The episode begins at the UFC training facility, as Jon Anik reminds us that Team Cruz’s Jeremy Larsen will take on Team Faber’s Mike Chiesa at the end of the show.
Last week, Al Iaquinta gave Urijah Faber’s squad some much-needed momentum by beating Myles Jury in a hard-fought affair that needed a sudden death round to determine a winner.
“It feels awesome to win the first fight for Team Faber. To shove it in their face, it feels good,” Iaquinta explains in a jubilant locker room.
Now down just 2-1, Faber is feeling a little more confident regarding his team’s chances.
“I know how Dominick feels, and I hope he enjoys this time being a little bit miserable,” Faber says.
Meanwhile, the mood is somber in the Team Cruz locker room, but there isn’t much time to lament Jury’s loss. Spirits begin to lift as the focus shifts to Larsen’s pending showdown with Chiesa. Dominick Cruz realizes that his team has a built-in advantage with Sam Sicilia, who is a close friend and training partner of Chiesa’s at Sikjitsu in Spokane, Wash.
However, Sicilia isn’t so sure he wants to assist Larsen with a game plan by betraying his buddy. Cruz attempts to reason with Sicilia, asking Alliance MMA stablemate and UFC talent Mike Easton how he would handle it if he and Cruz were to fight.
“I’m gonna try to knock his head off,” Easton says. “I know he’s gonna try to knock my head off.”
Later, Sicilia and Chiesa convene inside the “TUF” house. In hushed tones, Sicilia lays it all out, telling Chiesa that he doesn’t plan to compromise the integrity of their friendship by being a “dirtbag.”
That doesn’t faze Cruz, who pressures Sicilia to reveal Chiesa’s go-to submissions.
“It’s not my job to keep people friends. It’s my job to make sure you guys are prepared for every situation possible,” Cruz explains. Sicilia finally seems to make peace with the reality of the situation.
As Team Cruz begins to drill Larsen on takedown defense and fighting with his back against the fence, Chris Tickle reveals that he has a toe injury in his joint, which he suspects might be gout.
“Damn, this sucks,” Tickle complains.
Cruz meets with the doctor, who informs the coach of Tickle’s frequent hospital visits. Cruz seems skeptical of the ailment, and asks to see Tickle’s foot. Tickle is briefly upset by Cruz’s disbelief, but they eventually agree that Tickle will push through the pain, and he tells Cruz he can fight next week if necessary.
Meanwhile, Chiesa explains to the cameras how he got hooked on MMA.
“I found wrestling when I was 11 years old. About two years later, I convinced my mom to let me rent my first UFC tape. I was fascinated by the sport,” he says.
During a training session, Faber outlines Chiesa’s keys to victory: He wants him to control the cage, get the fight to the mat and finish it either by submission or ground-and-pound. Chiesa has been training with a heavy heart ever since his father passed away during the second week of the reality show.
“I’m past the point of mourning, I’m just celebrating my dad’s life at this point. ...This is where my dad would want me to be, just wearing the Chiesa name as proud as I can,” Chiesa says.
Meanwhile, Cruz continues to have issues with Tickle, as the fighter complains about stomach pain during a training session. The bantamweight champion tells his charge to put his headgear on and suck it up. Tickle complies, and Larsen pounds away on him with body punches as practice winds down, temporarily appeasing Cruz.
“At least he sucked it up one more round. Somewhat,” Cruz says.
Next, it’s Larsen’s turn to take center stage.
“If I didn’t find MMA, I would probably be in jail or dead right now, because I was not going down the right path. I love who I am today and I love what I do. I’m just thankful to be here,” Larsen says.
Tickle returns to the hospital and finds out that doesn’t have gout. He credits a steady diet of anti-inflammatories for healing his ailing toe.
At weigh-ins, Faber ribs Cruz about his new shoes. For documentation purposes, “The California Kid” snaps a picture of the kicks as the once and future combatants laugh awkwardly.
Both fighters are on weight, and it’s time for the action to begin. Chiesa shoots for a takedown almost immediately and slams Larsen to the mat. He spends the first part of the opening round in top position and punishes his opponent with elbows. Larsen eventually gets up, but is slammed to the ground again. As Larsen attempts to get to his feet, Chiesa lands an illegal knee. Referee Steve Mazagatti intervenes, but no point is deducted and the round expires.
Larsen does a better job of defending takedowns in the second frame and is able to score some points of his own in exchanges. Chiesa’s pressure is relentless, however, and the grinding pace of the fight keeps Larsen’s offense to a minimum. At the bout’s conclusion, UFC president Dana White announces that Chiesa is the winner by unanimous decision.
Larsen doesn’t understand how he lost the fight. “I don’t know, man,” he tells Anik. “I thought they took a point in the first round. I don’t know how I lost that round.”
With Chiesa moving on, Faber announces that Joe Proctor will take on Chris Tickle in next week’s match-up.