Written by Spencer Lazara
Episode 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter Live” was another step in what may be the best season ever. Much of the episode was the lead up to the fight featuring Justin Lawrence and Christiano Marcello.
Round one began rather slowly with neither man overextending. Lawrence sets his range nicely in the first round, doing more damage and landing more of his strikes in a round that was entirely kept standing.
In round two, Lawrence began to gain a bit more steam, although still remaining patient and calm. His jab is landing, and his power punches just missing. Marcello is a bit more aggressive as well, but eats a few stiff jabs and left hooks that have his confidence visibly shaken. Lawrence’s meanwhile is only growing, and with help from his corner barking out for him to throw big left hooks, he finally lands a clean one, putting Marcello out cold on the canvas.
After the win Lawrence thanked his coaches for help with the flawless game plan. “First and foremost, I want to thank the man upstairs. With that said, Dominick, Eric, Phil, Shannon, Lloyd, Doug, Wilson and the entire team, I just want to say thank you for the game planning that you came up with for me,” he said.
Dominick Cruz seems like an amazing coach from what we were shown, not only putting together the perfect game plan for Lawrence, but barking out useful tips in his corner. He kept saying throw the power three and Lawrence obliged, finally landing the one that ended the fight.
“I think again Faber underestimated the way we coach and the way that we fight,” Cruz said in a press release from the UFC. “Regardless of what he says or thinks about himself, he’s a cocky dude. It’s worked out so far for our team. It’s about confidence in my team, about how good they are, and about how good they listen. I’ve got a good team. Lawrence fought a perfect fight; he listened to the game plan perfectly, there’s nothing I can say, everything was perfect.”
On top of a seemingly flawless coaching job, Cruz has managed to instill supreme confidence to his entire team, simultaneously causing Faber’s team to question themselves and their will to fight against Cruz’s best guys. At the end of last week’s episode Cruz chose Justin Lawrence to fight but gave Urijah Faber the opportunity to choose his opponent. Faber was caught off guard and asked his team who wanted to fight and didn’t get a peep out of any member of his team. You could hear a pin drop in fact, as nobody wanted to step up to face Team Cruz’s number one pick in the second week of the competition. While it makes perfect sense that nobody would offer to fight the best right away, it still clearly had an effect on Team Faber and their confidence moving forward. This was probably the slickest coaching move made in TUF history by Cruz because he knew what would come from this before even doing it, and he still was able to choose who he wanted to face Lawrence.
The win puts Team Cruz up two fights to none and gives them the choice of the next fight once again. Dominick Cruz chose Myles Jury to take on Team Faber’s number one pick, Al Iaquinta on next week’s episode.
What really stuck out in this episode is Dominick Cruz proving that he is not only a great fighter, but a great coach, leader and teammate. He commands respect but also gives it. He remains calm and collected at all times, even when annoyed by team loudmouth Chris Tickle as was the case in this episode. This isn’t to take anything away from Urijah Faber, because he too seems like a solid coach, but something about Cruz just makes him stick out as one of the best coaches we’ve seen on “The Ultimate Fighter.”
UFC President Dana White:
“Cruz’s first pick didn’t disappoint tonight. Lawrence fought a cautious but solid fight. Picked Marcello apart from the outside and landed big shots. Marcello literally had no offense whatsoever tonight and Lawrence put him away halfway through the second round. Lawrence came out with a knockout victory, no injuries and very much one of the top contenders for the TUF Live Finale.”
“I want to say sorry to my family, and everybody who supports me. This is just one more step for something big.”
“Ecstatic about the win. Justin “The American Kidd” Lawrence fought a perfect fight and I couldn’t be happier with the way my team prepared him.”
Next week’s fighter Al Iaquinta:
“Got called out tonight; not the first time, probably won’t be the last – and I got my ass kicked early that time, then won the fight. Jury’s never been in a war like I have.”
Next week’s fighter Myles Jury:
“I feel great, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my whole life. Al’s a tough opponent, and it will be the toughest fight of my career.”