Let's do it live!
Or so went the thought process of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White as he tried to figure out how to improve his mixed martial arts (MMA) reality television franchise, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
Now, after 13 weeks in the house, the fighters are ready to get their feet wet in the real Octagon as TUF 15: "Live" Finale comes to The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Friday night (June 1, 2012). Leading the way are finalists Al Iaquinta and Mike Chiesa, both from "Team Faber," while Martin Kampmann takes on Jake Ellenberger in a Welterweight slugfest with serious 170-pound number one contender implications on the line.
Before we get to the main card on FX, however, we've got three "Prelims" under card fights to whet our appetites that will air live via streaming video on the promotion's official Facebook page.
Check out part one of our TUF 15 Finale "Prelims" breakdown after the jump:
155 lbs.: Cristiano Marcello vs. Sam Sicilia
Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach for the legendary Chute Boxe squad, Cristiano Marcello (12-3) was probably best-known for his submission of Charles Bennett during a backstage scuffle in Pride FC, but proved he could handle himself in the cage by dominating Eddie Bravo black belt Jaren Carlsten. He was impressive enough for Urijah Faber to pick him second, but found his TUF odyssey cut short by the brutal power of Justin Lawrence.
The aging fourth-degree jiu-jitsu black belt may be on his career’s last legs, but a win over Sam Sicilia (10-1) could take him far.
Not one to waste any time in the cage, Sicilia hasn’t seen the judges since his MMA debut, entering the house on the strength of six consecutive first-round stoppages. In the elimination round, his eight-second pasting of Erin Beach was enough to make him Team Cruz’s second pick, but his journey was likewise stymied, in this case by Chris Saunders.
If his fists find Marcello’s jaw, though, his exciting style makes it a safe bet that he’ll be around for a good while.
I might be a bit biased here, I’ll admit: Sicilia strikes me as everything that’s wrong with a lot of power punchers these days. Once a guy finds out he’s got bricks in his hands, he throws out technique. With rare exceptions (George Foreman, for instance, who hit so ungodly hard that nobody was brave enough to even risk trying to counter), this leads to them getting picked apart by guys who can punch in a straight line. I find myself almost screaming at them to just swing for contact -- a double for most people is a home run for them, to use a completely unrelated sport metaphor.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Sicilia’s technique is awful. Marcello’s lack of wrestling is going to keep him from breaking into the elite of the Lightweight division, but with the way Sicilia throws, the latter’s eventually going to leave a hole wide enough for Marcello to tie him up, bring him down and put the squeeze on.
Prediction: Marcello via second-round submission
135 lbs.: John Albert vs. Erik Perez
After falling on TUF 14 to eventual winner John Dodson, John Albert (7-2) stormed into the UFC proper with a vengeance, crushing Dustin Pague in 69 (heehee) seconds and leaving division elite Ivan Menjivar on the brink of defeat. While Menjivar wound up turning the tide and submitting Albert, "Prince" demonstrated his potential in a big way, and could certainly make waves in the bantamweight division should he take out Erik Perez (10-4).
A Team Jackson fighter riding a five-fight streak, Perez is stepping in on short notice this Friday in place of the injured Byron Bloodworth. Most recently, "El Goyito" has been doing work in England’s top promotion, BAMMA, winning two straight there last year. With eight finishes among his 10 victories, and Albert’s clean streak of never seeing the judges, this one is sure to be a barnburner.
Yes, he wound up losing that fight, but Albert impressed the hell out of me against Ivan Menjivar. "The Pride of El Salvador" is about as durable as they come, and Albert had him on the ropes regardless. Perez isn’t a bad fighter by any stretch of the imagination, but the short notice nature of his debut combined with Albert’s ability and the fact that Perez is debuting to begin with strike me as boding ill for his chances.
Albert has had trouble with submission artists before, but I don’t anticipate Perez having much luck getting him to where he can exploit that. Albert by hurt.
Prediction: Albert via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Jeremy Larsen vs. Joe Proctor
Team Cruz’s final pick, Jeremy Larsen (8-2) had the misfortune of facing eventual finalist Mike Chiesa in his very first team-based bout, succumbing to the latter’s grappling attack and dropping a decision despite Chiesa losing a point for an illegal knee. Larsen was 5-1-1 in his previousu seven heading into the house, but is 0-2 against UFC veterans.
He’ll look to change that in the UFC proper.
After receiving the honor of shutting up Chris Tickle, Joe Proctor (7-1) had the unenviable task of facing the powerful James Vick and, unable to take the lanky striker down, was beaten by decision. Proctor had previously won three straight, including a five-round victory over Matt Bessette on the card that saw Gabriel Gonzaga’s MMA return.
He’ll look to repeat his teammate’s effort at Larsen’s expense.
As much of a Team Cruz fanboy as I am, this doesn’t strike me as a good match up for Larsen. While he does have the advantage of not having fought as recently as Proctor, he also seems to be at a style disadvantage. While Chiesa is undoubtedly a better fighter, I consider Proctor’s submission abilities sufficient to wrangle Larsen in relatively short order. Larsen found success stuffing Chiesa as the fight went along, but I get the feeling Proctor won’t give him the chance to get comfortable.
Prediction: Proctor via first-round submission
Come back tomorrow for previews of the remaining three "Prelims" fights that will air on FUEL TV.See you then!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of TUF 15 Finale, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 5:45 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming Friday night.