mma

The Ultimate Fighter Live, Episode 3: Three! Three silly pranks … ah ah ah ah …

A look inside the locker room of Justin Lawrence, who was unknown until he destroyed WEC veteran James Krause in the prelims. Now he’s being touted as a huge favorite.

Then a long recap of last week’s fight action, where Cruickshank got “too comfortable” (in Dana White’s words) and got KO’d.

And … it’s a new theme song! A famous one, too — the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground. Also the walkout music of TUF 1 constestant/TUF 12 coach Josh Koscheck, a friend of the band’s.

In the format of The Ultimate Fighter, one surprise result can leave one team utterly screwed. That’s how Faber stands now. And we’re reminded ad infinitum that Cruz picked Lawrence for the next fight and then put Team Faber on the spot to pick a guy to face him. Confusion reigned. Cruz will interpret that as weakness.

“You can’t just be a pussy,” Vinc Pichel (Cruz) says.

Faber tells his fighters not to let that team get under their skin. And Al Iaquinta is willing to speak common sense: “No one’s going to hop out of his seat to fight the top guy the second week of the competition. It’s just not smart.”

At the house, Cruz’s Chris Tickle tries to get under their skin. Team Faber’s body language says, “Whatever.”

But Tickle isn’t done trying to get camera attention. First of all, he has a gas mask for some reason. He wears it in the van. Then he breaks off the sign for Faber’s parking space and moves it into the gym. So Urijah drives into the gym and parks in front of the punching bags. (No, I’m kidding — that last part didn’t actually happen.)

Meet Justin Lawrence! Grew up in a family gym. Youngest vs. oldest as he faces Cristiano Marcello, someone he respects as a tough jiu-jitsu master.

Oh, but we’re back to Tickle. He shows up to spar but left his earring in. Then he races out of a session saying he has diarrhea. Cruz is frustrated.

Meet Cristian Marcello! He’s 34, repping Rio. He breathes jiu-jitsu, he eats jiu-jitsu, he got a black belt from Royler Gracie in 1999. He calls the fight with Lawrence “Old School against New School,” thereby explaining the episode title.

Out of nowhere, Faber assistant Justin Buchholz comes up with one of the definitive quotes about MMA: “Don’t discount crazy. You got someone who’s crazy in a fight, anything can happen. And Marcello’s crazy.”

Faber decides to respond to Team Cruz’s prank. “Dominick is a mix of Count Dracula and Eddie Munster.” So they use some black tape to add new hair features to the Cruz portrait.

Cofer decides to walk with his arms out, imitating Tickle. Seems Tickle is a classic “dishes out, can’t take it” guy, so he starts jawing at Cofer about his knockout record.

“You’re starting this out of nowhere,” says the man repping Northeast Georgia.

Yes, Cruz sees the portrait alterations. He says he’s not surprised Faber was “butthurt.” So apparently (A) Cruz thinks a retaliatory prank is a sign of being unduly offended by the first one and (B) the move to FX hasn’t made these guys drop the eighth-grade insults. Speaking of reverse preciousness, Cruz think it’s the Count, and he’s pleased it’s the “cool guy” on Sesame Street.

So Team Cruz says Faber has a “butt chin.” Pichel says they put a thong on it. It looks like someone randomly placed a rope across his chin.

Meanwhile, Cruz has been in the gym too long, leaving Faber’s team waiting. Faber mildly confronts Cruz about it.

Faber works with Marcello, trying to get him to keep his chin down as he comes in aggressively. Both coaches are offering intelligent analysis. Not all TUF coaches of the past have done that.

Marcello trots into the cage with American and Brazilian flags. Steve Mazzagatti is the ref. We’re live, though Bruce Buffer isn’t there to tell us.

Lawrence’s striking seems to be “feint, feint, knockout punch, feint, feint, knockout kick.” Marcello spends the first minute dodging. Lawrence chases him to the cage, but Marcello storms back. Through 2:30, neither guy has landed anything or made a serious attempt to get to the ground. Marcello starts throwing a bit. Honestly, it’s a forgettable first round. One new production trick: We see an inset of Cruz as he calmly gives instructions.

Marcello tries the clinch game early in the second, certainly trying to get th fight to the ground. And we get another inset of Cruz. Then one of Faber, who has to keep reminding Marcello to keep his chin down. How long has Marcello been fighting?

Lawrence tosses Marcello down but decides not to get on the ground with a jiu-jitsu master. They stand, and Lawrence keeps landing first and hardest in the exchanges. A left catches Marcello off balance, and he falls agin. Lawrence again declines to follow him to the ground. They stand, and Marcello is throwing wildly. Lawrence keeps landing a stiff left while Marcello leaves himself wide open. It finally happens one too many times. It’s a winging punch, but it’s a KO.

After his hand is raised, Lawrence heads to his corner, but they wave him over to Jon Anik for a postfight. Anik asks him about having the pressure of being the No. 1 pick, but Lawrence says he can emulate Cruz’s example of walking around with a target.

Over to the next fight pick, and Cruz picks repeat TUFster Myles Jury against Faber’s top pick, Al Iaquinta. Gutsy pick from Cruz, good potential as a fight.

Iaquinta, incidentally, had a curious tweet this week: “Staying away from this reality show nonsense. Keeping focus to win that @UFC contract no matter what the cost. #TUFLive”

Mike Rio, on the other hand, was pleased to grab a camera.

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