Chris Saunders Upsets Sam Sicilia on ‘The Ultimate Fighter LIVE’

Chris Saunders (Kari Hubert/UFC)

Team Faber’s last pick takes split decision from Cruz’s No. 2

After Dominick Cruz‘s team pulled back to even last week, Urijah Faber‘s squad jumped back ahead Friday night on “The Ultimate Fighter LIVE” on FX.

Chris Saunders, Faber’s eighth and final pick in the team selection two months ago, upset Cruz’s No. 2 pick, Sam Sicilia, by split decision. Saunders’ win in the back-and-forth two-round fight gave Faber a 4-3 edge with just one opening-round fight left. Cruz’s squad had opened up the season with two straight wins before Faber’s team rallied with three straight.

After last week’s fight, which was arguably the best fight of the season to that fight, TUF Live saw a second straight closely contested bout. Both Saunders and Sicilia landed big shots that dropped the other, and it appeared that a third round might be necessary. But two of the three judges at the TUF training center in Las Vegas scored both rounds for Saunders for the upset.

Saunders moves into the quarterfinals, joining teammates Al Iaquinta, Michael Chiesa and Joe Proctor, plus Team Cruz’s Justin Lawrence, James Vick and Vinc Pichel.

Saunders’ victory gave Faber control of the fight picks, technically, but it didn’t matter since just two fighters were left. Faber’s seventh overall pick, Andy Ogle, will face Cruz’s fourth pick, Mike Rio, in next week’s final opening-round fight. A win by Rio would put four fighters from each team in the quarterfinals, effectively eliminating the possibility that any teammates will have to fight each other.

Next week’s ninth episode airs Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern on FX.

Here’s a look at what the major players in Friday’s eighth episode had to say after the show.

UFC president Dana White
“There’s no doubt Saunders won that first round, but I thought Sicilia had the second round. He was dropping huge bombs and was all over Saunders. Everyone but the judges believed this should have gone to a third round. I praise the judges when they do a good job, and I rip the judges when they get it wrong. They got it wrong tonight. Both guys fought like hell and deserved a third round.”

“This was a huge upset. Saunders was picked last and went out there and won against the No. 2 guy. We’ve seen great back-to-back fights in the last two weeks. All these guys are going out there and blowing it away.”

Sam Sicilia
“I definitely didn’t feel like I lost, but I definitely didn’t feel like I was winning, either. I was in a scrap and I felt like a cartoon dust ball with legs and arms kicking out. I was blessed with a battle. My path and purpose led me to Chris Saunders, and he was the better man tonight according to the judges.”

Dominick Cruz
“I think it should have gone to a third round, definitely. But that’s part of the game. Sam fought from beginning to end and I have nothing but respect for the show that he put on tonight. I’m also proud of the camp that he has put in so far and that I know he will continue.”

“I like the matchup coming up. Rio has outstanding wrestling and great ground control along with submissions. Ogle’s a tough cookie, but I think Rio’s size and control will win us this fight.”

Chris Saunders
“I feel good. I’m very excited and happy that I went out there and had a good performance for my team and the fans. The fight went how I planned. I knew that I had to go out there and use good footwork and that my Thai boxing skills would help give me the victory. I have to give all the credit to God, though, because without Him none of this would be possible.”

Urijah Faber
“I’m super proud of Saunders. This whole thing has been about building his confidence. He has the skill to beat anybody on the show. He has a lot of natural talent and years of experience – now it’s just about bringing his A-game.”

“Andy Ogle is probably on the fastest learning curve on the team. He’s dangerous both standing and on the ground and he’s got a great attitude.”

Mike Rio
“Wow! It’s about time. Get ready for a war between me and Andy Ogle ’cause we will make fight of the season!”

Andy Ogle
“The wait is finally over! I’m not expecting anything other than a war. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited that I finally get to go in there and do my thing. We’re here to fight, and when you’re not the next pick, it tears at you. Now that it’s my turn, I’m going out there and not leaving anything behind.”