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The bad luck of Team Nogueira continued in last week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4, as Nikolas Motta fell to Glaico Franca in the fourth bout of the competition, putting Team Shogun up 4-0 so far with only four preliminary round fights remaining.
The new episode of kicks off this week with Franca, Motta and other fighters from the house breaking down the matchup just moments after the teams arrive home following the win for Team Shogun.
Franca and Motta fought a very close first round that could have gone either way on the judges' scorecards, but it was the second round where things changed dramatically. Franca was able to secure a takedown and lock up a rear naked choke to force Motta to tap out, which gave Team Shogun yet another wins as their confidence continued to grow.
Typically the way fight selections work on The Ultimate Fighter is that teams will try to pick the most favorable matchups for their strongest fighters in the opening rounds of the competition while they have control. Team Shogun has executed that plan to perfection as they put four of their strongest fighters through to the next round, but the upcoming matchup might be the first big gamble former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has made since joining the show.
Team Shogun selected 4-0 newcomer Bruno “Korea” Mesquita to face off with veteran fighter Leandro “Pitbull” Higo in the next bantamweight showdown. Mesquita made quite an impression in his debut to get into the house as he won with a spinning back kick that earned him the most dramatic knockout of the elimination fights to get into the house. Despite that flashy win, it's hard to ignore that Mesquita is still a largely unproven fighter with only four bouts to his name.
Meanwhile, Higo was probably considered one of the strongest fighters on Team Nogueira, especially considering he trains with the coaches there full-time when he's living at home in Brazil. Higo has his regular team surrounding him and a wealth of experience to draw on as he faces a relative newcomer in Mesquita this week.
Both fighters speak about their backgrounds in Brazil where Higo and Mesquita left behind family and children to be able to compete on this season of the show.
Before the battle begins in the Octagon, Higo has to spend a little extra time this week cutting weight as he gets down to the bantamweight limit. Higo normally fights at 135 pounds so the weight cut is nothing new to him, but what is unusual is the practice of making weight several times over the course of just a few weeks, so his body struggles to make the adjustment.
A great many fighters competing on the reality show over the years will actually go up a division so the weight cut isn't as tough or hard, especially considering they may have to hit the scale two or three times over the course of just six weeks of filming. In Higo's case, he's a natural bantamweight, but the concern about hitting the mark begins early this week as he tries to drop a few extra pounds before he's just hours away from standing on the scale and it's easy to tell this will not be an easy trip to 135 pounds for him.
Higo might be Team Nogueira's best chance to turn things around, especially with only four fights left to go in the preliminary round, and the last thing he needs to deal with is a weight cut gone wrong. Will the scale defeat Higo before he ever steps into the cage with Mesquita?
The teams will also engage in another competition this week, but much like the fights themselves, only Team Shogun has found success thus far in the two contests held between the fighters this season. The first victory earned Team Shogun a trip to go snowboarding outside of Las Vegas while the second win got them control of a future fight selection even if someone on their team comes out on the losing end.
This third competition swings the pendulum back to another fun activity for the fighters to enjoy while breaking away from the house for a few hours and Team Nogueira desperately needs to get a win to try and boost their morale and spirit, which has been broken week after week on the show thus far.
When it comes down to the fight breakdown this week it's a very interesting matchup between Higo and Mesquita. On one side there's Higo, who is a very experienced fighter with 15 bouts on his record and a slew of submissions to his credit.
Higo possesses knockout power as well, but he'll be the first to tell you that the ground is his home and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is his biggest strength. He has a dangerous top game, as well as counters from his back, and the rear naked choke seems to be his favorite submission although Higo also possesses a slick armbar that he can apply from anywhere on the mat.
As for Mesquita, he's much more unknown going into the fight, with only four bouts on his record. In his career, Mesquita has won three of his four fights by submission but he's definitely being pegged as a striker after his big knockout to start off the season. Mesquita might be able to surprise Higo with his well rounded skills if the fight does hit the ground, but then again, that's probably the exact place the Team Nogueira fighter hopes this fight lands.
Don't forget Higo has a battle with his weight cut as well this week so it might put the pressure on him to go out and finish quick or risk his gas tank depleting as the seconds tick away into minutes and the minutes disappear into rounds.
Can Team Nogueira finally get a win this week or is the competition destined to fall to Team Shogun once again? Tune into The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 this Monday on UFC FIGHT PASS to find out what happens.