By Elias Cepeda
This season’s TUF features live fights each week but everything before that are taped highlights of how the fighters and their teams and coaches have spent the past week. By the looks of what we saw on episode 3, a good amount of what Team Cruz did before getting ready for the next bout was making fun of how Dominick Cruz mind fucked the whole of Team Faber last week.
Cruz coach Lloyd Irvin gleefully recounted how, after choosing overall number one pick Justin Lawrence to fight this week, Dominick Cruz told Faber that he could choose who, from his team wanted to fight. Faber was shocked by Cruz giving up matchmaking power that he had earned after James Vick KO’s Daron Cruickshank and asked his team who wanted to fight.
No one raised their hands. And, as Irvin pointed out, many of them were all but looking up at the sky, whistling. A flustered Faber gave the pick back to Cruz, who chose the most accomplished fighter in the house, Cristian Marcello.
Faber lets us know, during an interview, that he really is trying to contain his rage at Cruz. “I’m doing my best to hold it together,” he says. “But, you know, I want to punch the guy right in the face,” bro. Ok, I added the “bro,” in. But no matter what Faber is saying, his surferspeak always makes it sound like he’s inviting you to go catch a few waves or telling you about the killer party he’s throwing next weekend, and could you please pitch in for the keg.
From the little we’d seen thus from Lawrence, the fact that he trains at Blackhouse, and Marcello’s pedigree and experience, this seemed more like a TUF Final than a first round bout.
But before we get to the fight itself – Chris Tickle’s annoying ass, ladies and gentlemen. Episode 3 featured the Team Cruz fighter, being a smart ass in teasing Team Faber members, acting all sensitive when teased him, trying to spar with ear rings in, destroying parking lot signs, using perhaps the most quickly passing case of diarrhea to avoid training and (yes, really) wearing a fucking gas mask during an interview.
Back in the house, Tickle worked hard to tell Team Faber members how stupid they looked in not raising their hands when their coach asked them who they wanted to fight. But Justin Lawrence made it clear that it wasn’t just Team Faber guys who were annoyed by Tickle.
As reels ran showing Tickle’s hilarious, totally disruptive and incredibly creative “prank” of pulling out Urijah Faber’s parking space sign out of the ground, Lawrence delivered the play by play with about as much excitement as one could imagine him having to describe clipping his own toe nails. Lawrence says Tickle is “obnoxious.”
Fighters on past seasons of TUF were prohibited from bringing all sorts of personal effects with them, including cell phones, bring books, read newspapers, watch television or listen to the radio. Looks like they were unaware of the “gasmask” loophole. Tickle sits in the van with his team on the way to the training center looking like a dufus wearing a gas mask. “I brought this from home,” he explains. O RLY?
Inside the training center, Tickle has already lost the respect of his coaches, who are convinced that he will do anything to avoid training hard. First, he is late to getting in the ring because of how long he takes to tape his feet. Next, he forgets to take out his earrings, so he has to take his gear off to take them out.
After much prodding and a couple delays, Tickle is finally in the cage training when he informs Cruz that he “has diarrhea,” and has to stop training and leave the cage. Cruz is not pleased and he and his coaches discuss the problem that has already become Tickle. After training, Cruz takes aside Tickle and explains how important it is for him to train hard every day, all practice long, because he will likely soon be fighting himself, and because he has potential.
In an interview, Tickle explains how this made him very upset. “I’ve never had a coach in my career,” he says, perhaps explaining a whole lot. “I don’t care if you like me. I’m here to fight and win.” And make poopy.
As Team Faber comes into the gym, a couple of them, including John Cofer walk in funny and say that Tickle walks like that. Where Cruz’ coaching, advice and encouragement annoyed Tickle, this makes him fucking livid.
“I don’t walk like that, bro,” he tells Cofer. He then chases down Cofer in Team Faber’s locker room and repeatedly talks about how offended he is by Cofer being a “smart ass,” but does absolutely nothing about it. Cofer later tells his coach, “I know who I want to fight.”
In an interview, Tickle, still looking incensed says, “since I was 8 years old I don’t put up with anyone’s shit. And I never will.” Either he’s trolling or he just took it to a dark place, no joke. Something happened to him before he was 8 that he’s using to create hate for Cofer. Yikes.
Faber blames Cruz personally for Tickle taking his parking sign. So he defaces Cruz’ giant portrait to make him look like Count Dracula, or something, he says. Later on, Team Cruz one-up him by making a thong out of string to cover up what they call Faber’s “giant chin butt.” Funny, I’ve never noticed that before. I’m sure you hadn’t either.
Faber plays it cool when he sees that. “Cool, a Faberkini,” he says. Stay chill, Urijah. Stay chill.
Marcello prepares for Lawrence by trying to be unpredictable on the feet – faking shots and coming at him with strikes. He seems to want to knock out Lawrence, even though the kid looks to be a far better striker. Seem like a crazy idea?
Well, as Faber coach Justin Buchholz says, “Don’t discount crazy.”
Meanwhile, Cruz is training Lawrence to get ready to make Marcello pay for shooting in and to be prepared for unorthodox BJJ takedowns. Assistant coach Wilson Reis is there to show Lawrence what Cruz is talking about.
Back at the TUF house, Marcello says, “I have something he don’t have,” pointing to photos of his children and wife. “They give me strength, they give me power.”
Weigh in time!
Both Lawrence and Marcello make weight and have what is edited to be one of the longest staredowns ever. Marcello gets in Lawrence’s face Chute Box style and even tries the “made you flinch,” move. Lawrence does not flinch. They both smile.
We’re live now and the coaches are giving their fighters their pre-fight advice. “We need to kill, Cruz tells Lawrence.
Round 1 – Damn, is that Rachelle Leah reprising her role as a ring card girl? Only in the world of being-a-cute-girl-to-walk-around-and-have-people-look-at-you could a 27 year old model be described as an “old school,” ring girl. But kinda feels that way, if its Leah.
Lawrence circles, keeping his distance. Lawrence feints constantly and Marcello stalks from a safe distance. Lawrence lands an inside leg kick and overhand right. Lawrence perhaps gets a bit too close and Marcello chases him down with wild strike attempts. Lawrence turns and runs to get out of harm’s way. More feinting from Lawrence before he lands a push kick that drops Marcello.
Marcello gets back to his feet and Lawrence barely misses with a couple overhand rights. Marcello shoots in, gets stuffed.
More circling from Lawrence. Push kick from Marcello. In the last fifteen seconds, Lawrence throws a side kick that doesn’t connect but backs Marcello up. Marcello returns fire with a cross-left hook combo that doesn’t connect but also backs up Lawrence. The round with the two fighters each throwing kicks simultaneously.
Round 2 – Lawrence stays a little more in range at the start and is a little more active with kicks and punches. Thirty seconds in Marcello uses that shorter range to go for a high shot and work double underhooks.
He drives Lawrence back into the cage but lets go to swing a wild right hand that misses. Lawrence lands a punch to Marcello’s head. Marcello throws two head kicks that are blocked by Lawrence. Cruz tells Lawrence to begin countering off of those.
A spinning back kick from Lawrence whiffs. Marcello lands a left hook and then a right cross. Faber yells for him to keep his chin down. Marcello throws a kick, Lawrence changes levels and dumps Marcello but does not follow him to the ground.
Marcello stands up. Lawrence lands a jab then a rear push kick to the body. A jab from Lawrence. Marcello seems to feels a sense of urgency with three minutes left in the fight starts and begins stalking Lawrence more aggressively. He walks into a jab that drops him.
Marcello stands up and is immediately hit with another jab. Lawrence with a right hand. Lawrence lands a left hook. Lawrence hits a jab to the face of Marcello, and then a push kick to the body. These shots seem to be taking their toll on the wind of Marcello.
After a couple minutes of his corner yelling for him to feint the right hand cross and then throw his power hook, Lawrence finally does just that, as Faber had feared he would in training, and knocks Marcello out.
TUF host Jon Anik asks Lawrence how he’s reacting to being the number one pick overall in the post fight interview. “There is added pressure from being number one…but that’s something I’ve got to get used to,” Lawrence says.
Marcello uses his post-fight interview to pitch himself to Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta for this summer’s big Rio card. “Give me the opportunity to fight in Brazil,” he asks. The oldest fighter in the house calls Lawrence a “great kid.”
Team Cruz goes to 2-0.
They go RIGHT TO picking the next match up. A camera man falls down from the excitement and fast pace.
No shenanigans from Cruz this time around as he picks Myles Jury and Al Iaqunita from Team Faber to go at it next week.