On last week’s episode, middleweight Marcio “Lyoto” Alexandre snapped a 0-4 start and claimed the first victory of the season for Team Sonnen. The celebration was short-lived, however, as the fighter suffered an injury to his left leg while throwing kicks in the fight.
Alexandre comes back to the fighter house with the leg immobilized in a cast. He tells the other competitors that he’ll be fine with a few days of ice and physical therapy, but the limb still needs to be reexamined the following day.
In the meantime, Wanderlei Silva selects the next heavyweight quarterfinal matchup from the four remaining big men. The coach chooses his last-picked heavyweight, Antonio Paulo “Montanha” Branjao, to go up against one of Chael Sonnen’s more experienced fighters, Vitor Miranda.
Miranda, who normally competes at 205 pounds, admits to being upset over the fight selection. He and Branjao are training partners outside of “TUF,” and the pair had only joked about potentially meeting in the reality show’s tournament. Branjao appears less conflicted, stating that they need to follow the orders of “President Wanderlei.”
Team Sonnen assistant coach Vinny Magalhaes notes that Silva was outraged during the first season of “TUF Brazil” when rival Vitor Belfort selected a fight between two friends.
“He’s a false moralist,” Magalhaes opines. “He says one thing, but he does another.”
Back at the house, Antonio “Cara de Sapato” Carlos is on the warpath after finding a kitchen full of dirty dishes. Teammate Ricardo Abreu helps with the cleanup, as does Team Sonnen’s Joilton Santos, who notes that he didn’t see Carlos washing any dishes.
Former UFC middleweight contender and current World Series of Fighting competitor Yushin Okami pays a visit to Team Sonnen at the gym. “Thunder” gets right into the mix, going toe-to-toe with Warlley Alves, Guilherme Vasconcelos and others in some hard sparring sessions.
It’s soon time for another outdoor challenge, and this one is called “The Bridge.” Each team sends six fighters to stand in two lines and move a series of wooden planks between them while four potential Octagon girls cross, one by one, over the moving bridge. The race is a dead heat until the fourth leg, when Team Silva pulls away and nabs the victory. As a reward, the team enjoys a spa day full of baths and massages.
The next morning, coach Sonnen shows up at the house with trays full of food for his squad. The fighters seem surprised at Sonnen’s generosity as they scarf down sushi and pasta. When Silva’s team returns to the house, Paulo “Borrachinha” Costa strikes up a conversation with Sonnen through a translator, asking whether the American has changed his views on Brazil. Ismael de Jesus is none too happy about his teammate “sucking up” to Sonnen and eating the food, but the incident passes.
As fight time nears, Branjao explains that he begin training jiu-jitsu and muay Thai at a young age after he was bullied in school for being overweight. His opponent, Miranda, started his athletic career as a basketball player but fell in love with fighting when he discovered muay Thai.
Miranda recounts the drowning death of his 4-year-old son in 2011, a tragedy which the Brazilian says he has harnessed in each fight since.
“I gathered all this grief,” Miranda explains, “and I transformed it into energy and motivation. Every win from that day on was dedicated to my son.”
It’s time for the weigh-in, where friends Miranda and Branjao have agreed to wear sunglasses and baseball caps to avoid an awkward faceoff. Branjao weighs in at 236 pounds and Miranda at 229, and their shades achieve the desired effect as both men exit the gym with smiles on their faces.
The fight begins and Branjao gets off to a good start, popping Miranda with a couple hooks before shoving the smaller man against the cage and working knees in the clinch. The heavyweights look very much like two friends fighting as they spend the first three minutes of the fight grappling for position on the fence. Once they separate, however, Branjao comes forward throwing heavy hands at Miranda, who answers with low kicks. Branjao gets caught off balance in a Thai clinch and tilts to the ground, allowing Miranda to stand over him and attack with more kicks.
The referee orders Branjao to stand with one minute left, and when the big man gets up, he looks tired. Miranda picks up the pace, cracking “Montanha” with low kicks before throwing a sweet body-head punching combination. A right hook upstairs drops Branjao to the canvas, where Miranda pounces and unloads with left hands until the referee intervenes. It’s a first-round technical knockout for Miranda, improving Team Sonnen’s record to 2-4.
There aren’t many dry eyes in the gym after the fight, and Miranda is quick to console the distraught Branjao. The fighters embrace as they return to their respective locker rooms, and Branjao assures Miranda that he holds no grudge, that it’s all in a day’s work. Nonetheless, once he’s out of Branjao’s sight, Miranda breaks down, sobbing uncontrollably after eliminating his friend from the competition.
“I didn’t stop a friend’s dream, but I did postpone it,” Miranda says after calming down. “I had to do it for me and my family.”