After last week’s hard-fought battle between Team Faber’s Al Iaquinta and Team Cruz’s Myles Jury, the fifth installment of The Ultimate Fighter: Live had a hard act to follow.

With Iaquinta’s victory, Faber gained control of the fight selection process and selected Michael Chiesa to take on Team Cruz’s Jeremy Larsen. Faber justified the pick by pointing out that even Dominick Cruz had talked about Larsen’s struggles against wrestlers.

“We lost; all you can do is learn from it,” Cruz declared while talking about the previous week’s fight. “Now I know what it’s like to be Faber.”

Cruz’s last pick, Larsen, was motivated by the matchup. “I’m going to knock Mike’s beard off his face,” he said with confidence.

Chiesa’s training partner, Sam Sicilia, was put in a tough spot by Cruz. The bantamweight champion expected the fighter to give up secrets about his close friend.

“Being the sneak isn’t what I’m here for at all,” Sicilia explained. “I’m not going to tell Mike what Larsen does, and I won’t tell Larsen what Mike does. I’m not going to compromise the type of person I am over this. I’m going to let those two fight and may the best man win.”

Echoing Sicilia’s sentiments, Chiesa revealed that his friendship is more important than which team he is on. “You mix red (Team Cruz) and blue (Team Faber) and you get purple,” the lightweight said with a laugh. “The fact that Cruz is asking Sam for information makes me want to cut my leg off and get down to 135 (pounds) and throw him a beating.”

“Losing is never fun,” stated Cruz. “I do everything in my power to make sure I don’t lose at anything. We need this win.”

“I think Mike is a one-dimensional fighter and is going to look for a takedown and try to submit me,” Larsen quipped about his opponent. “I’m going to try to make it a stand up war.”

Team Cruz’s Chris Tickle continued to clash with his coach. Tickle complained about symptoms of gout in his foot, which prompted Cruz to question his commitment. This only further angered the fighter, “I’m not here to complain, I’m just trying to heal.” It was revealed by the doctors that he did not have gout.

“I feel like I have nothing to lose,” Chiesa claimed while discussing the upcoming fight. “I’m just happy to have the opportunity.”

Coach Faber stated that there were three keys to victory for Chiesa, controlling the cage, getting the fight to the ground and finishing when the fight goes to the mat. “He has some of the best MMA takedowns I’ve seen,” the former WEC champion explained.

Cruz explained that he’s known Larsen since they were kids due to a relationship between their mothers. “Somehow MMA brought us back together,” said Cruz. “You cannot break this guy.”

“If I didn’t fight MMA, I’d probably be in jail or dead,” proclaimed Larsen. “I was going down the wrong path. I love what I do and I’m thankful to be here.”

Reflecting on the loss of his father earlier in the season, Chiesa said, “I know he’s watching me and he’s pry telling me I need to go in there and whoop this kid’s ass.”

Michael Chiesa vs. Jeremy Larsen

Chiesa immediately went to work with his wrestling, first snatching a single leg before transitioning to a double and slamming Larsen to the mat. From the top position, Chiesa rained elbows from the half guard. Larsen was able to get back to his feet, but Chiesa remained the aggressor. Along the fence, Larsen dropped down to a knee and Chiesa connected with an illegal knee strike to his head. Referee Steve Mazzagatti was forced to take a point from the Team Faber fighter.

In the second round, Chiesa pressed forward, but Larsen got the better of the exchange. Chiesa pressed the fight against the cage yet again, and put Larsen on his back much like the first round. Larsen repeatedly worked his way to his feet, but Chiesa would dump him to the mat. With less than a minute left, Chiesa took Larsen’s back and looked to end the fight with a rear-naked choke, but Larsen survived.

Despite the point deduction, the judges still awarded the fight to Chiesa for his strong wrestling and control.

“Jeremy Larsen is a tough guy and I was expecting to go the distance,” Chiesa said in his post-fight interview. “I went out there and got the win.”

Disappointed with the decision, Larsen stated, “I think we should be in a third round right now. I was dazed by the knee, but I kept fighting. Hopefully I get another shot to live my dream.”

Official Result: Michael Chiesa def. Jeremy Larsen by unanimous decision (19-18, 19-18, 19-18)

“It was an interesting first round,” said UFC President Dana White. “There’s no room for error in these fights and that illegal knee could have cost him (Chiesa) the fight. You can’t have fouls or you will lose the fight.”

Team Faber maintained control, and chose his fighter Joe Proctor to take on Team Cruz’s Chris Tickle.

Photo: Mike Chiesa (R) works for a takedown against Jeremy Larsen (Josh Hedges/Zuffa, LLC)