With the sixteen men set to compete for the Ultimate Fighter 15 crown in place thanks to an action-packed opening round featuring all of the qualifying fights, the popular reality show returned to a more-familiar format on Friday night with a single match-up coming after an episodeâ€™s worth of highlights from the house/gym.
The episode definitely didnâ€™t disappoint, delivering drama both in the ring and out of it. When the smoke cleared Team Cruz was left with a 1-0 lead in the head-to-head battle between squads as well as a mental victory of sports after leaving Urijah Faberâ€™s team reeling when it came to making next weekâ€™s bout.
Things started off inconspicuously enough with Faber and Dominick Cruz picking their squads. After winning the coin-flip â€œThe California Kidâ€ decided to choose the first fight rather than the first fighter with Cruz taking advantage of the honor, selecting impressive Team Blackhouse striker Justin Lawrence #1.
As far as the episodeâ€™s battle, Faber went with Daron Cruickshank from his team and James Vick from Cruzâ€™s. Entering the bout many felt Cruickshank had the advantage based on the belief he had more skills to work with in comparison to Vickâ€™s boxing, though in the end it was Vick who had his hand raised after knocking Cruickshank out cold with a knee.
After the action Cruz was given the opportunity to make next weekâ€™s fight where he wasted little time going with Lawrence to see his prize pupil shine. However, rather than select someone from Faberâ€™s team he instead gave his rival the option. The unexpected move left Faber and his team stunned with the entire group grasping for an answer that never came. As such, Cruz went with Cristiano Marcello from Team Faber, closing out the episode with a win for his team and over Faber on the personal front.
Non-fight moments worth mentioning involved an exchange where Faber blasted Cruz for bringing his family into an interview, as well as contestant Michael Chiesa learning his ill father had passed away in the days since heâ€™d made it on the show. Chiesa was allowed to go home to be with his family and returned a day later meaning he will remain on the show, vowing to win it for his deceased dad.
Cruz’s Team: Justin Lawrence, Sam Sicilia, Myles Jury, Mike Rio, James Vick, Vinc Pichel, Chris Tickle, Jeremy Larsen
Faber’s Team: Al Iaquinta, Cristiano Marcello, Daron Cruickshank, Joe Proctor, Michael Chiesa, John Cofer, Andy Ogle, Chris Saunders
Advancing to Semifinal: James Vick
Eliminated: Daron Cruickshank
Team Records: Cruz 1, Faber 0
Next Weekâ€™s Fight: Cristiano Marcello vs. Justin Lawrence