Team Faber’s top pick advances by split decision
Down two fights to none, Urijah Faber‘s team was in desperate need of a victory on “The Ultimate Fighter LIVE” going into Friday’s live fight. And it got what it needed courtesy of a three-round sudden-victory scrap.
Faber’s top pick, Al Iaquinta, had to go three rounds with Dominick Cruz‘s third pick, Myles Jury. But when the scores were read at the TUF Training Center in Las Vegas, it was Iaquinta moving on to the quarterfinals with a split decision victory.
The fight, chosen last week by Cruz, who had control of the fight picks for the last two matchups, was a tale of two rounds with Jury winning the first thanks to an effective counter-striking game and a late takedown. But Iaquinta was again the more aggressive fighter in the second round and pulled even with the judges, forcing the third sudden-victory round. In an oddity, while the scores were tabulated, the FX broadcast went to commercial – then went to another set of ads before returning for the third round, resulting in several extra minutes between rounds instead of the typical 1-minute break. UFC president Dana White told host Jon Anik on the live broadcast portion of the show that would be corrected in future episodes, should other fights go to a third round.
In the third, the action slowed as both fighters appeared to be cautious. But ultimately, it was Iaquinta, a student of former UFC welterweight champion and TUF 4 winner Matt Serra, who picked up the nods from two of the three judges to advance in the lightweight tournament. Iaquinta joins Episode 3 winner Justin Lawrence and Episode 2 winner James Vick, both of Team Cruz, in the quarterfinals. Quarterfinal pairings will be determined by the coaches prior to that round of eight in early May after the completion of the next five first-round fights.
After Iaquinta’s victory, Faber took control of the fight pick for the first time since winning the coin flip to pick the first fight of the season, which saw Vick knock out Daron Cruickshank with a first-round knee. Faber chose his fifth overall pick, Michael Chiesa, to face Jeremy Larsen, who was Cruz’s eighth and final pick. Chiesa earned his way into the house with a rear naked choke win over Jonavan Vistante; Larsen took Jeff Smith to a decision in the one-round-only elimination format earlier this month on the season premiere, picking up a 10-9 unanimous decision. Larsen, though, was cut in the fight and issued a medical suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission through April 9 – with the stipulation that he could be cleared earlier if it healed properly, which likely has been the case since next week’s fight takes place on April 6.
Next week’s fifth episode airs Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern on FX.
Here’s a look at what the major players in Friday’s fourth episode had to say after the show:
UFC president Dana White
“There were some exciting exchanges in the first and second rounds and I think the judges scored them perfectly. But when you go to a sudden-victory round, it means you’re hanging in there by a thread. You need to go out there and kill it. I don’t think either guy went out there in that third round and looked like they wanted to win it. They just wanted it enough to win and just enough not to lose. Faber wanted that win bad. To finally regain control is big for him. (Team Faber is) back in the game – with a huge momentum shift.”
“I knew it wasn’t going straight to a decision and I had a feeling we were going to the sudden-victory round. To get the win is great. It’s crazy. It’s a whole new game now. It was definitely a different routine getting ready for this fight. I’ve had the same guys helping me for every one of my pro fights. This team was great, though, and they did a good job getting me ready.”
“I feel great – especially for Al. These wins are really for the guys. This is Al’s dream, and he fought his heart out. Jury is a guy with a great mentality, and to beat a guy like that is awesome for Al’s resume. Hoping to keep the (Team Faber) streak alive – and it took a little pep out of Cruz’s, step which is great.”
“I just feel like it’s a tough loss, but it’s a great learning experience for me and I’ll be back better than ever. The decision is the way it is. I could sit here and say I won, but that’s not how it came out. I’m going to go back and take a look at what I did and see how I can improve.”
“It was a tough, close fight and a learning experience for Myles Jury, but I’m proud of him because he never stopped fighting and he went for broke. And he made it through the training camp, and that’s always the hard part. I like the pick for next week. I’m good with it because, what (Faber) doesn’t know is that Jeremy has a history of fighting solid wrestlers.”
“First and foremost, I want to congratulate Al and Myles on a great fight. I’m very thankful that Team Faber got the hammer back, ’cause that means now I can do what I came here to do, and that’s to put on a show. Training has been great. I’m feeling healthy. I’m in good shape, and all these good fights have been amping me up and getting me ready to scrap.”
“I feel fantastic – super excited. I was talking to Dominick, telling him I wanted to fight next anyway. Some guys like to finish fights. I like three-round wars. So tune in and get ready for some great action.”