The Ultimate Fighter® Live episode 12 – ‘Reality Check’ – aired Friday evening and saw Team Faber nab both semifinal wins in the final episode of the famed reality series. Michael Chiesa defeated James Vick by knockout at 1:55 of the 2nd round while Al Iaquinta walked away with a unanimous decision victory over Vinc Pichel.
Chiesa vs. Vick
The season's two tallest fighters tested one anotehr's range with jabs and kicks early in the first even as they worked to stay outside of one another's pockets. A struggle in the clinch built momentum as it was eventually Vick who scored a takedown with a trip, then returned the action to the feet where he used his signature boxing to back up Chiesa around the cage with a series of varied combinations. A last-minute takedown and submission attempt by Vick sealed the round in his favor.
Chiesa's sense of urgency led him to take on the aggressor role to open the second. Vick rebounded with his boxing, but Chiesa had found a rhythm and used the momentum to score a big takedown. He quickly mounted Vick and unleashed a series of unanswered strikes that ended the bout in a big way.
“I feel great, it has been quite a journey," said Chiesa, a so-called
wrestler who's now racked up two T/KO wins in a row. "A lot of ups and
downs but I feel like I’ve earned my spot in the finale and I’m very
excited to seize the moment.”
Iaquinta vs. Pichel
The night's second meeting between a Team Faber fighter and a Team Cruz one featured a competitve first round. Iaquinta quickly worked for a takedown and scored two in quick succession. But after Pichel worked his way back to the feet, his poured on his standup, moving forward and connecting consistently. Iaquinta had his own moments, particularly with kicks, but another big takedown toward the end of the first tipped the judges' scorecards in his favor.
Round two started with exciting standup, as Iaquinta worked with a variety of kicks and Pichel continued his targeted strikes. After a quick break to retrieve an errant mouthpiece, the two returned to the center and went blow for blow, with Iaquinta increasingly finding his range on his taller opponent. Both men wore damage on their faces, and Iaquinta worked for one more takedown, only to be rebuffed by his foe. But in the end it was enough, as judges' scorecards gave him the win and a spot at the top of next Friday's finale.
“I couldn’t have done it without a great team," said Iaquinta. "Everyone really helped me out. The coaching staff was just awesome. Now I have the toughest fight of my life ahead of me, and I’m ready for it.”
“The first round was tough to score," said UFC president Dana White of the night's second fight. "Iaquinta definitely came out and won the second round and got that fight. Al has looked good in both his fights. Still moving, still punching and his wrestling was on. This is going to be one hell of a final.”