These are dire times for Team Cruz, and no one is more aware of this fact than Vinc Pichel, who states his intentions as he enters his locker room at the outset of Episode 7 of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15.
“Who’s ready to see someone get their ass kicked tonight?” Pichel asks his teammates.
Last week, Team Cruz’s Chris Tickle fell to Team Faber’s Joe Proctor via first-round submission, and things seem to be unraveling for the losing team in the aftermath. Believing that Tickle needs tough love more than anything else, Cruz takes the fighter to task for what he perceives as a lack of heart.
“You were winning that fight. You were schooling him. You didn’t listen,” Cruz tells Tickle.
The speech turns into an impromptu pep talk for the rest of the team, with Cruz informing everyone how much it burns him to lose to Faber at anything. As the two teams mingle in the hallway, Faber offers Tickle some words of encouragement and tells him to keep his head up.
Cruz does not appreciate the unsolicited advice, and the two rivals begin jawing back and forth. Faber feels Tickle did not deserve such harsh treatment; Cruz points out that they have their own differences to settle on July 7. Back in the locker room, Cruz apologizes to an emotional Tickle for telling him he had no heart.
Suddenly, we see Andy Ogle shadowboxing in the backyard and talking to himself. He reveals to his roommates that he had a nightmare in which his girlfriend was murdered. His teammates agree that the mind tends to roam freely in the “TUF” house, a place where diversions are few.
Meanwhile, Faber is eager to build on his team’s momentum. During training, “The California Kid” is impressed with Chris Saunders, who was the last pick on the show. He and Ogle will be the final two on his team to fight. Faber likes Ogle’s attitude, but he can see cracks in the facade.
“I think he gets down on himself a little bit,” Faber says.
After practice, Ogle vomits in the bathroom and slams the door on the cameras. He tells Faber that he is having trouble breathing. Faber does his best to calm down the Englishman and gives him the rest of the day off, but Ogle is not satisfied.
“Physically, I’m breaking down, so emotionally I’m breaking down. It’s a horrible place to be when the cameras are around,” Ogle says.
Pichel introduces himself and talks about how happy he is to have his mother’s support in his career, because, as he puts it, he comes from “a tough-love family.”
The focus of Pichel’s workout is takedown defense, as Cofer is known for his wrestling aptitude. “From Hell” wants to keep the fight standing but says he fully expects Cofer to take him down and “lay on him.” Cruz is confident his fighter will be able to stuff the takedowns and control positioning.
“He’s a beast; the guy’s an animal,” Cruz says.
Team Cruz is also focusing on Sam Sicilia, whose time to fight is looming. Sicilia struggles during the session, and Cruz learns that Sicilia is feeling the pressure of being the No. 2 overall pick. Cruz explains that things are not supposed to be easy -- this 13-week camp is designed to get everyone ready for the UFC.
As we shift to the Team Faber session, Cofer introduces himself and talks about the values he has learned from a lifetime of wrestling.
“One of the biggest things that wrestling helped teach me growing up is mental fortitude. That’s what I bring into fighting,” Cofer says.
Coach Faber is concerned with defending Pichel’s uppercuts, knees and kicks, and he knows that the Team Cruz fighter’s power can alter the course of a fight. He believes Cofer is well-rounded enough to handle anything Pichel can bring to the table, particularly when he focuses on getting his opponent to the mat.
Later, we see Ogle talking to Michael Chiesa, expressing his concerns about his relationship with Sicilia. Chiesa assures him that their friendship will not influence his loyalty to Team Faber. Ogle and Chiesa hug it out, and everything is peachy.
After weigh-ins, UFC President Dana White makes a cameo. Aware that this season’s cast is going to be filming longer than any previous group, White rallies the troops with an expletive-laden speech. The boss is showered with applause at its conclusion.
It is now officially fight time, and referee Josh Rosenthal presides over the action in the cage. For much of the opening round, Cofer follows Faber’s advice and makes good use of footwork to elude the strikes of Pichel. Although Cofer is not overwhelmed on the feet, he is unable to implement his vaunted takedown game.
Cofer comes out firing in the second frame, but Pichel counters and rocks his opponent. Pichel continues to find a home with a counter right, but the tide really turns when he slams Cofer to the canvas with two minutes remaining in the period. He maintains top position until the horn sounds.
White announces that a sudden victory round is needed, and Pichel keeps his momentum going. He fires a combination before taking down Cofer against the fence. He quickly moves to side control and forces Cofer to tap out to an arm triangle choke just 44 seconds into the round.
“Cofer is a tough-ass dude,” Pichel tells Jon Anik after the fight. “I honestly thought I was gonnna come out and pick him apart with shots. When your game plan fails, you go for broke.”
With Team Cruz in control once again, the bantamweight champion announces Sicilia will square off with Saunders next week.