The incredible start to The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 for Team Shogun continued in the latest episode, as upstart prospect Bruno “Korea” Mesquita took care of Leandro Higo by rear naked choke in the first round of what turned out to be one of the best fights of the entire season.
Before the fighters stepped into the cage together, the two teams first spent some time this week looking back at the previous week's matchup between Glaico Franca and Nikolas Motta. While it's not uncommon for fighters on the reality show to hold some kind of ill will towards each other before, during and after the competition, that couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to Franca and Motta.
The two fighters actually sit down at the dining room table to discuss and break down what happened in their bout while teammates do the same to kick off the episode this week.
No matter how good the relationship is between the fighters from Team Shogun and Team Nogueira, it's impossible to ignore the one-sided nature of the actual tournament that will eventually crown a new Ultimate Fighter champion. Team Shogun won four fights in a row going into the week and also earned victories in both of the team competitions that took place so far this season.
"They're filled with hate but we thrive on that," one member of Team Shogun is heard saying this week as they prepare for another showdown with Team Nogueira.
The team competition this week once again went to Team Shogun, which earned them a much needed “vacation” at the Stratosphere Hotel as well as a trip on the rollercoaster that sits on top of the historic building in the middle of Las Vegas.
The fighters had to test their strength and will, as a lightweight fighter was hoisted up on a hook, strapped and dangled over water, while a bantamweight fighter held on to them in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guard with the winner being determined by who could hold on longer before finally dropping into the pool below. As time passed, the teams were allowed to spray the other with water guns, but the real agony started when the minutes ticked away and the bantamweight fighters eventually had to drop down to only holding on to their teammates by the arms.
At the 30-minute mark it was clear the lactic acid was building up in the muscles for the fighters on both sides of the competition, but eventually the grip began to slip on Team Nogueira's side and the bantamweight fighter fell into the pool, signifying yet another win for Team Shogun.
"We're winning everything!" Team Shogun chanted after the victory.
It would be easy to say that maybe they are getting a little overconfident at this point in the competition, but with four wins in the fights and three more in the team competitions, Team Shogun has earned the right to feel a little cocky.
When it comes down to the preparation for the fight itself, Higo's battle begins with the scale as he tries to cut down to 135 pounds for the bantamweight matchup with Mesquita.
Higo is a big bantamweight, and his concern about cutting down several times during the competition was weighing heavy on his mind, which can obviously translate into even bigger issues when trying to shed those last few pounds. Higo's misery even carried over into the gym when he went in to train with the rest of the fighters from Team Nogueira, but as his legs tightened up and his body stopped reacting, he knew something was going terribly wrong.
"I came in wanting to train," Higo said. "When I started training I had a lot of clothes on and I began to feel strange and my legs felt stiff."
The sickness felt from cutting weight eventually forced Team Nogueira to pull Higo off the mats and make him get something to eat so he could continue the weight cut later in the day. His coach, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, came to the house to help him through the rigors of shedding the last few pounds, and as he hit the scale and it read that he was under the 136-pound weight limit, it was like he already came away victorious.
While Higo's battle was against the scale, Mesquita was trying to earn respect as he was definitely being underrated going into the bout after only four professional fights on his record. Mesquita picked up the flashiest win of the elimination rounds with a spinning back kick knockout similar to what Uriah Hall did to Adam Cella in one of the most infamous finishes in Ultimate Fighter history. Mesquita is dealing with the expectations Hall did after getting that win, yet there are still a lot of questions about this relative newcomer to the sport.
As it turns out, Mesquita was more than willing to answer the challenge as he stepped into the Octagon against Higo in one of the most thrilling, back and forth battles of the season.
Despite his love of striking, Mesquita showed no fear of taking Higo to the ground early, although that strategy nearly backfired after the Team Nogueira fighter found his balance on the mat and begin reversing positions. The scrambles moved fast and furiously, but eventually Higo landed on Mesquita's back and for a moment his forearm slipped under the chin and it looked as it Team Nogueira's fortune was finally about to change.
It was all for naught.
Mesquita slipped out and from there he was aggressive in getting back his position on the ground while it was clear the weight cut zapped Higo in those final exchanges. During one scramble, Mesquita slipped his leg under Higo's hip and quickly jumped to take his back before locking on a rear naked choke of his own. The hold was tight and it was clear after a few very fast encounters on the ground that Higo wasn't getting free this time.
He tapped out and Mesquita celebrated as Team Shogun moved to 5-0 in the competition.
"He was the favorite, but I couldn't afford to lose," Mesquita said after the fight.
With yet another victory secured, Shogun Rua quickly moved to make the next lightweight matchup in the tournament, as he selected Joaquim “Netto BJJ” Silva to face Erick Da Silva in a bout between two premier grapplers in the competition. With only three fights to go until the semifinal round matchups are made, Team Nogueira will lean on Da Silva heavy this week to hopefully put their first fighter into the next round of the tournament.
If not, Team Shogun will be just two wins away from a clean sweep, which would be the first time in Ultimate Fighter history that has ever happened.