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Mixed martial arts: Local fights into UFC

Pichel made it to the semifinals on TV series

Posted: May 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White calmly walked into the room prepared to address “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 contestants during Friday’s episode of the show.

White brought good news for most of the 16 fighters vying for chance to break into the promotion.

Locally trained lightweight Vinc Pichel out of Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy in Valencia was among them.

The 155-pounder, who entered the competition 7-0 in his professional career and won his first three fights on the show, fought tournament favorite Al Iaquinta in the semifinals live Friday night on FX at The Ultimate Fighter Training Center in Las Vegas.

The fight marked a groundbreaking run for local MMA, and it was the first of its kind for a Santa Clarita Valley-based fighter.

White’s announcement kicked off a series of ups and downs for Pichel.

“You guys have accomplished something that no one has ever accomplished in the history of “The Ultimate Fighter,” White said. “This is the first season where we have done this thing live and people actually have to live here for 13 weeks and go right into the finale. The way you guys have conducted yourselves and fought, I mean, I just can’t tell you how blown away we all are. You’re all fighting on the finale.”

Unfortunately for Pichel, the announcement preceded a unanimous-decision loss to Iaquinta and the news he will not fighting at Friday’s Ultimate Fighter Live Finale at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

With most fighters already paired off for the finale, Pichel would have fought fellow semifinalist James Vick. However, Vick was placed on medical suspension following his loss to Mike Chiesa on Friday night, according to a report from MMAJunkie.com.

The report also stated that both fighters will make their UFC debut on future cards, and this was confirmed by Pichel’s coach at BJMUTA, Brian Peterson.

“The Ultimate Fighter,” which puts contestants against each other for a shot at a six-figure contract with the UFC, has opened the door for a who’s who of mixed martial artists, including former champions Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans.

The show is credited with helping the UFC break into the mainstream after the resounding success of its first season and an epic finale between Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.

Pichel was aiming to follow in Griffin and Bonnar’s footsteps when he entered the cage with Iaquinta.

Contestants are divided into two teams coached by current UFC fighters.

Pichel was chosen by current Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. The opposing team was coached by top contender Urijah Faber.

Normally, the show only shoots for approximately six weeks with competitors completely isolated from the outside world, their every move documented.

Peterson has coached Pichel for five years at BJMUTA and hasn’t been allowed contact with his fighter since the show began shooting in March.

Friday night, the lightweight’s coaches and supporters watched intently at Gameday Sports Grille & Bar in Valencia.

“If he loses, I definitely feel like I lost,” Peterson said. “I have to say the other way works the same, too. When he wins, I feel like I won.”

Pichel fought through Iaquinta’s first-round takedowns and leg kicks and continued to push the pace into the second round.
Cruz shouted instructions to his fighter:

“Nice, good overhand.” 

“Keep the jab out.”

“Follow with an upper-cut.”

Both fighters traded punches and bloodied the other’s face.

Refusing to slow down, Pichel even knocked out Iaquinta’s mouthpiece.

“What a fight turned in by Iaquinta and Pichel,” shouted announcer Jon Anik during the broadcast.

When the second-round bell rang, the judges were ready with a decision – a unanimous victory for Iaquinta.

Disbelief descended upon Gameday.

“I was kind of hoping there would be a third (round), you know,” a composed Pichel told Anik after the fight. “That second round looked kind of close. They probably gave it to him from the leg kicks. He was landing leg kicks on me. I don’t know man, he was a better man tonight. He got me.”

With a final “Thank you” and a kiss to the camera, Pichel’s time on the show ended.

However, his time in the UFC is just beginning, Peterson said.

“He’s already shown he’s the kind of guy that they want,” he said. “He doesn’t move backward, he fights forward, and he shows the heart and determination they are looking for at that level. … He goes for the finish every time.”

Pichel was 10-1 as an amateur and won each of his professional fights via knockout or technical knockout.

His first two victories on “The Ultimate Fighter” came by submission before claiming a decision victory in the quarterfinals.
Both submissions earned him $5,000 bonuses.

“When you compete and do something you have been working on, it’s a great feeling,” said Felicia Oh, Pichel’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach and a former BJJ world champion. “But when you’ve built someone else, and then they’ve taken what skills you’ve taught them and then bring that to another place with a lot of success, it’s an amazing feeling. You’ve gotten to share what you’ve worked so hard to learn with someone else, and they’ve done something fantastic and wonderful and amazing with it, too.”

Pichel is actually the second fighter from BJMUTA to make the show. Joe Henle competed in 2010, but only spent a short time training at BJMUTA. He lost his only fight on the show.

Only five years into his training, Peterson believes Pichel is just scratching the surface of his potential.

“He’s even in everything,” Peterson said. “He’s so well balanced. His jiu-jitsu is about as good as his wrestling, which is just about as good as his striking. He’s not great at anything; he’s not. He’s a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But he is working to be pretty damn good.”

Meaning...

“He’s just getting going,” Peterson said.

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