By Elias Cepeda
After the normal celebrating and gloating from last week’s winning Faber team, attention is turned to this week’s matchup of Team Cruz’ Jeremy Larsen and Team Faber’s Mike Chiesa. Remember when a few weeks back Mike’s father died just after seeing him fight and win on national television, and we learned that Mike and Sam Sicilia are best friends and training partners back home.
Well, on this year’s TUF, the two lightweights have found themselves on opposing teams, but are trying to find a balance between not betraying their team and not betraying one another. They call themselves “Team purple,” as in a combination of Faber’s blue team and Cruz’ red team. That’s adorable. Really.
Because of their close friendship, Mike seemed to lean heavily on Sam when his father died. Having a true friend there to support him made a huge positive difference for Mike. Well, now that Mike is up and fighting Team Cruz’ Jeremy, Coach Dominick wastes no time trying to get Sam to trash all that trust and goodwill between he and Mike.
Cruz makes it immediately known to Jeremy, Sam and his whole team in the locker room that he expects Sam to tell him and Jeremy everything he knows about his friend Mike’s strengths, weaknesses, style and preferences. Sam isn’t having it.
“It’s still important to me to be a good man, above all,” he says during an interview. “And giving away game plans and being that sneak, isn’t what I’m here for at all.”
Cruz basically makes an argument that since Sam might have to fight Mike at some point anyway, like, why not go ahead and help some stranger beat him up first? Or something convoluted like that.
“If you want that belt you should be willing to give up anything for it,” Cruz says, even though its not Sam that is fighting, and there is no belt on the line.
Back in the house Sam tells Mike what Cruz tried to get him to do. Mike is not pleased.
“It makes me want to cut my leg off, go down to 135 pounds and throw [Cruz] a fucking beating,” he says.
Looks like Faber was wrong in his nickname of Chiesa. “Long hair” does, in fact, care.
Coach Cruz does not give up and in the training center approaches Sam. “Hey Sam, how often do you train with Chiesa?” he asks. “Everyday,” Sam responds. “What are his submissions?” Cruz continues.
Cruz digs deeper, asking Sam to divulge more and more about Mike’s go-to moves. When Sam demures, Cruz pays lip service to this being a tough situation for Sam…and then he proceeds to shit all over that understanding notion.
“What I’m trying to do here is help you guys win. It’s not my job to keep people friends, make people friends,” Cruz tells Sam.
Cruz must have some crazy Eddie Munster vampire mind control powers because by the end, Sam seems to have, in part, come around. “He’s just helping me out,” he says.
Cut to Jeremy and he says that Mike is one-dimensional, then proceeds to list two dimensions of his game – wrestling and submissions. Who’s counting anyway?
So Chris Tickle might have gout, you guys. Or something. Either way, his toe really hurts and his coach Cruz can’t be bothered. “Nobody really cares if you’re hurt. All they want to know is are you going to fight or aren’t you going to fight?” Cruz says.
So how’s this for awkward – Mike and Jeremy share a room together. When the topic is brought up in the house, neither one wants to be the guy who says they’d rather no longer share a room. With that new knowledge, the TUF producers could have just stuck eight cameras in that room all week long and captured what very well could have been really uncomfortable moments for both fighters.
Faber is high on his guy, saying that “Mike has some of the best MMA style takedowns.”
Back in the Team Cruz training room, Chris Tickle, who went to a specialist to get his foot tested for gout, is having stomach problems. It’s not the first time. He got out of sparring during a past week by telling his coach that he was about to poop himself.
After some sharp and intense looking sparring exchanges, Tickle says, “my stomach.” Cruz isn’t annoyed yet, saying, “you got hit with a good body shot.”
Tickle specifies, “no, it hurt before I started training.” To which, his coach replies, “Who cares?” Yeah, Cruz is annoyed now, once more. Not that he doesn’t have high hopes for Chris.
“Tickle, he does not like getting punched. He does not like pushing through the pain of getting tired…Tickle can win this whole show. That’s what’s frustrating about this,” he says.
Back to his fighter at hand, Cruz tells us that he and Jeremy used to actually play together when they were little kids because their moms were friends. “You cannot break this guy,” Cruz says admiringly of Larsen. Those must have been some intense play dates.
Earlier, Cruz confronts Tickle in front of the doctor and asks if he wants to continue in the competition or go home. Tickle is offended that anyone could interpret his being late to practice and stopping early as anything but an insatiable appetite to improve and compete. He says that unless someone has gout, they can’t understand the pain he’s in.
Yeah, so turns out Tickle doesn’t have gout. He did get some anti-inflammatory shots and says his toe feels good. Never had gout before, but joint damage there does hurt like a bitch. Glad I didn’t have Cruz around me at the time calling us one at the time.
Weigh in time!
Jeremy is in at 154 and Mike at 155. Staredown, no incident. Time to get it on.
Feints from both, with pawing jabs from Mike. Chiesa lands a leg kick and then goes in for the takedown. He presses Jeremy against the cage and works for the takedown relentlessly. Forty five seconds in, he gets it
Larsen with a half guard, Mike postures up and throws elbows, landing a bunch. Jeremy works his way to the cage to try and walk his way up the way Coach Faber taught him to in practice. They are away from the fence now, but Jeremy recomposes an open guard. Mike stands up and throws punches downward.
Jeremy stands up, gets an underhook of his own and presses Mike against the cage, where they stay for some time. Mike lands a knee to the head, using his longer limbs well.
They separate and Mike throws a head kick that misses then shoots in. Like the last time, Larsen does a game job of defending, even as he’s backed against the cage. But Mike keeps working and eventually scoops him up for a big double leg slam at just inside two minutes left.
Jeremy prevents Mike’s initial attempts to pass his guard and gets full guard. Mike stands to pass but Jeremy makes his way back to his feet. Mike gets a front headlock/guillotine grip, presses Jeff back to the cage, where Jeremy kneels to prevent Mike from kneeing him legally.
That does not stop Mike, who knees Jeremy right to the head while he’s on one knee and one arm. Referee Steve Mazzagatti steps in and breaks up the action.
At the restart, Mike comes in with a flurry of punches that miss. Larsen works into a clinch and tries to take Mike down against the fence. Round ends with him trying.
Mike throws a head kick that misses to open the round. He then follows with a takedown attempt that takes Jeremy back into the fence. Larsen defends and then reverses positions with his own underhook, pressing Mike against the fence. Mike turns him around once more and presses against the cage, landing a knee to the head and then to the body before they separate.
They stay on the outside where the shorter Jeremy lands two jabs and a cross. Mike shoots in for the takedown. Once more, Mike doesn’t get it initially but keeps pressing against the cage and ultimately puts Larsen on his butt.
Jeremy fights hard to prevent the pass, then gets up to his feet but is promptly dumped once more. Mike tries to take Jeremy’s back but the cage stops him.
Back to their feet, Jeremy lands a left hook and right cross, Mike shoots, gets stuffed.
Mike seems to be getting tired but keeps shooting as Jeremy keeps swinging. Mike momentarily gets the takedown but Jeremy stands back up. Mike shoots again and works while Larsen defends. With thirty seconds left, Mike take Jeremy’s back and they are on the ground. Mike works for the rear naked choke, Jeremy defends as time runs out.
Ain’t gonna be a third round tonight, folks. Mike gets the unanimous decision win. Team Faber evens the score to 2-2.
“It’s been a tough year. I love you mom,” he tells the camera while inside the ring.
Host Jon Anik interviews Mike and asks how he was able to stay in the house after his dad died and stay focused on winning. “I knew its what my dad wanted…It was tough for me but it was an easy decision to make,” he says.
Anik interviews Larsen and he’s none to happy. “I don’t know, man. I thought they took a point in the first round. I took a knee right to the head…we should be in the third right now,” the disappointed Jeremy says.
*Turns out, though it was unclear during the live telecast, referee Steve Mazzagatti did indeed take a point away from Chiesa for his illegal knee to the head of Larsen while he was down in the first round. Since Mike otherwise looked to be winning that round, it seems likely that the subtracted point made that round 9-9, with the second round going to Chiesa 10-9 and giving him the win.
Fight Pick time
Faber gets to make the matchup with his team’s win and chooses Tickle to take on Joe Proctor. Surprise, surprise, Tickle seems offended that Faber chose him to fight one of his guys, and puts his arms out wide in the universally “get at me,” pose. Faber doesn’t even look in Tickle’s direction and acknowledge him. Really, why would he?
*We were initially as confused as Jeremy Larsen and erroneously wrote that referee Stave Mazzagatti had not taken a point away. But last night we contacted over the phone Mazzagatti and he confirmed that he took a point away from Mike in the first round. We apologize for the error.