The latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 saw another member of Team Shogun punch a ticket to the next round of the tournament, but the victory didn't come with its own share of defeat as the group said goodbye to Giovanni “Soldado” Santos after a mounting array of injuries forced him to drop out of the competition.
The situation got even stranger by the end of the episode after UFC President Dana White had to eventually go through two alternate fighters before finally settling on the final matchup in the bantamweight division, but more on that a little later.
Before Soldado learned his fate, the fighters stayed focused and ready to help Joaquim “Netto BJJ” Silva and his opponent Erick da Silva prepare for the upcoming matchup in the lightweight division.
With Team Shogun already in control with five straight victories, another win by Netto BJJ would assure them the majority of the fighters in the semifinal round with only two fights left to go in the opening round of the competition. Stylistically, Netto BJJ had a great chance at victory going into his fight with da Silva as a predominant striker with solid takedown defense while going up against a Team Nogueira fighter who clearly wanted to take this battle to the ground.
The fighters both give some additional information about their backgrounds this episode, with da Silva's story really pulling at the heartstrings. The young Brazilian fighter left home to travel to the United States to pursue his dream just like the other 15 competitors on the show, but he had to leave behind his father, who is currently awaiting surgery, and that left him in a fragile mindset going into his bout this week.
According to da Silva, his father has an umbilical hernia, which requires surgery, but as of yet he hasn't been able to schedule the procedure and so he's still suffering back at home. While it was tougher than he could ever imagine to leave his family behind, da Silva says that knowing that his father is at home fighting gives him all the strength he needs to go forward and win to make it to the UFC.
From Netto BJJ and da Silva going under the spotlight, the attention soon turns to Soldado, who is living under Murphy's Law right now -- whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
A week ago, Soldado suffered injuries to his shoulder and groin during training that hampered his ability to practice alongside his teammates. To make matters worse, time is dwindling down before he'll be forced to compete, as the first round is starting to wind down with only a couple of matchups left. Soldado is still feeling the effects of his injuries this week, and to compound his misery, he also contracted some kind of bacterial infection that sends him to the doctor.
While the diagnosis wasn't bad enough to force Soldado off the show, he does have to wear a mask around the house to avoid infecting his housemates, but little did he know at the time that the cure would actually be worse than the disease.
Just days after receiving a round of antibiotics to treat the infection, Soldado heads back into training with the rest of the members of Team Shogun and it doesn't take long before the room starts to spin, his stomach turns sour and he's forced back to the sidelines. The medicine that Soldado has to take to cure his bacterial infection has an unfortunately high amount of side effects that leave him barely functioning in practice.
In the back, Soldado breaks down and cries to his teammates and coaches because all he ever wanted to do was compete on The Ultimate Fighter, and his journey might be over before it ever really begins.
"I have to fight, coach, I have to fight. Please let me fight," Santos pleads with his coaches.
Eventually, Soldado has to listen to his body, so UFC president White pays a visit to the gym, where he accepts the Brazilian's surrender as he officially leaves the competition. It was an emotionally charged goodbye for Soldado, as he had become a friend and mentor to many of the fighters on the team, but now he's on his way back to Brazil after losing out on the competition without ever stepping back into the Octagon.
With Soldado off the show, White turns his attention to Leandro “Pitbull” Higo and offers him the spot to replace Soldado. The only problem is it's clear Higo isn't physically ready after his bout with Bruno “Korea” Mesquita a week ago and his own internal doubts are as plain as day to see on his face. Still, Nogeuira convinces Higo to take the fight so he accepts.
The next day marks the bout between Netto BJJ and da Silva, and the two fighters engaged in a brutal war of attrition, with each one trying to find a way to get the upper hand on the other. The first round was an excellent display of heart and will by da Silva, who avoided the biggest strikes launched at him by Netto BJJ, and he countered with some heavy shots of his own. Where da Silva made a massive mistake was with his pressure to drag the fight to the ground. His takedowns were telegraphed and by the second round it was clear that da Silva's conditioning could be a major concern.
Following a lackluster showing through round one, Netto BJJ powered back in round two and dropped da Silva to the mat briefly with a power shot. He couldn't quite put an end to the fight, so the two competitors entered round three, but it was clear at this point that Netto BJJ was in complete control.
Netto BJJ cracked da Silva with a huge barrage of punches, including one that opened up a cut just over the eye that nearly forced a stop to the fight. The doctors allowed da Silva to continue, but the rest of the round was just like the first part, and when it was over, Netto BJJ got the win, putting Team Shogun up 6-0 in the competition.
Once the fight was over, the fighters got some more bad news, as Higo was also forced to withdraw from the competition because his ribs still weren't healed following his battle with Mesquita a few days earlier. So now both Soldado and Higo are out of the competition for good and in their place steps another Team Nogueira member, Reginaldo Viera, who will face his teammate Matheus Mattos for the final spot in the next round of the tournament.
It was a topsy-turvy turn of events, and as much as Team Nogueira would like to celebrate the fact that they will put at least one fighter into the next round of the competition, it's going to come at the expense of a teammate.
Will this fissure in the team tear them apart or can Mattos and Viera put on a show to prove what Team Nogueira is made of and actually draw them closer? Find out when The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 returns.