Following a two-and-a-half hour special debut episode, “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” returns to its familiar one-hour format this week. However, unlike past seasons, the episode starts with taped content created from the previous week’s events before airing a live elimination fight.
Episode No. 2 of “TUF: Live” starts with a live look into the locker rooms of the “TUF” gym, with one fighter warming up from each team. With the team selections yet to be revealed, the fighters’ identities remain a mystery. This past week’s elimination fights are recapped while a countdown clock to this episode’s live elimination flight is debuted.
As the taped portion of the episode starts, the 16 fighters are shown making their way into the “TUF” house. After scrambling to claim their beds, a few of the fighters elect to celebrate their wins with a few cocktails.
The next morning, it’s time for team selection. Urijah Faber wins the coin toss but elects to allow Dominick Cruz first draft pick in order to pick the season’s first round-of-16 fight.
The teams alternate picks, and the teams fill out as follows:
1. Justin Lawrence
2. Sam Sicilia
3. Myles Jury
4. Mike Rio
5. James Vick
6. Vinc Pichel
7. Chris Tickle
8. Jeremy Larsen
1. Al Iaquinta
2. Cristiano Marcello
3. Daron Cruickshank
4. Joe Proctor
5. Mike Chiesa
6. John Cofer
7. Andy Ogle
8. Chris Saunders
And with that, the teams are set.
Team Faber goes immediately into a training session. Chris Saunders, the final draft pick of the season, admits it’s a dream to work with Faber, and the rest of the team seems to be just as confident in their coach and appear to be developing an early chemistry.
Shortly afterward, it’s time for Team Cruz to hit the mats. Cruz allows his assistant coaches to take the reins of the practice while choosing to largely observe the activities. The lone difference is with Chris Tickle, who admitted he wanted to be on Faber’s team, and Cruz wants to know why. After a little special attention, Tickle says he’s just fine with the way things ended up. Ditto for the rest of the team, who say they’re comfortable working for the UFC bantamweight champ.
After a commercial break, it’s time for this week’s fight announcement. Beforehand, Faber confronts Cruz about a magazine article where the champ claims Faber’s parents helped him set up his gym. Faber makes it very clear it’s not cool to talk about family, but Cruz is quick to apologize to Faber’s parents â€“ though not to Faber himself.
Faber then takes to the mat to announce Team Faber’s Daron Cruickshank will face Team Cruz’s James Vick. Vick has a substantial height advantage, but Faber believes the stylistic matchup favors his fighter. Cruickshank concurs, stating that reach alone is not enough to win the fight.
We move to Sunday, where Mike Chiesa is pulled from a Team Faber practice, where he finds out his father has passed away after a long battle with a form of cancer. Chiesa is obviously devastated and apologizes to his mom for not being there. It turns out his father held on just long enough to see his son win his way into the house before passing away. Chiesa doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, but Faber says he hopes his fighter will stay in the competition.
Back at the house, Chiesa tells his real-life training partner Sam Sicilia what’s happened. On opposing teams in the house, the two embrace in an emotional moment. Sicilia tries to comfort Chiesa, reminding him that his father was able to see his son win on national TV. Chiesa takes solace in the fact that his father’s spirit will now be with him daily.
Chiesa is forced to make a difficult decision: stay and follow your dream or go home and be with family.
After a brief commercial break, we’re less than 20 minutes to the live fight, and Vick and Cruickshank are warming up in the locker room. But for now, it’s back to taped action.
UFC president Dana White meets with Chiesa and tells him he’s OK to fly home and attend his father’s services without giving up his spot on the show. Chiesa confides in White that his father knew the risk of his son leaving but wanted nothing more than for him to follow his dreams.
Sicilia says he’s proud of his friend, and Chiesa departs the house to go home and, in his words, “bleed it out.” It’s tough sailing for Chiesa, but the rest of the house carries on, and we meet Vick and Cruickshank up close.
Cruz admits Vick is likely the underdog in the first fight, but he does see a path to victory. Both Cruz and Vick admit the fighter must stay busy and stay active on the feet in order to succeed. Still, Vick also works closely with Lloyd Irvin on a plan should the fight hit the floor.
After another commercial, it’s less than 10 minutes to fight time. It’s time for an in-depth look at Cruickshank, who says he came from a martial-arts background, as his mom was a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do.
Cruickshank works extensively on the ground, preparing for a potential barrage of submissions with his lengthy limbs. Still, Cruickshank thinks Vick is a one-dimensional boxer ripe for a beating.
Back at the house, it’s later in the week, and Chiesa has returned to the house. Chiesa is motivated by his father’s struggle to stay alive for his elimination fight, and after saying goodbye, the lightweight is ready to shine in the tournament.
It’s weigh-in time, and Vick comes in at 154 pounds to Cruickshank’s 155.5. The fight is official, which brings us up to date on the week’s activities, and we’re treated to a live glimpse into the locker rooms for some last-minute advice from both coaches. One final commercial break, and it will be time to fight.
TEAM FABER’S DARON CRUICKSHANK (10-2) TEAM CRUZ’S JAMES VICK (4-0)
Unlike the debut episode’s one-round fights, tonight’s fight is a two-round affair, with one sudden-victory frame available in case of a draw. Another new feature is debuted, as “Keys to Victory” are revealed for both fighters before they square off. Vick enjoys a six-and-a-half reach advantage according to the tale of the tape.
Round 1 – Referee Herb Dean starts the action. Cruickshank does a good job of moving in and out in the early going while Vick looks to work from the center of the cage. Vick looks a little tentative, but Cruickshank isn’t exactly cashing in during the early going. The pace picks up as the round wears on, and a confident Cruickshank looks to shoot in. Unfortunately, he walks right into a huge right knee, and he’s out cold. Incredible finish, and the gym goes crazy.
James Vick def. Daron Cruickshank via knockout (knee) – Round 1, 2:16.
Jon Anik interviews both fighters, and Cruickshank admits he doesn’t really remember how the finishing sequence played out. In one impressive moment, Team Cruz has eliminated Team Faber’s No. 3 pick, as well as seizing control of the fight selection.
With control of the board, Cruz takes top pick Justin Lawrence from his squad. In a bizarre twist, he allows Faber the option to choose who he wants to represent his team. When Faber and his fighters balk, control returns to Cruz, who selects veteran and Team Faber No. 2 pick Cristiano Marcello, and that’s your lightweight matchup for week three.
Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” every Friday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on FX. MMAjunkie.com recaps each episode of the reality series, and full series coverage can be found on “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” page.