Of the three fights inside the house of TUF Brazil so far, no fight was as close as the one between Rodrigo Damm (Team Vitor) and John "Macapa" Teixeira (Team Wanderlei). The confrontation pitted the international experience of Rodrigo against the unbeaten in national events status of Macapa. The result of the match after 15 minutes of war was a close decision, with Rodrigo Damm putting Team Vitor up 3-0 in the competition.
Rodrigo Damm has always been a specialist in cutting weight, whether in submission grappling, wrestling or MMA. In this type of pre-fight ritual, hydration is very important, as the athlete needs to regain the weight correctly without jeopardizing his performance. In the fight against Macapa, Rodrigo had a goal, to use his wrestling to take his opponent down seven times and finish the fight in the first round. Otherwise, he would have problems. "I wanted to finish quickly because I knew I would get tired if more rounds would come ahead," he said. "I felt that I had that weight regained satisfactory, and that would make me strong. So I exploded in the first round, taking the fight to the ground and trying to show the supremacy of my jiu-jitsu to him, which was also good and I knew it."
The goal was not achieved, and after the first five minutes which secured him a 10-9 nod, Rodrigo needed to keep the pace so he wouldn't let the victory escape. However, when he came back showing signs of fatigue, Macapa noticed and walked forward, trying to finish the fight. Rodrigo resisted bravely, but - when the bell rang ending the second round - he was told by the coaches that he didn't win that round. "I felt tired and stepped back a little. He [Macapa] was better at striking and walked up to me," Rodrigo said of the second round. "I couldn't get that pressure, and when I went to my corner [Luiz, boxing trainer] Dorea told me he thought I lost and I needed to move forward."
But how to move forward if Rodrigo was gassed out after the first round?
"There are times when you get desperate [due to physical burnout];we get too tired and we go with our heart. I placed the heart first. You can see my different attitude, I began to walk forward and tried to repeat what had worked in the first round. Many people don't know that the takedowns score many points, and I was not limited to it, as I tried to finish at the end of the fight too." The attempt to secure an arm lock (kimura) a few seconds before the end was the last attempt that Rodrigo tried on Macapa. The position is one of the favorites of the world champion of jiu-jitsu in 2002, but at that moment of the fight, overcoming the defense of Macapa would require much more strength than technique, and that was something he did not have left.
"If it were in another situation like in the first round, I think I could have done it. I've beaten many that way."
With performances in MMA events in Japan, Russia, Canada and USA, Rodrigo commented that the duel against Macapa was one of the toughest of his career. Sometimes the extra dose of experience comes from where you least expect it, and after fighting so many opponents from different schools around the world, it is hard to believe that something new can arise. But the reality show The Ultimate Fighter Brazil showed Rodrigo that the radar always needs to be on. "I tried to do enough to take the victory and at the end of the fight I knew I had accomplished that," said Rodrigo, who has nine wins and five losses in MMA events.
If the first performance of Damm (Team Vitor) in the quarterfinals of TUF Brazil was like that, imagine what lies ahead in the semifinals.