Lights, camera, violence.
As another season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) draws to a close, the first "live" season of its kind, the fighters prepare for the tournament finale, which takes place this Friday night (June 1, 2012) from The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the TUF 15 Finale main event, Martin Kampmann vs. Jake Ellenberger will collide in an incredibly enticing 170-pound battle. The main card, which will air live on FX on fight night, will also feature the conclusion of the 16-man Lightweight tournament between the final two contestants -- both of whom are from "Team Faber" -- Al Iaquinta vs. Mike Chiesa.
Yesterday, we took a look at the first handful of "Prelims" bouts planned for the event that will stream live on Facebook right here. Follow me after the jump for the rest of the under card "Prelims" that will be featured on FUEL TV.
155 lbs.: Justin Lawrence vs. John Cofer
Coming out of absolutely nowhere to become a favorite to win the show, Justin Lawrence (3-0) made one hell of a statement in the elimination rounds, completely annihilating World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran James Krause in less than two minutes and earning a spot atop Team Cruz. "The American Kid" quickly built up steam, knocking highly-touted Cristiano Marcello in two rounds to make it to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Mike Chiesa would not be denied, and after 2.5 exciting rounds, pounded Lawrence into oblivion from full mount.
The Black House representative’s hype train may have taken a knock, but expect it back in full force if he puts down John Cofer (7-1).
Known for his wrestling aptitude, Cofer was selected by coach Urijah Faber to take out Team Cruz’s premiere knockout artist, Vinc Pichel. Unfortunately for Team Faber’s fifth pick, the fight only wound up hitting the ground on Pichel’s insistence as he locked up an arm-triangle early in the bout’s third round.
Cofer was riding a four-fight win streak prior to entering the house and would undoubtedly bring a smile to Mr. Faber’s face if he made it five this Friday.
Lawrence isn’t just impressive for his age, he’s DAMN impressive for his age. Despite the massive experience gap, he pretty much won every second of his fights with Krause and Marcello, displaying an impressive grappling game to complement his striking arsenal. He’s still got some growing to do, of course, but I’m pretty sure it’s in a good chunk of the division’s best interest to stay the hell out of his way while he’s doing so.
There’s always the worry when a young fighter takes on someone with a good takedown game that he’s going to get unceremoniously smothered, but from what I’ve seen of Lawrence’s takedown offense and defense, I don’t think that’ll be an issue. Expect something along the lines of the Marcello fight, with Lawrence controlling distance and picking apart Cofer before landing something big in the middle rounds.
Prediction: Lawrence via second-round knockout
155 lbs.: Myles Jury vs. Chris Saunders
While his uneventful decision victory in the show’s elimination round was nothing to write home about, Myles Jury (9-0) possesses one of the more intimidating records around -- his nine fights have lasted approximately two minutes on average. Team Cruz’s third pick, "The Fury" was tapped to face Faber’s first, Al Iaquinta, and wound up dropping a split decision.
With his questionable level of opposition, it’s up to Jury to prove he’s no can crusher against Chris Saunders (9-2).
"The So Cal Kid," meanwhile, entered the competition on a loss to Chris Horodecki, but despite being Team Faber’s last pick, took out Team Cruz’s second when he beat Sam Sicilia by decision. Sadly, the Cinderella story was not to last, as he was unable to overcome the striking prowess of Pichel.
He’ll look to turn the pumpkin back into a carriage one more time against Jury.
Honestly, impressive as Jury’s record is, I think we got a better impression of what he can do on the show than on his FightFinder: Namely, a solid, well-rounded fighter, not the instantaneous murder machine his record makes him out to be.
It's still enough to beat Saunders, though.
While beating Sicilia is somewhat impressive, Jury isn’t going to stand there windmilling like a buffoon. In fact, he strikes me as having the tools to repeat Horodecki’s effort. It may not be all that "furious," but I expect Jury to put Saunders on his back early and often, and while I doubt he’ll get the tap, there should be no question who won.
Prediction: Jury via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Daron Cruickshank vs. Chris Tickle
Demonstrating a powerful, eye-catching striking style, Daron Cruickshank (10-2) entered TUF house as one of the favorites, with Faber taking him with his third pick. Despite his bravado and ability, however, he found himself knocked out of the show in the very first team-based fight, running headfirst into James Vick’s waiting knee during a takedown attempt.
Outside the house, Cruickshank captured the Ringside lightweight title at the expense of Georges St. Pierre protege Mike Ricci, and will look to put the embarrassment of his brutal defeat behind him.
Every season of TUF has its problem child, and Chris Tickle (7-4) assumed the mantle of irresponsibility with relish. Team Cruz’s penultimate pick, "BadBoy" distinguished himself with his unwillingness to train and an only passing acquaintance with maturity. He also, however, packs some serious power, hurting Joe Proctor with punches before succumbing to a rear naked choke.
If Tickle can get his head on straight and upset Cruickshank, he could become one to watch in short order.
Hard as Tickle hits, I just can’t picture someone with his apparent apathy handling a solid striker like Cruickshank. The former is a powerful brawler, no question, but I don’t foresee him getting too many chances to bring that power to bear. Unless Cruickshank makes another bonehead move and tries to break another guy’s knee with his face, expect him to use his kicks to maintain distance early on before beating down a tiring Tickle in the middle rounds.
Prediction: Cruickshank via second-round technical knockout
See you then, Maniacs!
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.