Episode No. 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” not only determines the final two fighters to make the semifinals, but also the revealing of the opponent that will be facing Urijah Faber at UFC 148 for the interim bantamweight championship.
After a quick recap of last week’s quarterfinal fights, which saw Team Faber’s Michael Chiesa and Team Cruz’s James Vick advance to the semifinals, the focus shifts to Chris Saunders who will face Team Cruz’s Vinc Pichel in tonight’s first bout. Faber believes that Saunders has the tools to get past Pichel, especially with his new-found confidence. Despite the improvements made by Saunders in the cage, he explains that getting over his tough childhood is still an obstacle at this point in his life.
Pichel is up next, as Coach Cruz prepares a gameplan for his fighter. Cruz believes that the kicking of Saunders could be a factor, and Pichel admits that he’s ready to go the distance, but a finish is not out of the question either.
With that, it’s fight time.
TEAM CRUZ – Vinc Pichel vs. TEAM FABER – Chris Saunders
Round 1 – Pichel comes forward to start, throwing his hands and landing an early kick. Saunders counters off the cage, and then creates some space for his kicks. Pichel throws and connects with a right hand, using it to set up a takedown attempt as he drives Saunders into the cage. Saunders spins off the cage and reverses, putting Pichel’s back on the fence. They battle for position, and it’s Saunders with a bodylock takedown. After a scramble, Saunders ends up in the full guard of Pichel. Pichel turns, putting his feet on the cage as Faber yells for Saunders to get his feet off the cage. Saunders not doing much from the top, but is controlling position. He postures for a short time and throws a couple of strikes from the top. Pichel scrambles, and gets to his feet. Saunders stays tight, clinching, but then pushes off and takes the center of the cage. Pichel with a nice kick-punch combo. Saunders circles away but eats a left hand as he backs up. Pichel driving for another takedown attempt. Saunders fights it off, clinching against the cage. Nice knee up the middle by Pichel. He drops for a single, but so far Saunders has displayed some nice defense. More knees from Pichel. He then lands a left hand, then changes levels and finally gets the fight to the mat. Back to the feet again. Saunders now pressing Pichel into the cage. He fires an elbow on the break then backs out of range. Saunders just misses a head kick as Pichel fires off a right hand. Saunders closes and looks for a late takedown but time runs out on the round. Close round but PMN scores it 10-9 for Pichel.
Round 2 – Touch of gloves. Pichel comes forward immediately. Leg kick Saunders. Right hand Saunders. Pichel fires back then goes for the takedown again. He doesn’t get it, but keeps Saunders on the cage as they battle for position. Pichel has the underhook with his right arm, then drops for a single. Saunders counters with knees, then sprawls on the cage. Pichel keeps fighting for it, working Saunders to the mat, but only for a moment. Saunders is working to take the back of Pichel, but eats a couple of elbows. Saunders looking for the trip now, but then pushes off and backs out. Pichel lands a knee as he closes distance. Saunders clinches, puts him on the cage and drops for a takedown. He’s working on a single but can’t secure it. Instead, he fires off a spinning back-elbow on the break. Pichel comes forward and staggers Saunders with a flurry that started with a flush right hand. He’s driving for the takedown and gets it. He’s trying to snatch the hips out, but Saunders is working his way as close to the cage as possible. He gets to his feet, but ends up back on the mat. Back to the feet. Now it’s Saunders that is looking for the takedown. He jumps onto the back of Pichel but he’s very high. Pichel tries to shake him off and does, but Saunders keeps coming, looking for a leg again. They break with 15 seconds to go. Pichel flurries, lands a knee, then leaps in with strikes as the bell sounds. Easy round for Pichel. PMN scores it 20-18 for Pichel.
OFFICIAL RESULT: Vinc Pichel def. Chris Saunders by majority decision (20-18, 20-18, 19-19)
Coach Faber addresses both of his fighters, who will battle in the final quarterfinal bout. Faber tells both Ogle and Iaquinta that the coaches will be split up between them, and that he will not be in either corner, ensuring that he preserves team unity.
TEAM FABER – Andy Ogle vs. TEAM FABER – Al Iaquinta
Round 1 – Iaquinta takes the center of the cage and lands a right hand. Ogle comes back with a kick. Iaquinta lands another right hand as Ogle gets on his wheels to create some space. Kick Ogle. Iaquinta is staying patient and picking his shots as Ogle tries to circle out of range and find a home for his kicks. Iaquinta stalking now. He resets and looks to go to work. Ogle fires off a kick upstairs. Nice combo from Iaquinta. Big kick upstairs and another right hand for Iaquinta. That right hand is scoring at will. Ogle lunges forward but misses. Nice one-two from Ogle. Leg kick Iaquinta. Ogle circles out and away. Big exchange, but it’s Iaquinta that scores with the more powerful shots. Kick Ogle. Big uppercut by Iaquinta. Ogle fires back, then gets on his wheels. Leg kick Iaquinta. Another 1-2 from Ogle. Iaquinta starches Ogle with a short right hand. Ogle goes down and fights for a leg but Iaquinta stuffs him and then moves to full mount. Ogle retains guard, then scrambles to his feet. Iaquinta lands a crushing elbow that folds Ogle up on the mat. He follows up with a hammerfist, but it was pretty much over with the elbow. Impressive showing from Iaquinta.
OFFICIAL RESULT: Al Iaquinta def. Andy Ogle by TKO (strikes) Rd 1 (4:44)
Pichel and Iaquinta advance, joining Team Faber’s Chiesa and Team Cruz’s Vick as this season’s semifinalists. Dana White announces the matchups, naming Vick vs. Chiesa and Pichel vs. Iaquinta. Both semifinal matchups will take place in episode 12, and with that there is just one last piece of business to attend to.
With Dominick Cruz out due to a knee injury, Dana White announces that Renan Barao will be the man to face Urijah Faber for the interim bantamweight belt.