Season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter was the first and only season that has been done live. The season gave us some of today’s best 155-pound fighters as eight are still in the UFC to this day. Most notably, the winner, Michael “Maverick” Chiesa.
Chiesa defeated Al Iaquinta in the finals to earn the crown of TUF champion but along the way, he defeated one of the UFC’s current hottest rising contenders, James Vick.
“The Texicutioner” James Vick has been very vocal about how no one wants to fight him. Including his former TUF opponent, Chiesa. But for Chiesa, he sees no point as he told Submission Radio:
“Who cares, who cares about James Vick. Nope. Next. I’ll tell you one thing, this is the only thing I’m gonna say about James Vick, I knocked him out in the second round. Look at our common opponents. He sucks, that’s why he’s ranked below me. Next question.
James can get lost. James is not on my level. He needs to go somewhere else. Next question.”
Vick has only lost once in his fourteen fight career and just recently extended his current winning streak to four straight when he defeated Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 126 in Austin, Texas. Chiesa, on the other hand, has not fought since the UFC last visited Oklahoma City where he headlined against Kevin Lee and lost via first-round submission…but not without controversy.
“Kevin Lee’s a thing of the past, and after this [next] win my career trajectory is gonna surpass his and it will all be a thing of the past, for sure. Yeah, no, absolutely [it was a harder loss after seeing Lee fight for the interim title], because I would have beat Kevin, and when I would have beat Kevin I would have beat Tony [Ferguson]. I match up great against both guys. So yeah, it was a bummer to see Kevin go out there and laid an egg against Tony cause I would have won that fight, and I’m a firm believer in that. Some people might call me crazy, but I think it’s just logical, especially in my world.”
One fight per year has been Chiesa’s current pattern of activity as he hasn’t fought twice in one year since 2015 when he defeated Jim Miller and Mitch Clarke. Now, the Spokane, Washington resident, Chiesa is ready to start things off right in 2018 with a big win over a former UFC and WEC champion in Anthony Pettis.
“I love the match-up. I’m a top 10 ranked guy, I think I deserve to be put on a bigger stage against big-name opponents, and you know, this is one of the guys where it doesn’t get any bigger than this, you know what I mean? This guy is a former world champion, former pound for pound guy. This is the type of fight that I want. And a lot of people are kind of counting Anthony out because of his record in his last seven fights. He’s 2-5 in his last seven, but you gotta look at the guys who he’s fought and look how he fought them. The guy doesn’t break. He’s got a lot of fight in him, he went five rounds with [Rafael] Dos Anjos and was in the fight the whole time. He had a tough fight against Dustin Poirier. He’s fought Max Holloway. He’s fought the best of the best. And a lot of people, a lot of these casual fans write him off because he’s had losses, but I think the guy’s still just legit as fuck, you know what I mean? So, I’m not expecting a slouch, I’m expecting a very motivated Anthony Pettis. I’m expecting that champion-caliber fighter that we’ve seen in years past and I’m hoping that’s what I get on April 7th.
That’s something that me and my coaches talked about, is when you get a guy that’s been up and down, and you look at Dustin Poirier, I think the win against Pettis really, really shot him up in terms of the rankings and got him close to the title, and I just gotta do better than the last guy. And I mean, that’s easier said than done. You know, I’m expecting a really tough fight on April 7th, but that’s my plan, just to do better than the last guy. And I really, really, really am confident that I can do that. I’m in great shape right now, everything’s clicking, this camp is going good. So that is the plan, you nailed it, is that you just gotta do better than the last guy.”
April 7th is the date, UFC 223 is the event. Who else is on this card? Funny enough, the man Chiesa previously mentioned, Tony Ferguson who will be fighting for the lightweight title against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Chiesa has an idea as to who will win the massive title fight and is happy that it will be for the undisputed title and Conor McGregor will no longer be champion.
“If it’s a finish, it’s gonna be Tony. But if it’s a decision, it’s Khabib. And I think it’s going to go to a decision. I think Khabib is gonna win 3-2, split decision, but it’s gonna be a hard fight. He’s gonna get lumped up and cut up from the top. You know, Tony’s dangerous from bottom, so he’s really gonna have to go out there and earn it. His takedowns are obviously gonna be the equalizer in that fight, but Tony’s a different animal from the guard, so I think he’s gonna get kind of busted up from being on top. But if there’s a finish, it’s Tony. If there’s a decision, which it will be, It’s gonna be a split decision with Khabib.
That’s the biggest thing we need, we need movement. The 155-pound division has been log-jammed so many times. When Anthony was champion he had some injuries that held him out for a while, you know, so the division got jammed up. And then we had some movement, and then Conor won the title and we’re jammed up again, and you know, you just gotta keep the wheels in motion. It’s just good to see. Conor’s a two-time champion, but he can’t just sit and hold the belt and keep us all waiting. You know, there’s a lot of tough guys jocking for their position to be number one, and you only have so much time in this sport, so you can’t let one guy rob a bunch of us of our opportunities to fight for the belt.”
UFC 223 is loaded with some great lightweight action. How do you think things will shake out in one of MMA’s most stacked divisions?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/8/2018.