It was a bittersweet week for Team Shogun on the last episode of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4. After winning their sixth straight fight, as Joaquim Silva defeated Team Nogueira fighter Erick da Silva, the group also had to say good bye to Giovanni “Soldado” Santos after a litany of injuries prevented the Brazilian from staying in the competition any longer.
The win by Silva helped push Team Shogun to 6-0 overall, but the loss of Soldado was a soul crushing defeat for the team, considering the leadership he provided and the friendship he shared with everyone on the show. He was forced to leave the competition after his injuries were compounded by a bacterial infection that required antibiotics, making it nearly impossible for him to train any longer. Soldado chose to leave the show, but the loss to his team will reverberate throughout the latest episode as the fighters from Team Shogun try to recoup following his exit.
Soldado's exit also meant somebody would have to return to replace him, and considering everybody who has fought from Team Shogun so far has been victorious, the option had to come from the Team Nogueira side. Leandro “Pitbull” Higo accepted the offer, but ultimately had to back out because he was still banged up from his last fight, so Reginaldo Vieira got the spot instead. It means this week we are guaranteed to see at least one Team Nogueira fighter go through to the next round of the tournament as Vieira faces highly-touted striker Matheus Mattos with a spot in the semifinal round awaiting the winner.
While it's unfortunate that Team Shogun's win streak will be broken, the guys will also have time to rest and recover while commiserating over the loss of Soldado. Coach Maurcio “Shogun” Rua will spend some time in practice making sure that the fighters are adequately prepared to move forward despite the loss of a friend and teammate on the show. His goal is to get as many of them into the next round of the tournament as possible and the focus has to remain on the grand prize at the end of the show, no matter how much they are heartbroken to see a friend leave the show without ever really having the chance to compete.
To help them get their minds right before returning to the competition a week from now, Team Shogun will get some relaxation in the form of cashing in on their win over Team Nogueira from a couple of weeks back, where they earned a trip to the Stratosphere for a night spent atop the casino and hotel where they will enjoy some of the rollercoasters on hand for the night.
Team Shogun will be joined by the lovely Octagon Girl hopefuls, as well as a member of Team Nogueira - who defects to the other side when he's invited to join them for the night atop the Stratosphere. With Soldado gone, it means they have an open spot for someone to join them and so a fighter from Team Nogueira gets the invite and accepts the chance to hang out with Team Shogun for a night in Las Vegas.
Needless to say, the fighter who opts to accept an invitation from the other team won't be the most popular with his own teammates when he returns home from the night out on the town.
While one member of Team Nogueira risks being outcast for a spin on a rollercoaster, the rest of the guys begin preparing Vieira and Mattos for their upcoming fight to put one of the bantamweights into the next round of the tournament.
On the positive side of this fight is that the outcome is guaranteed to put at least one member of Team Nogueira into the next round of the tournament. The negative is the fact that one fighter will have his dream ended by a friend and teammate while the entire bout could splinter the team down the middle as they – including the coaches - are forced to choose sides to help push Mattos and Vieira closer to the finish line.
It's going to be tough on Team Nogueira this week, but everything is made a little easier by the fact that Mattos and Vieira have been very close all season long and promise to remain that way before and after their upcoming showdown. Can these two warriors maintain a friendship while one of them tries to put an end to the other in a fight? We'll find out this week.
As far as the matchup goes, this is as even a fight as we've seen all season outside of the fact that Vieira just fought a few weeks ago, losing a very close decision to Matheus Nicolau from Team Shogun.
There's a reason why Mattos was the last fighter from Team Nogueira to be selected for a matchup with Team Shogun, because he was an early favorite to win the competition. Mattos is an 8-0 prospect with a fierce finishing style that includes a vast Muay Thai background with a variety of punches and kicks that can all put an end to an opponent's night. Add to that the fact that Mattos is a full time member of Team Nogueira in Brazil and he's got the bonus of working with the same coaches on the show that he works with at his home gym.
Vieira is a well-rounded fighter, but given his three-round war earlier this season, combined with Mattos' striking-heavy style and there's a good chance he's going to want to take this fight to the ground. Vieira didn't take a ton of damage in his fight with Nicolau, but it's still going to be rough to turn around and fight without really having any time to prepare, especially while facing a teammate and friend.
The odds seem to favor Mattos, but Vieira has been given the rare gift of a second chance. Considering how he believes the judges robbed him the last time around, Vieira may leave nothing to chance and leave it all in the Octagon this week. That could mean bad news for Mattos.
To find out which Team Nogueira member will move onto the next round of the tournament, make sure to watch The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 this week on UFC FIGHT PASS.