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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER: LIVE
APRIL 27, 2012
LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
-Jon Anik opens the show as the fighters are shown entering the arena for tonight. Tonight's live fight sees Dominick Cruz's second pick in Sam Sicilia taking on the final pick of the season for Team Faber in Chris Saunders.
-In the open we get a little info on both Sicilia and Saunders, who have been performing in training unexpectedly compared to where they were picked.
-Next is a recap of last week's fight, where Team Cruz's Vinc Pichel scored a third round over Team Faber's Chris Cofer.
-After the opening credits, it's a flash to backstage after last week's live bout. Cruz was ecstatic with the win, while Cofer was crushed with the third round loss, saying the last minute cost him everything. He almost couldn't get through his post-fight comments to the TUF crew. He put forth a solid effort prior to that final round, though.
-Cruz brought in Ronda Rousey to work with his team. Rousey was thankful for the opportunity to be the first female guest coach on TUF, and then we got a montage of her beating the hell out of everyone with throws as she showed them technique. I'll never not enjoy watching Ronda Rousey work in this sport.
-As Cruz and Rousey were leaving the gym, Urijah Faber was getting to the training center. An attempt to have a quick comment with Rousey led to yet another back and forth exchange between he and Cruz. The dislike is strong in those two, and being around each other week in and week out on this show certainly isn't improving things between them.
-Ronda Rousey joins the guys in the TUF house for a UFC 145 viewing party. Things immediately got awkward. They played up the awkwardness of the whole segment until she ducked out. While that was slightly entertaining, would have liked to see some of the reaction to the event they were watching.
-Saunders goes by "The SoCal Kid" as he has idolized Faber, who happens to now be coaching him. He went into fanboy mode while sparring with Faber, but Faber doesn't think he's on a pedestal, and wants to see Saunders believe in himself. Faber's very complimentary of Saunders' skills, but said he needs more confidence.
-Into the house, the pranks are beginning to pick up, though they're rather tame so far.
-Saunders gives some background on himself, and he's had a rough time in life prior to this show.
-Sicilia said he turned pro a year ago after a sporadic schedule as an amateur. Cruz praised Sicilia's game overall before we got more training footage.
-Nine minutes to fight time, and it's time for Faber and his team to turn Cruz's locker room into an equipment room. They wore as little as possible to get as sweaty as possible inside of Cruz's locker room. Cruz called it a cry for attention. It was all pretty amusing, actually, as Cruz then feigned indignation and shook his head.
-Weigh-in time. Sicilia in at 155, Saunders at 155.
-Michael Chiesa, Sicilia's real-life teammate, talked about how hard it will be for him watching the bout as part of Team Faber.
-Backstage for the final word from the coaches. This is by far my least favorite part of this season; these segments come off completely staged and awkward, and it's not adding anything.
FIGHT: SAM SICILIA VS. CHRIS SAUNDERS (LIGHTWEIGHT)
ROUND ONE: Sicilia rushed in and backed Saunders up to the cage. He landed an early overhand right, a knee, and another strike before clinching up. Saunders landed a nice knee to the body, then turned Sicilia around. They jockeyed for position and Saunders landed another knee. Sicilia broke off and missed a punch. He landed hard right. He tripped up as Saunders as avoiding him, but Saunders couldn't capitalize as it got back to a clinch on the cage. Sicilia tripped him up but then he popped back to his feet. Saunders turned him around and landed a few knees to the body and legs. Saunders continued with the knees and Sicilia backed off. Saunders went for a superman punch. He then landed a nice leg kick. He knocked Sicilia down with a head kick! Sicilia face planted, but then recovered to his feet. Saunders got him backed up and started landing strikes. Sicilia got his wits back, though, and fought back at him. They got back to the clinch with a minute and a half left, with Sicilia looking to rest. Saunders continued landing knee strikes to the legs and body. Sicilia tried for a takedown, but Saunders kept up. He landed a nice elbow in the clinch. He went for the head kick again but missed. Sicilia caught a kick and tripped Saunders up. Saunders worked back to his feet, though. Sicilia walked him down. Saunders jumped in awkwardly and nearly got dropped at the end, but he took the punch as the horn sounded.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Saunders. Sicilia was having some success, but Saunders stayed quite active throughout and the knock down swung the round in his favor.
ROUND TWO: Sicilia tried to come out quick again, but Saunders landed the first punch. He got in a short combo, then landed a nice short uppercut. Sicilia pressed him back with a kick, but Saunders blocked well. Saunders landed a left, but got cracked by a counter punch. Sicilia connected on a few strikes before grabbing another clinch. Again, Saunders stayed active with knees to the body. He covered up well as Sicilia separated with a strike. Sicilia landed hard uppercut. They traded strikes. Sicilia was simply throwing wild haymakers. Saunders landed a knee in the clinch, then got Sicilia's back standing. He got a takedown, but then Sicilia reversed, and landed a series of knees as Saunders worked to his feet. Back in the clinch. Sicilia went for a single leg, but Saunders pulled off a switch and got on top. He took Sicilia's back as he turned, but then wound up in guard as Sicilia shook him off. He got to his feet and they separated again. Sicilia landed a left. Saunders landed a nice two-punch combo. Sicilia then dropped him with a big punch. He grabbed for a choke, but then Saunders wound up on top. Saunders moved to half guard. Sicilia again gave up his back, but Saunders again couldn't hold the position. They got back up into the clinch on their feet. After separating, Sicila continued throwing bombs. Saunders landed a few nice knees and ended the round with a two-punch combo.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Sicilia. That round really could go either way, and I wouldn't argue against either of them getting it. That was incredibly hard to score, with an immense amount of action between both fighters. Thus far easily the best fight of this season, and we might get a third round.
WINNER: Saunders via split decision
-Wouldn't have argued with a third round, but I can see Saunders getting that second frame as well. Really fun, albeit immensely sloppy, fight.
-Saunders said after the fight went as he expected it to go, and he gave Sicilia credit for a tough fight. Sicilia was clearly dejected. Saunders walked up and gave him a kiss on the head. Fight pick for next week after the break.
-Dana White said it was a great fight, but thought it should have gone to a third round. He scored it as I had it, with Saunders in the first and Sicilia in the second. Faber jokingly said he wanted to give Cruz the fight pick (as it's the last fight of this round). It'll be Andy Ogle (who came out in a singlet) against Mike Rio next week. Quarterfinals the week after. Thanks for joining us tonight, join us next week for another Ultimate Fighter blog!
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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