TUF’s Chris Saunders: “Kick Them In The Head; Put Their Face On The Canvas…That’s How You’re Going To Prove Yourself.”
By Tom Taylor
When Vince Pichel and Chris Saunders lock horns on tonight’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Live, it will be the second time either man has fought since the tournament commenced. Pichel, who defeated Cody Pfister by submission to secure a spot in the house, went on to win his first tournament fight against John Cofer, also by submission. Saunders secured his spot in the tournament by defeating Chase Hackett by unanimous decision, and later secured his quarter-final spot by decisioning Sam Sicilia. Tonight, in what will be the second tournament fight for both men, (and third including elimination bouts) Pichel and Saunders will square off, vying for a place in tournament’s semi-finals.
Despite the large number of fights shoehorned into a small timeframe, Pichel said that while it is difficult, a careful approach makes fighting so frequently manageable.
“Definitely, I was thinking a lot about fighting three times in a row. I’m one of the bigger guys here and it’s not easy for me to cut weight, but as long as I stay on my diet I can do it. The main thing is not getting injured.”
Saunders, who is in a similar situation, was equally optimistic about the high density of fights that TUF competitors are faced with.
“It is in the back of mind; the fact that I might have to win three fights in a row to win this competition, but right now I’m trying to look at it fight by fight. Right now I have Vinc Pichel in front of me, so that’s the most important and the biggest fight of my life right now. If the fight after that in the semi-finals comes, then that’s the biggest fight of my life right there, and when the finale comes, that’s the biggest fight of my life. I’m just taking it fight by fight right now, and that’s really how you have to keep your mindset in this house,” Saunders said.
When this season of TUF began, Pichel and Saunders seemed to have very different roles on the show. Pichel, who entered the show with an unblemished, 6-0 record, had also secured each of his prior wins by knockout, and was therefore on the radar of his cast mates and audience alike. In contrast, Saunders was this season’s last pick, making him the tournament’s dark-horse. Neither man was overly concerned with their varying roles in the contest, however.
“Well I’m sure opponents’ don’t take me lightly after that [Pichel’s 6-0 record], but they’re probably looking at me like I’m looking at them. I did finish everyone, but I still look at every guy like he’s the toughest fight I’ve had. I do think it plays a little bit, I mean they’re obviously thinking about that, they know I’m dangerous,” Pichel said. “As a fighter, I’m sure the guys are just like, ‘well he’s tough, but I’m tougher, and I’m going to go out there and take him out.’ I’m sure a lot of guys try not to think about that too much, because that kind of stuff will really mess with you and get in your head during a fight especially.”
Saunders approached his underdog status with a similarly nonchalant attitude.
“I’m definitely the dark horse. It’s definitely a role that I like. How do I prove that I belong here? Do exactly what I did in my last fight; try to put people away. Kick them in the head; put their face on the canvas, stuff like that. That’s how you’re going to prove yourself.”
The clash between Pichel and Saunders goes down onFX, in an episode that will boast an additional quarter-final scrap between Andy Ogle and Al Iaquinta, and the announcement of Coach Urjiah Faber’s new opponent following an injury sustained by his opposing coach, reigning bantamweight champ, Dominick Cruz.