TUF 15: Number one pick Justin Lawrence looks to back up the hype against Cristiano Marcello

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hit reality television series, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), has wasted no time in kicking off its 15th season with a bang. The show has been re-invented, in some ways, as it is now seen in a semi-live format and is on the FX network, as opposed to its former home on Spike TV.

The lightweights are the stars this go-round, and the show has been blessed with one of the most talented crops of competitors that mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have ever witnessed on TUF.

Last week, coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber got the ball rolling by choosing their team members, starting to train and also started to form their identity as a team.

The number one overall pick ended up going to "Team Cruz," and was used to select Justin Lawrence, a 21-year old fighter who wowed everyone with an impressive knockout victory over James Krause in the series premiere. This Friday night (March 23, 2012), Lawrence will be matched up against the very tough Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) practitioner Marcello Cristiano.

If it's up to Lawrence, it will end up being a stand-up war:

"I'm definitely training hard for my upcoming fight again Marcello. It's exciting, nerve-racking. He's a very good grappler so I really want to try and stay on my feet and make him feel uncomfortable as much as possible. I don't want this to turn this into a Jiu Jitsu match cause I know that's his strength. Dom's crew (Team Cruz) has been doing a phenomenal job in training and preparing me and I'm pumped. I just have to fight my fight."

Lawrence knows that much is expected of him as the number one overall pick. He's okay with that and looks forward to proving that there's a reason he was chosen before any other fighter on the show:

"Being chosen first, in a way, kind of made me feel confident but then again, I kind of felt a target being placed on my back. It's definitely more pressure. A lot of people expect a lot more from me now. All I can do is go in there and fight. I've been fighting since I was six-years-old."

"The American Kid" went on to talk about how the experience has been, regarding sharing a house with 31 guys who'd like to take his head off for a chance to win a UFC contract:

"Life hasn't been too bad (chuckle). I miss the girls and I miss the radio! Other than that it hasn't been that bad, better than I expected. I'm sure this week may get a little rough towards the end of the week, when I'm trying to sleep and the rest of the guys are staying up late and hanging out. We'll see how it goes. It's all part of it."

Lawrence is a St. Louis native who misses his home and his family. It's been a transition for him, but he'll be looking to make all his loved ones close with a win over a very game opponent on Friday night:

"I'm definitely missing my mom, my dad, my sister and my brother, and all my family and friends back home. I didn't really realize how much my support team meant to me until they weren't here. I know they're supporting me and cheering me on but it's weird not having them here. My dad is the only guy that has ever wrapped my hands and been in my corner, so it's definitely weird having someone else do it. I know this is the best for my career and I know he thinks so too, so that helps. I know they're (his family) going to be watching on TV and I wish I could get on the phone and ask him (dad) what he thinks cause I'm sure he's thrilled and I know my mom's a really proud mom. I miss them a lot."

Make sure to have your TV's locked to FX on Friday night at 10 p.m. ET. You're not gonna want to miss this explosive match up between Justin Lawrence and Marcello Cristiano.

Also, be sure to join us at MMAmania.com, as our own Geno Mrosko brings you LIVE coverage of the episode, and the rest of the Maniacs bring their top notch banter in the comments section.

Got a prediction for this fight? Let us know who you think will win in the comment section below!

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