Michael Chiesa continued his emotional run through TUF Live, this time upsetting season favorite Justin Lawrence in a thrilling fight. After two hard-fought rounds, Chiesa overwhelmed Lawrence in the sudden victory round, winning by TKO with ground strikes at 1:02 of the third to advance to the tournament's semifinals.
Lawrence actually had the advantage seconds before the stoppage, getting top position after a takedown. But Chiesa quickly reversed him, ending in full mount, and hailed down a series of strikes for the finish. Even before that, Lawrence controlled most of the second, nearly knocking Chiesa out after flooring him with a pair of liver shots.
"I am here to fight the best and everybody had Justin ranked No. 1," Chiesa said. "It was a blessing. He pushed me to my limits in the second round and I had to dig down."
It was just another chapter in an emotional rollercoaster for Chiesa, who won his fight to get in the house, only to see his father tragically pass away a few weeks later. He briefly returned home to Seattle to attend the funeral, and then came back to the competition, beating Jeremy Larsen to advance to the quarterfinals.
He had been a heavy underdog in the fight against Lawrence, but showed from the outset that he wouldn't go away quietly, taking the first round despite spending most of it on his back. He attacked with a series of submissions and showed his edge on the ground, an advantage that would pay dividends in the end.
Lawrence clearly had the upper hand when the fight stayed standing, but it seemed as though fatigue caused him to contest the fight on the ground in the third round where Chiesa had his best chance and capitalized.
Meanwhile, James Vick also advanced to the semis with a unanimous decision over Joe Proctor, winning in a 20-18 sweep of the two-round fight.
Proctor had won both of his previous TUF fights via submission, but Vick wouldn't let him take the fight to the ground, and Proctor also seemed hesitant to even try to bring it there. On their feet, Vick used his reach advantage and power punching to keep Proctor at bay.
His only moment of doubt came in the second, when Proctor briefly took him down. As Vick starting pop back to his feet, Proctor attacked his neck with a standing rear naked choke.
"It was tight but I would've went to sleep before I tapped," he said afterward. "It was deep but I knew I'd get out of it if I kept fighting."
He did, and went on to take the fight, advancing to the semifinals.
Next week's semifinals pairings were also announced, with Vinc Pichel taking on Chris Saunders, and Al Iaquinta facing off with Andy Ogle.