By Elias Cepeda
Episode four opens with Team Cruz’ Myles Jury and Team Faber’s Al Iaqunita walking into the training center for their fight, set to take place in 42. Cruz chose this matchup, putting Jury, who he had trained with in San Diego, against Faber’s first pick, Al Iaqunita.
Cruz looks to be using a strategy of trying to take out some of Faber’s toughest guys early in the competition.
“There’s a strategy to everything that I’m doing,” he says. “I want to go straight for the jugular on these guys, take out every guy that could give them hope.”
That he says it in his typical little boy voice makes Cruz’ ruthlessness even more eerie.
Faber , for his part, seems to like the match up as well. “Thank you! Yes,” he says of Cruz’ matchup.
We’ve discussed this season’s new format of live fights and related changes, but the season’s new theme music might be the best change of all. Invoking a lil Stevie Wonder and Red Hot Chili Peppers with their rendition of “Higher Ground,” is a step up from typical MMA-related music and also hits the right thematic note for a bunch of fighters trying to reach the next level.
Last week’s winner, Team Cruz’ Justin Lawrence celebrates with his team in the next segment. The Blackhouse kid has high hopes for himself.
“I’m not satisfied with one win. I’m not even satisfied being the Ultimate Fighter winner. I’m not going to be happy until I have that belt around my waist,” he says.
Meanwhile, Cruz gloats. “It’s 2-0 now, and I’m up. Actually, it’s 3-0 if you count the last win I had against Faber,” he says smugly.
Faber isn’t letting the losses ruin his good California vibes, though. “I’m just an optimist,” he says.
Al Iaquinta may have a less impressive record in total numbers than the undefeated Myles but the Serra/Longo trained fighter believes he’s had the tougher road here. “Myles, I don’t think he’s ever been in a war,” he says.
Team Cruz practice time and the focus is how much of a hardass the champion is on his team. Cruz’ philosophy is clearly, sweat in practice so you don’t bleed in the fight.
“If you grind yourself to the bitter end in practice, it’s fun and easy,” he says.
Mike Rio says that “Cruz trains intense, and Cruz coaches intense. There’s no 50% with him.”
On cue, Cruz bends over to talk to one of his fighters who is working the ground heavy bag. “I know you’re tired today, I can see it. But pick it the fuck up.”
While sparring with Jury, Rio falls awkwardly after getting hit with a spinning backfist. It seems to be a tear in the meniscus from where he feels pain and how he fell. Think Patrick Cote’s giving out on him during his fight with Anderson Silva.
Cruz doesn’t coddle Rio at all and makes him finish practice out on the heavy bag. That attitude is transferring to Rio himself. “I’m gonna push hard for three months, bum knee or not,” he says.
There’s no telling what type of tension will build over time with these guys in the TUF mansion, but for now, things seemed to be playing out (or simply being edited) differently than we’ve seen before. The types of stuff we see guys doing publically and admitting to on camera are less macho and more human – what we might imagine from a bunch of young men away from and not able to contact those they love back home.
There is Brit Andy Ogle writing and *oh my goodness!* actually sharing his poetry by reading it out loud to a circle of fighters. There’s the eliminated Daron Cruickshank eating constantly to stave off boredom, there’s Myles going off to a corner, unmolested because he says he needs to be a loner sometimes.
There is John Cofer doing imitations of everyone from Dominick Cruz to Jim Carrey for the guys. And there’s Chris Tickle, without his gas mask, talking about missing his fiancé and daughter and admitting to the other fighters that it’s “hard to sleep without my girl.”
Here’s the thing, none of the fighters are making fun of him for it, or Ogle for reading his poetry. Chances are that this is the way most moments are and have been for TUF’s history, it just hasn’t always been emphasized. I dig it. Though, we’ll see how much more of Ogle’s feelings his housemates will be able to tolerate
Ogle continues reading his poem. “…longing for your touch. Until then, I’ll see you in my dreams.” Another fighter responds, seemingly sincerely, “That’s cool, man.”
Team Faber practice time. Faber says that Al has the “strongest mentality,” and Iaquinta tells Faber that he wants to concentrate on being offensive during his fight.
Faber says that he is concerned that Jury will try to “Eek out a boring decision like his sensei Dominick Cruz, The ‘Decisionator,’” Faber says, giving Cruz’ “Dominator” moniker a mocking turn.
“If you’re not fully exhausted after 10 minutes you haven’t done your job,” he tells Iaquinta.
Live feed time – Jury and Iaquinta are in their locker rooms getting their hands taped.
The UFC Octagon shows the #Team Cruz and #Team Faber hashtags while host Jon Anik encourages viewers to go check them out on twitter. Well, if #TeamKony is already taken, I guess so.
Faber visits fighters from both teams in the house and brings in “life coach,” Jim Peterson.
Peterson tells the guys things like, “You are your only opponent.” Ogle eats it up, taking notes. Tickle decides to shadow box outside without his shirt on instead.
“Who needs a damn life coach?” he asks in disgust.
Back in the training room for Team Cruz. Cruz continues to push the injured Rio hard. Speaking of injuries…
Almost fight time. Cruz gathers his team together in a circle to pray in the locker room before the live fight to come in a couple days.
Back in the house, Team Faber’s Daron says that they should pick on Rio to fight next. Ogle says he’d take that fight. “He has tiny calves, is always beat up, and has saggy balls. We should make him fight,” Cruickshank says in an interesting mix of prescience and weird body observations.
Weigh in time – Jury in at 154 and Iaqunita at 155. These stare downs are long with no one between them.
Cruz is in the back warming up Jury. “You were born for this,” he says. “This is what you do. You don’t know nothing else. Your body is just going to react. ” Then he says something about Team Faber painting their faces *guilty!* and oiling each other’s backs. So far, no footage of that last one has been aired.
Faber tells his man that “the overhands are going to be there. Never get caught on the bottom. Basically all offense, with awareness. You don’t want to be tentative, you just want to be aware.”
Left body kick from Jury, an over hand from Iaqunita. Another right hand from Iaqunita. Jury lands another body kick from Jury. Al Iaquinta looks to be the physically stronger fighter with more power in his punches. Jury throws a cross, left high kick combo.
Jury follows up with a rear leg kick to Iaquinta’s lead leg. Another hard right from Al. Iaquinta is stalking, Jury stays light on his feet, moving laterally. Left jab and rear round house to the leg of Al from Jury followed by a blocked headkick from Jury. Iaquinta throws a left jab, rear round house leg kick of his own at Myles. Jury throws a flying right knee that misses.
Glancing left high kick from Jury and then he goes for the takedown. Al escapes. Blocked overhand from Iaquinta. Right high kick from Jury and another flying knee attempt from. Myles shoots for another takedown but Al lands on top with a Gary Goodridge type crucifix and they are all tangled up with Jury in a banana split position with 30 seconds left in the round. Jury gets Al’s back and suplexes him. Al gets back up. With 15 seconds left, Jury has one hook in from the back on the feet and the round ends that way.
Jab and left inside kick to the balls of Iaqunita from Jury to start things off. After the break Iaqunita blocks a lead high kick from Jury. Glancing right cross from Al and Jury answers with the cross, left high kick combo again. Al tries a straight right to counter that combo.
Al bobs under a kick form Jury, lands a big right hand. Al stalking Jury once more. Jury throws a leg kick that is caught by Iaquinta. Al throws a left and Jury throws a spinning back fist that buckles Al. He backtracks and Jury is in hot pursuit. Jury throws a flying knee but Al’s right hand lands first and buckles Jury. Jury fires back but only lands a glancing shot. The two clinch up briefly and its Al who connects first on separation. Al is stalking Jury once again.
Uppercut from Jury. Three minutes left.
Al with a left hand that lands on Jury. Inside leg kick and overhand right that mostly miss for Al. Iaquinta presses, Myles shoots, gets stuffed but hits a switch. He is standing with Al’s back again now, like he had at the end of round one. Al is working on Jury’s wrists to try and separate. Al turns and faces Jury, breaks free.
1:30 left. Al back to stalking Jury. Al lands a right hand. Left counter short hook from Al. Body kick lands for Iaquinta. Jury lands a big uppercut to the body of Al, then a knee to the body. Iaquinta lands an overhand right. Jury ducks under a right hand from Iaquinta with ten seconds and scores a double leg. Jury ends the round on top inside the full guard but is bleeding.
Someone shouts “get ready for another round.”
Official decision time!
“The judges have scored this fight a draw. We’re going to sudden victory,” Dana White announces.
“MFJ” (for Myles “Fury” Jury) chant is going. Jab from Al and a right hand lands. Another left then another right lands from Iaquinta. Al is going for the finish. Jury survives the early onslaught and circles left and right. Al lands a left hook. He tries to bait Jury to throwing a head kick by ducking low, to counter with the right hand. Rear round house kick to Jury’s leg from Al. Left hook from Al lands again. Jab lands for Al. Al fakes the shot, feints the left hook. Al lands a left straight Cruz tells Jury that he has to be first. Al walks Jury back with a jab. Jury lands a jab.
Iaqunita lands a lead leaping left hook. Jury lands a high kick. Flying knee form Jury that misses, superman punch from Al that misses. Al lands lead left hook again. He counters a superman punch attempt from Jury with a straight right. Minute left. Jury whiffs on a head kick, Al lands a leg kick. Jury lands a leg kick.
Jury shoots in gets rebuffed by Al. Al lands a jab. Jury swings for the fences in the last ten seconds but misses, horn sounds as the two are in the clinch.
Al fought with a purpose in the final round and worked towards using his power advantage.
Official Decision time (for realsies)!
It’s a split decision with one judge scoring the third round for Jury but two scoring it for Iaquinta.
Anik interviews Iaquinta who gives shout outs to family and his team back home, Team Faber and then does some weird tongue and cheek popping thing. Al promises to finish college if that fight wins fight of the year.
Jury says he believes in God and that he “embraces the war.”
Team Faber is on the scoreboard.
Fight pick time
Faber chooses Chiesa, or “Brown Beard ain’t scared,” vs. Larsen. Faber’s nicknames are always obvious, but I’ll be darned if they still don’t make me smile.
Chiesa and Larse get in each other’s faces. Until next week, nation.