LAS VEGAS – Sam Sicilia lost the fight, but he got a vote of confidence from his potential future employer.
During Friday's new episode of "The Ultimate Fighter: Live" on FX, Chris Saunders upset Sicilia via split decision after the opening-round fight surprisingly didn't go to a tiebreaker third round.
"They both deserved to go to that third round," UFC president Dana White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) after the fight, which took place at the UFC Training Center in Las Vegas. "They both deserved a third round."
Saunders, who was Urijah Faber's eighth and final pick (and the 16th pick out of 16 cast members), took out Dominick Cruz's second pick with the victory. But the judges' verdict – 20-18, 20-18 and 18-20 scores for Saunders – didn't go over well with many viewers.
Saunders landed a flush head kick and floored his opponent in the first round, but Sicilia quickly recovered and put together a competitive second-round rally. Many viewers felt he won the round to force a tie.
Instead, the judges declared Saunders the winner (Adelaide Byrd and Tony Weeks had it for Saunders, and Patricia Morse Jarman scored it for Sicilia), and White was left wondering what if.
"The third round would have decided that fight," he said. "They were both exhausted, and it's always that third round that breaks somebody.
"The thing that drives me crazy is when guys who come into this house – and not even "TUF," but the UFC too – and they give it 100 percent and give it [expletive] everything they have, and [the judges] pull something that shouldn't happen."
Saunders now advances to the quarterfinal round. While not an exact science, that means he's very likely to get an official UFC booking and fight on the undercard of the show's live finale even if he advances no further.
But don't count out the possibility of Sicilia – who entered "TUF" with a perfect 10-0 pro record – getting a second chance, too. When it comes to future possibilities, he impressed the most important person.
"I'm thrilled with both those guys," White said. "I think Sicilia got robbed of the opportunity of going to a third round, though. But great fight."