For the first time since the premiere, I’m actually watching live. Tonight’s fight is Myles Jury (Cruz) vs. Al Iaquinta (Faber), and because no one already knows the outcome, we have fight odds. Jury is a huge favorite, even though Iaquinta is Faber’s No. 1 pick. This could easily be a semifinal matchup.
Long recap of last week, with everyone agreeing that jiu-jitsu expert Cristiano Ronaldo, er, Marcello should have tried some jiu-jitsu against Justin Lawrence. The stand-up battle did not go his way.
Flea’s bass line kicks in, and the opening credits are underway.
We cut immediately to Dominick Cruz bragging. People seem to like that. I don’t understand it. But I’m old. I don’t understand the kids today. I always though Urijah Faber was the cool and hip one, but maybe I’m biased because he’s a much better interview than Cruz. Or because Faber looks like the cool surfer dude and Cruz looks like an 80s movie villain.
I have time to muse on all this because … nothing’s happening. Team Cruz is happy. Team Faber is disappointed. Iaquinta is confident.
Saturday morning, less than 12 hours after the live Marcello-Lawrence fight, and we’re watching Team Cruz training hard. One guy gets shoved out of the gym’s boxing ring. Ouch.
Speaking of “ouch,” Jury throws a spinning back fist in sparring with Mike Rio, who falls awkwardly on his knee. He’s scared that it might be serious, but upon examination, he’s OK.
Sunday — Andy Ogle is reading a letter to his loved ones. Daron Cruickshank is eating. John Cofer is doing impressions, from Cruz to Jim Carrey. Chris Tickle can’t sleep without his girl.
Meet Al Iaquinta! Matt Serra-Ray Longo protege, which Faber respects. Like Jury, he was supposed to be on TUF earlier — in his case, TUF 12. Two weeks before he was supposed to go, he broke his hand.
Tuesday — Faber visits the house. Then he brings in a “life coach.” “You have only one opponent,” he says. And it’s yourself. Tickle, who seemed to be the guy most in need of a life coach, wasn’t interested.
Wednesday — Rio’s limping down the steps but is trying to hide his knee injury from the blue team. He knows Faber will have buddies who watched this broadcast, right? Raises an interesting question about the new format — keeping secrets will be a lot tougher.
But one TUF tradition continues — coaches think they’re doctors. Rio has serious knee pain in training. Cruz says it’s all up to him and how bad he wants it.
Meet Myles Jury! Again. The knee injury that knocked him out of TUF 13 was a major frustration.
Wednesday night — Team Faber chats in the house, and they think Rio is old and kind of beaten up. Ogle wants to fight him to avenge his buddy Ali Maclean, whom Rio beat in the prelims.
Weigh-ins are uneventful. We go to Jon Anik and then look inside Cruz’s locker room for some strange comments from Cruz about Team Faber goofing off and painting faces. Why didn’t we see any of that instead of 35 minutes of virtually nothing?
Brittney Palmer is the Octagon Girl. Josh Rosenthal is the ref.
We start with some stand-up exchanges, and Iaquinta is slightly better. Jury throws a strong high kick, then a couple of stiff leg kicks. Iaquinta is doing the stalking but isn’t throwing much. Jury tries a flying knee that doesn’t get there, and Iaquinta counters. Jury looks like he’s going for a takedown, but he seems to reconsider. We get an inset of Cruz, and assistant coach Lloyd Irvin looks really agitated.
Jury seems to hurt him with a hook, and he dives in for a leg. Iaquinta also gets a leg, and we end up in one of the oddest grappling pretzels ever seen. But Iaquinta has the better of it isolating a leg or possibly an arm. He can’t hold that position, and Jury ends the round draped on his back. Not sure how to score it.
Round 2 starts with a kick to Iaquinta’s groin. We pause. Rosenthal warns, “No coaching,” which is more difficult to enforce in the training center than it would be in a typical arena. Mercifully, after just a few seconds of silence, Iaquinta can continue. They sportingly touch gloves, and we’re off again, with Jury going back to the high kick and Iaquinta stalking. “He’s running,” Faber says from his inset box. Then it gets lively. Iaquinta catches a kick. Jury lands a counter. Iaquinta lands a hard leg.
I hate Iaquinta’s boxing style. He sometimes has his hands at his waist. The he throws punches that go somewhere across the state line before returning to his opponent’s face, where they’re easily blocked or slipped. But he starts to land a few.
Iaquinta charges in but somehow gives up his back to Jury, who tries for a trip takedown. Iaquinta fights his way out. Now Iaquinta is throwing more AND doing the stalking. Jury seems worried but he throws a nice dig to the body and follows with a knee. Jury’s also bleeding.
With 10 seconds left, Jury rushes forward and gets a takedown. He gets up in celebration. Did he win? Another round? Not a bad fight — impossible to judge. The replay shows two great counter shots, a back fist from Jury and a hard right from Iaquinta as Jury charges.
After a long ad break, we get the “official decision” from Dana White. The fact that both guys are standing in their corners and not next to Josh Rosenthl should tell you what’s up. It’s a third round.
And after a nice glove touch, Iaquinta takes control with a big combination. Then he goes back to stalking without striking. Jury tries a couple of kicks, but he’s fading. A flying knee is practically grounded. At the halfway point, it’s the most clear-cut round of the night, in Iaquinta’s favor. Who set the odds for this fight?
Iaquinta mixes a couple of straight punches with his long looping ones. Jury is retreating and occasionally trying a high kick. Team Faber is clapping. Team Cruz isn’t. The clock disappears from the screen for some reason. Jury tries a takedown — nothing doing. Iaquinta is stalking and jabbing. Jury needs a Hail Mary and doesn’t get it. At the horn, both fighters react as if they’ve won. If this goes for Jury, I quit.
The official decision: Byrd scores it for Jury, Jarman for Iaquinta. Didn’t catch the third judge, but he gives it to Iaquinta. Byrd should quit judging. I should take up gambling. Could’ve made a lot of money on this one.
Iaquinta thanks his family and Serra-Longo. Then he says if he wins the Fight of the Year, he’ll take the money and go back to college. THAT is a first for this show.
Jury: I do believe in God, and Fury will be back.
Dana White says they’ll fix the problem with having waaaay more than one minute between the second and third round.
Faber has the pick. He commends Cruz for making tough matchups, but he says he’s going to pick one in which his team has a big advantage. He calls on the big bearded Michael Chiesa. Then he recalls that Cruz himself noted in their prelim commentary that Jeremy Larsen has trouble with wrestler. And so that’s the matchup. Larsen sticks his nose right up on Chiesa’s nose. That’s poor hygiene, dude.