The eighth installment of The Ultimate Fighter: Live kicked off with Team Cruz celebrating their sudden death win on last week’s episode. Team Cruz’s Vinc Pichel was elated at the win, while Team Faber’s John Cofer fought off tears in defeat.

Discussing this week’s match-up between Sam Sicilia and Chris Saunders, bantamweight champion Cruz praised Sicilia’s punching power and technique.

Cruz brought in Strikeforce’s 135-pound women’s champion, Ronda Rousey, to assist in training. Rousey used her Olympic-level Judo to repeatedly put the larger lightweight fighters on their back.

Rousey was brought to the fighter house to watch UFC 145 with the fighters. She joked that she was like “the goat in Jurassic Park, both scared and excited.” As the fighters moved in to watch the fights, they seemed intimidated by having a woman in the house.

Following the fights, the focus shifted to Team Faber’s training session.

“Saunders is a bit of an underdog, but I’m looking to get the upset,” Faber said. “His only hiccup is believing in himself.”

“I don’t come from a big camp, but competing with the top dudes will give you confidence in this competition,” Saunders explained. “I was picked last, but when I knock out (Sicilia), it’s going to open up eyes in the house.”

Saunders recalled his tough upbringing, living in foster homes. “I’m here to show people that dreams can come true. From the stuff that I’ve been through as a kid, you’re not going to break me.”

“Saunders is going to be on his A-game and he’s got a very good chance of winning this fight,” stated Faber.

As the cameras shifted back to Team Cruz’s training, Sicilia talked about his decision to go pro and fighting frequently.

“Sam’s so green, but he knows how to pull you in and beat you up,” Cruz said about his fighter. “You’re looking at technical striker against a grimy, brawling wrestler. The key is making Saunders fight our fight.”

“Everybody watching needs to be fired up about this fight,” Cruz declared. “Sam’s ready to go.”

In the house, the fighters continued to prank one another. However, the pranks paled in comparison to past seasons.

Team Faber decided to “violate” Team Cruz’s room at the training facility by stripping down to their underwear and working out for a full 45 minutes. All Cruz could do was shake his head at the antics.

Sam Sicilia vs. Chris Saunders

In the opening stanza, Sicilia attacked quickly, looking for an overhand right. He pressed Saunders against the fence, but was unable to get a takedown. Sicilia connected with a right hand, but slipped, allowing Saunders to briefly gain top position. Sicilia looked for a guillotine choke, but Saunders escaped and the fight returned to the feet. Saunders scored with knees from the clinch before the fighters separated. A headkick from Saunders sent Sicilia face-first into the canvas, but he was able to survive. Sicilia marched forward, flinging punches, but Saunders avoided any significant damage. In the final 30 seconds of the round, Sicilia put Saunders on his back and again looked for a guillotine as the frame came to a close.

The second round started with the fighters trading in the center of the cage. Sicilia tied up Saunders along the fence, but only briefly. A flurry from Sicilia appeared to hurt Saunders, but he quickly recovered and scored with a takedown. Sicilia reversed the position and delivered knees to Saunders’ body. After Sicilia searched for a single-leg takedown, Saunders gained the top position and briefly took his opponent’s back. As the fight returned the feet, the two traded big shots, rocking one another. In the frantic exchange, Saunders again found himself in the top position, inside Sicilia’s guard. He took Sicilia’s back for a second time, but Sicilia scrambled and got back to the feet. The pair continued to batter one another until the final horn.

UFC President Dana White announced that two of the three judges gave it to Saunders. However, he said he thought the fought should have gone to a third round.

“It went exactly as I thought it would,” Saunders said in his post-fight interview.

“I didn’t believe in my wrestling as much as I should,” Sicilia explained. “I lost to a tough guy.”

Official Result: Chris Saunders def. Sam Sicilia by split decision

By default, the final fight of the round of 16 will be Team Cruz’s Mike Rio and Team Faber’s Andy Ogle. Faber made light of the situation, stating, “I’d like to give Dominick (Cruz) the opportunity to pick this fight.”

Photo: Chris Saunders (R) prepares with his coach Urijah Faber (The Ultimate Fighter/Facebook)

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