Two underdogs shone in first week of quarterfinal fights, as James Vick used his reach to outpoint well-rounded Joe Proctor over two rounds, after which wrestler Mike Chiesa TKOd top-pick striker Justin Lawrence in the sudden victory round.
Chiesa vs. Lawrence
"A lot of people have Lawrence ranked number one, and I wanna throw a wrench in the gears and beat this kid," said rangy wrestler Chiesa before the bout. And the 6'1" lightweight from Team Faber did just that over a fight that went into sudden victory.
Early in the first, Chiesa caught one of Lawrence's signature kicks and used it to throw his shorter opponent to the floor. Lawrence bounced up, and Chiesa swarmed, trying to trip Lawrence before taking his back standing and pulling the bout to the ground. The two spent most of the round on the mat, with Chiesa staying busy from the back and threatening with armbars, triangles and kimuras. The 5'8" Lawrence survived but was unable to mount much offense; meanwhile, Chiesa did damage with elbows from the bottom throughout the exchange.
Lawrence learned from the first round and immediately made more space in the second. One of his left hooks connected early on, and Chiesa came forward himself. The two then took turns coming forward with strikes. Lawrence's won on accuracy, but Chiesa's 9-inch reach advantage was enough to keep Lawrence at bay. As fatigue made Chiesa's stance and strikes looser, Lawrence injured him with a body shot, pushed the fight to the cage and dropped Chiesa with another body blow. Chiesa grabbed for a kimura and survived, pulling Lawrence back into his guard and doing some more work with his elbows on the bottom.
With the bout tied up at one round each, UFC President Dana White called for a third sudden-victory round. Both fighters appeared tired, and Chiesa came in wild, but it took Lawrence off-balance enough that Chiesa was able to drag things back to the mat. He deftly swept into mount and ground and pounded on the curled-up Lawrence until the ref called the fight at 1:02.
"I came here to fight the best," said Chiesa post-fight. "I give all the credit to Justin. He hurt me real bad in the second, and I had to dig deep and seize the moment. I knew he was gonna swarm and I had to pull him in and not give him room."
Proctor vs. Vick
In the night's first bout, Team Cruz' dark horse James Vick used his five-inch height and significant reach advantage to neutralize jiu-jitsu specialist Joe Proctor's own strikes and takedown attempts. Vick -- who surprised everyone in episode one with his knockout of established kickboxer Daron Cruickshank -- made no secret of his game plan. "I'm gonna use my boxing," he said pre-fight. "I'm gonna defend takedowns and try to beat him to the punch. I'll be faster and hit harder."
The fight began with Vick backing his opponent up around the cage, throwing jabs to establish range. Vick connected first and got Proctor against the cage, but Proctor escaped. Vick continued his range-finding, finding his mark with testing kicks (both high and low) and an uppercut. In the center of the cage, Proctor shot, but Vick was able to avoid. Proctor connected with an overhand right, then Vick clinched and scored with knees to the body and a big right against the cage. It was back and forth for the bulk of the round, both men's faces bloodied by shots from the other. Both men were active throughout the round, but the volume of accuracy of strikes clearly belonged to Vick.
A motivated Proctor forward aggressively at the bell for round two, and Vick returned fire with a kick. He chased Proctor against the fence and pummeled him for his troubles. Proctor picked up Vick and dumped him for a takedown, and Vick gave up his back on the way up. Proctor -- who choked out his first two opponents this season -- locked in a choke as Vick spun, but Vick stuck it out and threw the two of them to the mat where he was able to pop his head out and recover in side control. Once he was back on his feet, he cornered Proctor against the cage with more blows and scored well in the stand-up exchange that took place in the round's last minute.
The judges gave the fight to Vick 20-18, and the victor gave the credit to his coaches. "I've improved so much, it's so hard to take me down now. Everything is coming together for me at the perfect time."
His coach Dominick Cruz returned the praise, saying that Vick is one of their team's most game competitors. "He listens well, and he's like an open book. You tell him how to do something, and he'll go out and do it. He doesn't realize how tough he is, but we see it as coaches."
With the night's wins, Team Faber's Mike Chiesa and Team Cruz' James Vick advance to the semi-finals, which will take place on the May 25 episode.