By Elias Cepeda
This week’s matchup between Joe Proctor and Chris Tickle seems to be a study in contrast. Proctor has been quiet thus far, with his nose to the grindstone in training. Tickle has been loud, full of bravado, while annoying his coaches by finding ways not to train during practices.
Similarly, both sides seem to agree that Proctor is the more technical fighter, with the ability to finish on the ground while Tickle is a powerful brawler that needs to avoid the ground. But before we can get to that fight, Tickle showed up drunk to last week’s.
After his teammate loses and he is selected to fight Proctor, we see Tickle giggling, talking smack and pushing his coach Dominick Cruz over the edge. We are told, and its not hard to believe, that Tickle got crunk prior to the bout.
Coach Cruz is in no mood for jokes after losing his second straight in the locker room and tells Tickle to “shut up. Shut up.” “What are you doing?” Cruz asks Tickle.
“Nothing,” Tickle replies. “I’m being me.”
Coach Cruz, and perhaps the viewing nation, simply replies, “why?”
Last week’s episode ended with Tickle getting in Urijah Faber and Proctor’s face when the match up was announced. Proctor teammate Al Iaqunita, fresh off his own win, believes that Tickle’s courage is liquid-based.
“Tickle was hammered at the fight tonight. When he wakes up and finds out he has to fight Proctor, he’s going to shit himself,” Iaquinta laughs.
Cruz continues his dressing down of Tickle. “Do me a favor and just try to keep your mouth shut for this next week,” he says. “And no more drinking.”
Cruz explains during an interview later that he actually loves Tickle and his personality. “He cracks me up…he has a good heart.”
Tickle, perhaps still drunk, takes Cruz aside in the training center and makes a request. He tells Cruz to fuck all that technique shit, he needs to be “pushed,” in terms of conditioning. Well, no one’s conditioning is likely to improve in the week of their fight, and Cruz has been trying to push Tickle for a month now, with much push back from Chris.
Cruz is flabbergasted at Tickle’s lack of self-awareness.
“’I don’t want to tell you how to coach me, but push me.’ Alright Tickle. Good advice!” Cruz
Back in the house, Tickle weighs himself on the scale – he’s 168.5 pounds. The lightweights will need to weigh in at a maximum of 156 the day before their fight. Proctor, who says he likes Tickle and that they talk every day, walks in to the house after Tickle and is goaded into weighing in in front of his opponent.
He does, and he’s over 175. Still, there’s no chance that the Joe-Lauzon protégé will miss weight after his coach has mercilessly teased fellow TUF 5 cast mate Gabe Ruediger, will he?
Cut to Tickle eating three corn dogs in his bed. Well, he seems to have the weight thing under control.
Tickle’s Team Cruz team member Justin Lawrence expresses his disgust at Tickle’s attitude. “Every day you don’t get coached by a world champion like Dom. You’ve got to be able to take this opportunity that he’s giving you, and just soak it up,” Lawrence preaches.
Lawrence turns his judging eye to injured teammate Mike Rio next. Rio, one of the oldest in the house, is talking about his injured knee to Lawrence. The 21 year-old dispassionately responds by saying MMA is a “young man’s game.”
Rio says he feels that he has ten more years in him if he can stay healthy. Lawrence says, “Really? See, I think at the age 30, you’re done.”
Rio is 30 years old. Dick move, Lawrence.
At the next day’s training, Cruz calls Tickle over, but not to yell at him. The coach wants to apologize to the fighter.
“I was very frustrated last night and I let it come out and I apologize for that,” Cruz tells Tickle.
Cruz says he’s making today’s practice a hard one. He wants his fighters to be put in “tough situations [that] challenge their brain and their heart.”
On that note, Rio and Lawrence are sparring and things are about to get intense. Cruz explains that he makes spinning kicks illegal in sparring for his guys because he’s seen nasty KO’s from them and wants to keep things safer in practice.
Lawrence still throws a spinning heel kick at Rio and the old man gets pissed. A shouting match ensues between the two but Cruz doesn’t seem to much mind. “They got angry at each other. Good. They are already fighting each other,” he says with a wide grin.
Rio says later during an interview that he was pissed so decided to give a little extra mustard on the ground to Lawrence and “pop” his arm in an arm bar. Cruz makes Lawrence and Rio continue sparring one another and Rio appears to use his anger to school Lawrence on the ground.
Rio shoots in, takes Lawrence down, arm bars him, and their round ends with Lawrence downed once again, his back taken by Rio. Lawrence storms off, presumably in search of the supposed benefits of his youth.
“Rio stepped up,” Cruz says. “And Justin, when he doesn’t kick your ass, he starts getting frustrated with himself.”
Cruz talks with Lawrence after practice, calming him down and explaining to him that he needs to start relying on his mind as much as he does on his physical gifts. “You’ve got to find different ways to win other than [with] power, athleticism and speed…now you’ve got to think each round,” Cruz explains calmly.
Now’s the time we learn a little bit more about Proctor and Tickle’s lives outside of the Octagon. Both men say they’ve used MMA training to lift themselves out rough situations during their youths.
Proctor was raised by his grandparents, his father in jail during his youth and his mom out of the picture. He goes on to say proudly that these days he and his dad are close, and that his dad has been clean of drugs for four years.
Proctor’s coach Faber says of the quiet Massachusetts kid, “always beware of the dog with no bark.”
Faber is confident that Proctor’s technical style will be able to overcome Tickle’s powerful brawling. The segment ends with the voice of Faber and perhaps an assistant coach doing the Faber thing to do – coining nicknames.
“Proc-daddy,” Faber says. “Proctologist,” another voice says. “The Proctornator,” Faber submits. It’s like improvised jazz, really it is.
“Velociproctor,” the other voice offers. To which Faber, simply says, in a mellow voice, “I know.”
We’ve got the first real house prank of the season, ladies and gents!
Guess who does it? That’s right, Tickle me Chris. Tickle takes a plastic water jug, cuts it in half, fills with water and rigs it on the house front door so that when Team Faber walks in, it will fall on one of them.
Joe Proctor walks in and gets soaked. With water from his own water bottle!
Proctor laughs it off. Tickle brags about Proctor getting “smoked.” What is and isn’t entertaining must vary wildly depending on one’s ability to communicate with the outside world, read, listen to music or watch television.
Live cut- in! Vitor Belfort is in the UFC Training Center waiting to watch the fight.
We’re back in the house on Easter Sunday and the guys all seem to wish they were back home with family for the holiday. Lawrence, underscoring how young he really is, actually says that he misses being at home with his parents for Easter, because his mom and dad get him an Easter basket each year.
Tickle is being all nice and cooking a turkey and ham for the guys. Two other guys are off in the distance in the yard playing bean bag in their underwear. Why not, I guess?
Mike Cheisa is waxing poetic on what it will be like getting back home and being with a girl again after three months with dudes. “Look, this is going to be the worst performance of my life,” he imagines telling the lucky lady to be. “You’re going to get naked. I’m going to put my hands on you and then I’m going to jizz all over you.”
Who hasn’t been there?
Tickle talks a bit about growing up in the not-Chicago portion of Illinois and dealing with racism. He says he was in and out of jail through his youth but that training himself in MMA lifted him out of many bad habits.
Ironically, he may be the real mature guy in the house because of the real-world responsibilities he has. “Most of these guys live on their own or with their parents,” Tickle says. He, on the other hand, has a fiancé and two kids.
“I fight for my family,” he says.
At the weigh-in, Cruz looks at Faber in his Urijah Faber dress-code mandated flip flos and calls his toes “sweaty.” Faber brushes off Cruz by saying he is “very intimidating with zero finishes.”
Tickle weighs in at 153 while eating pizza on the scale and then breaks up the seriousness of his stare down with Proctor by asking Joe if he can “smell my pizza?”
Proctor comes out staring hard at Tickle.
Proctor lands a jab, Tickle misses with a head kick. Lots of feinting from both men. Tickle with a rear roundhouse leg kick.
Proctor with an inside leg kick. Tickle marches towards Joe with a left-right, left-right combo followed by an attempted high kick that is blocked.
Proctor lands a right hand and clinches with Tickle. Tickle reverses and presses Proctor against the cage. Tickle lands an overhand right on separation and then throws a hard punch combo at Proctor, mixing the body and the head.
They free up and hit the center of the cage. A lot of measuring each other up and Tickle coming in with bursts of strikes. Two head kicks that miss from Tickle but a left hook that lands.
Proctor throws a two-punch combo and clinches up with Tickle. Proctor has his own back to the cage but is controlling Tickle’s head in a Thai plum grip. Tickle defends against knees to the head and they separate with Tickle whiffing on a big overhand elbow strike to the head.
Proctor jabs and then shoots and gets a double leg takedown. Tickle scrambles up to his feet but gives up his back in the process.
Proctor gets behind Tickle and gets his arm under his chin, dragging Tickle backwards onto the mat. Tickle fights hard to remove Proctor’s connecting hand from the back of his own head, but Proctor maintains the other arm’s position under Tickle’s throat and eventually secures the tap out.
Three in a row for Team Faber. They now lead 3-2
Faber chooses his own John Cofer to face Vinc Pichel. Faber also takes the time to give Vinc a new nickname. Vinc “From the depths of hell” Pichel. The man is a champion and a poet.