3:16 of round two.

After a pair of post-fight interviews, Cruz selects next week’s matchup. Team Cruz’s Myles Jury will face Team Faber’s Al Iaquinta.


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