Middleweights and heavyweights are the focus on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” which is coached by bitter rivals Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen.
Silva and Sonnen have spent years engaged in a war of words, and their time in the Octagon will finally come at the end of the season, with the pair set to meet May 31 in Brazil. In an interesting move, both squads this season will have female assistant coaches: Team Silva is joined by ex-volleyball star Isabel Salgado, while Team Sonnen has former women’s basketball great Hortencia Marcari.
Fighters must once again win to earn their entrance into the “TUF” house, and heavyweights are first into the cage for the elimination round. Goncalo Salgado, a former bodyguard for soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, dreams of being the first Portuguese fighter in the UFC. His opponent, Job Kleber, is a police officer from Sao Joao de Meriti, Rio de Janeiro, also known as “Cabo Job.”
Salgado scores an immediate takedown and then punishes Kleber with knees as they scramble up. Kleber tries takedowns, eating more punches and knees while shooting, but then, out of nowhere, lands a wide right hook on the temple which takes out Salgado’s equilibrium. Kleber lands a brutal head kick as Salgado goes down, and this one is finished in just over one minute, a stunning knockout for the Brazilian.
Middleweights are up next in an interstate showdown with two fighters from Minas Gerais. Paulo “Borrachinha” Costa, who stands out in crowd thanks to his bleached-blonde hair, takes down opponent Jose Robert Rocha and pummels him with ground-and-pound in the opening frame. Rocha tries to return the favor by shooting for a takedown in round two, but Costa is waiting with a standing guillotine choke which puts Rocha to sleep.
Jollyson Francino, a 30-year-old salesman from Recife, Pernambuco, goes up against Rio de Janeiro riot police officer Ewerton Rocha in the next heavyweight bout. Francino puts “Gigante” on the ground and pushes him over toward the fence, then methodically works into position for a fight-ended arm-triangle choke which comes midway through the opening round.
Highlights are shown of a middleweight bout between Paraiba-based prospect Joilton Santos and Rio de Janeiro’s Douglas Moura, husband of women’s boxing champ-turned-MMA fighter Duda Yankovich. The match is described by the coaches as technical and evenly matched, enough so that a third round is required. In the end, it’s Santos who earns a split decision and a spot in the “TUF” house.
Heavyweight Felipe Dantas explains that he quit his job of 10 years because his employer wouldn’t give him time off to compete. Meanwhile, his opponent, Edgard Castaldelli, has a pregnant wife at home, and being at “TUF” means he won’t be home to see the birth of his son. In the duel with high personal stakes, it’s Edgard “Magrao” who emerges victorious. While coach Sonnen praises his head movement and boxing defense, it’s Castaldelli’s heavy ground-and-pound which bloodies Dantas and leads to a second-round stoppage.
In perhaps the most self-assured intro of the episode, Cristiano Pontes says that God prefers him to others because he is “pure.” Adversary Wagner Silva explains that he was married, but he “gave it up because it conflicted with my life,” which led to his becoming a full-time fighter. The match begins with both middleweights swinging to knock off each other’s blocks, but once the action hits the ground, it’s all “Wagnao.” Pontes gives up his back without much resistance and quickly succumbs to a rear-naked choke.
Willian Steindorf enters the Octagon looking intense with a purple mohawk, promising that his opponent will have to kill him in order to win. He’s up against renowned jiu-jitsu champ Ricardo Abreu, who nearly snaps Steindorf’s arm with a deep armbar in the first round. Steindorf survives to see the second stanza but eventually succumbs to ground and pound from “Demente,” whom both coaches peg as a potential tournament winner.
The episode’s final fight comes in the heavyweight division as Guilherme Viana squares off against Antonio Carlos. Carlos is nicknamed “Cara de Sapato,” which he says comes from his durable chin and the fact that his face looks like a shoe. His chin is hardly tested, though, as he stays on top of Viana early in the fight and fends off a kimura attempt from underneath. As Viana stands up halfway through the round, Carlos catches him with a heavy overhand right and a couple follow-up punches which prompt a stoppage.
Next week, the remaining eight spots will be decided as the preliminary round concludes, and coaches Silva and Sonnen will select their teams.