Dominick Cruz made Justin Lawrence the first pick when the coaches selected their teams on this season of The Ultimate Fighter, and when Lawrence stepped into the Octagon with Cristiano Marcello on Friday night, he made Cruz's pick look smart.
Lawrence out-struck Marcello in the stand-up exchanges in the first round, then started landing with more power in the second round and ultimately connected a left hand to Marcello's chin that knocked Marcello flat on his back, ending the fight by second-round knockout.
"It felt amazing," Lawrence said afterward. "We worked that all week during the training camp -- my left hook, my hands, my movement."
It was an impressive performance by Lawrence that has to make him, at the moment at least, the favorite to win this season.
Marcello is one of the most experienced fighters on the show, a 34-year-old Pride veteran and Brazilian jiu jitsu instructor who has coached some of the best fighters in the world at the famed Chute Box Academy. But he was never able to take the fight to the ground against Lawrence, and his striking was not impressive.
As for the "reality" portion of the UFC's reality show, this week's episode wasn't as compelling as last week's, as the fighters resorted to silly pranks like defacing the photos of coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber that hang in the gym. A couple of contrived confrontations between Cruz and Faber felt more like they were going through the motions of promoting their own upcoming fight than exhibiting genuine bad blood.
The fight itself, however, was solid: Lawrence looked good, and he looks like he might just be the best fighter on this season of The Ultimate Fighter.