The idiosyncrasies of the new TUF format are truly coming home to roost.
Basically, we’re not yet through the first full round of competition. And we’ve completely run out of time to show what’s happening in the house.
The last three weeks are packed. Two quarterfinals May 11. Two more May 18. Then the semifinals May 25. And because it’s live, we don’t know how long the fights will last. They have to allow 15-20 minutes per quarterfinal and devote the entire May 25 episode to the semis.
If we get another Koscheck-Leben blowup or a Junie Browning meltdown, they’ll have to rush right through it. At this point, there’s no point to keeping these guys in the house.
Even in this episode, we don’t see much of the fighters. We catch a glimpse of Michael Chiesa going into the opposing team’s locker room to console good friend Sam Sicilia after last week’s loss, but no one seems surprised or upset.
The rest of the pre-fight time goes to the coaches’ challenge / Marine Corps promotional tie-in. It’s an obstacle course mixed with shooting competitions, like biathlon or modern pentathlon.
Cruz proves to be better at climbing ropes. He’s also a pretty good shot. Future biathlete?
But then one target flusters Cruz, and Faber sails ahead. It comes to one final shot with … a grenade launcher? The Pentagon might want to take a look at this. Faber blows stuff up first and rubs it in Cruz’s face … after Cruz puts down his last weapon.
Then we get a brief look at each of tonight’s fighters in training, just long enough to remind us that Mike Rio was hurt earlier in the competition.
After that, we’re over to some early deliberations about the quarterfinals, two of which will be announced tonight. After the usual perfunctory Cruz-Faber sniping — Faber’s “Captain Obvious showed up today” is what passes for clever this season — they actually agree on most stuff.
Cruz says his top guys are Justin Lawrence and Vinc Pichel. Faber says his are Al Iaquinta and Joe Proctor. They seem interested in keeping their top guys apart in the quarterfinals.
Then we have a long staredown, and we’re off to the fight …
Ogle concedes the center a little too easily for coach Faber’s liking, but he does nearly everything else well. His movement keeps Rio off balance, and he often lands the second of two-punch combos. Rio gets a slam midway through the round, and Ogle wall-walks up. Rio gets another takedown in a transparent attempt to steal the round.
Somehow, Ogle got marked up near his eye in the first round, and Rio compounds that damage in the second, bloodying Ogle’s nose with a flurry of punches as he chases the British fighter across the cage. Then Rio gets a takedown, lands some furious punches to Ogle’s head and takes his back. But Ogle stays in the fight by reversing, landing a few punches of his own in the process. Rio nearly gets a guillotine but instead ends up giving up side control. Then his back. And Ogle nearly flattens him out. Sinks in the choke — tap! Faber wins five of the eight first-round fights.
Ogle’s overly excited after the tap. He races out of the cage to his teammates while Faber yells at him to get back in. He then runs over to coach fellow Englishman Ross Pearson, one of Faber’s assistants (and a recent DUI arrestee).
No one expected that, to say the least. Odds on Rio ran from -485 to -605.
Quarterfinal matchups … Dana White checks in live from New Jersey to reveal:
James Vick (Cruz) vs. Joe Proctor (Faber)
Justin Lawrence (Cruz) vs. Michael Chiesa (Faber)
Those fights are set for next week. For the second set of quarterfinals, Vinc Pichel is the only Cruz fighter remaining. Faber will have top draft pick Al Iaquinta and his bottom two picks — Chris Saunders and Andy Ogle.
Assuming Pichel is matched up with either Saunders or Ogle, the obvious favorites are Pichel, Lawrence and Iaquinta. Not quite as sure about Proctor over Vick.