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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
-The show opens with two fighters warming up backstage and a voiceover intro from Jon Anik. I like how they brought a little ambiguity into it with both fighters in hoods with their faces covered.
-Next is highlights from last week's elimination round, along with an explanation for the season with the fights themselves being live.
-Dana White - "This is the most grueling, intense, physically and emotionally draining competition on TV.
-We go to last week as the fighters enter the house. A bunch run to the bedrooms, Myles Jury talks about being back after tearing his ACL in season 13, and then the fighters get to the liquor cabinet.
-Faber gets the option of first fight or first pick, and he takes first fight. Dominick Cruz picks the first fighter, and it's Justin Lawrence.
CRUZ: Justin Lawrence, Sam Sicilia, Myles Jury, Mike Rio, James Vick, Vinc Pichel, Chris Tickle, Jeremy Larsen
FABER: Al Iaquinta, Cristiano Marcello, Daron Cruickshank, Proctor, Michael Chiesa, John Cofer, Andy Ogle, Chris Saunders
-Cruz threw a wrench in Faber's plan by taking Chris Tickle. First training session is with Faber's team. Lots of positivity early on from the Faber side. Andy Ogle praises him as the man leading them into war. Faber said he was going to put together a guaranteed win for their first fight.
-Cruz's training session begins with a bit of a skills assessment, as he wanted to see what his guys had overall after a bunch of quick finishes last week. Cruz messed with Tickle coming from affiliation with Faber, but Tickle took it in well. Cruz's guys came around to him as well, and from both Cruz and Faber we're seeing some guys who know what they're talking about and are ready to relay that to these fighters.
-Good opening to the show, very typical feel for an episode of TUF, but both Cruz and Faber should be good coaches this season. So far nothing groundbreaking or anything, but that's what the live fight's for later in the broadcast.
-Faber and Cruz get into it before the fight announcement with Faber reacting to something he read that Cruz said. Faber said not to bring families involved into it, and Cruz tried to back off it, then in another interview said its about the fighters and not them right now.
-Kind of a weak start to any trash talking here, but it's clear neither of them like each
-Faber's first fight pick is James Vick from Team Cruz and Daron Cruickshank from Team Faber. Faber said he thought Vick lost his fight to get into the house, and thinks it's a guaranteed win for Cruickshank here.
-Michael Chiesa was pulled to the locker room from a training session and had to call home. His father passed away over the weekend. He said his dad made him promise he wouldn't leave. He apologized to his mom for not being there. That's such an awful thing to have to deal with while trying to take part in a competition and further his career, and you can't help but feel thoroughly bad for him. Chiesa has a teammate from outside the competition here with him in Sam Sicilia, and at the least he had someone there to help him talk things out in the house. This is heart-wrenching stuff, legitimately heart-wrenching stuff. Chiesa reasonably questioned whether he should stay or whether he would leave the competition, and they left it unanswered before the break. He wouldn't be wrong to stay or go here. That was just terribly sad, and I can't imagine the position Chiesa found himself in this week.
-Back live with Jon Anik, showing Vick and Cruickshank warming up backstage, and we get a "Countdown to Live Fight". The winning coach's fight pick will come live tonight as well.
-Back to reality, Michael Chiesa spoke with Dana White backstage. They allowed him to fly home, see his family, and come back. That's an excellent, excellent move by White and the UFC, and absolutely the right thing to do.
-We get a bit of background on James Vick, who said he grew up poor, and has used that to take everything seriously in life, especially this competition. This intro is interspersed with some training. Cruz knows his guy is an underdog, and he's going to try to get him to keep the fight standing this week. He feels Vick can do great if he can do that. Cruz has Lloyd Irvin as an assistant coach (Irvin is one of his main coaches in his training), and they showed him working with Vick.
-This format allows for more in-depth pieces from training, because they're taking footage only from the last week, so there's not six week's worth of material to mine from. Lots more training, much less in-house shenanigans, and that's a good thing.
-Cruickshank's work with Faber's team is then shown. They're concerned with working on submission defense for what they think Vick's going to do in this first fight. Cruickshank says Vick is one-dimensional, but he's a mixed martial artist. He doesn't believe Vick's skills are up to his.
-Chiesa came back. His dad was sick prior to him coming to the house, and he held on until Chiesa was able to fight last Friday night. His father wanted him to be here in this competition, and he said he's going to use his father's faith in him as motivation during this season. He's definitely going to be an emotional favorite with this situation.
-At the weigh-ins, Vick came in at 154 lbs., Cruickshank at 155.5 lbs.
-They go to a final pre-fight prep talk from both Cruz and Faber to Vick and Cruickshank, respectively. Now this part seemed unnecessarily staged, especially from Cruz, simply to get it into the show.
-Jon Anik introduces the first tournament fight of the season. Two five-minute rounds for these bouts. Out first is Vick, followed by Cruickshank, with both teams cheering their teammates from the bleachers.
FIGHT: JAMES VICK VS. DARON CRUICKSHANK
RD 1: Cruickshank was the first to engage 30 seconds in with a side kick. He popped in with lunging uppercut as well in the first minute. We get a picture in picture with Cruz shouting out instructions to Vick, then Faber in the corner as well. Cruickshank landed a hard leg kick that drew a response from the bleachers. He got in a couple of really hard kicks to the body. He shot in for a takedown, but Vick connected with a knee with perfect timing and Cruickshank went out cold! WOW! We get audio of referee Herb Dean trying to slowly bring Cruickshank back to his senses as Vick celebrates in the cage.
WINNER: Vick via KO at 2:16 of the first round
-Jon Anik comes in the cage to get Vick's immediate post-right reaction. He said that was meant to be a kick, but he threw it low as Cruickshank shot in and the knee landed. Anik went across the cage for Cruickshank's reaction. He said he didn't remember much and would need to watch the tape.
-There wasn't much to the fight prior to the finish, but Cruickshank was looking comfortable and in control. That made the knockout all the more surprising and even shocking, as Vick wasn't doing anything until Cruickshank shot in. It was a perfectly thrown knee at just the right time as Cruickshank shot in, and a huge - and surprising - win for Vick and Team Cruz. That's a big upset right out of the gate.
After the final break, Team Cruz's first fight pick of the season.
-Anik and White are standing to the side of the cage to discuss the fight. White said Faber underestimated Vick and made a big mistake in picking him. White then walked over for the fight pick. Cruz took his first pick, Justin Lawrence, and let Faber pick the opponent. Haven't seen that before, and Faber wasn't prepared for that. He couldn't decide, and let Cruz make the pick.
It will be Justin Lawrence against Cristiano Marcello next week. That's a good fight.
-Thanks for joining us here this week, we'll be back with another live blog next week with a new episode of TUF: Live on FX.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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