It was teammate versus teammate on the latest installment of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, as Team Escudero got put directly in the crosshairs with the semifinal round matchup between Horacio Gutierrez and Marco Polo Reyes, where only one of them would move on to the finals in Mexico.
Gutierrez and Reyes put on great fights earlier this season, but the real hardship going into their bout this week was the fact that they were roommates in the house as well. For the past weeks living in Las Vegas, Gutierrez and Reyes formed a bond as friends and teammates, but the fight did cause a fracture between the two competitors as the day drew near where one of them would win and the other would see his dream come to an end.
Gutierrez promised to do his job once the Octagon door closed, and while it was tough to consider beating his friend in the fight, the real problem he had to deal with was a skin infection he contracted sometime over the last few weeks while in training.
Gutierrez isn't the first fighter to deal with this kind of issue on The Ultimate Fighter. During the last season of the Latin America version of the show, Marlon Vera contracted a skin condition that not only hindered his training but ultimately knocked him out of the competition.
Thankfully, Gutierrez didn't have to deal with something quite so serious, but it still required him to put ointment on his skin and take medication that needed approximately five days to work, so it kept him on the sidelines and out of the cage. Gutierrez was forced to watch his opponent train while all he could do was hit pads and try to stay sharp while avoiding contact with his teammates out of fear of passing along whatever he had.
While Gutierrez dealt with his skin infection and Reyes prepared for the fight, Team Escudero had some decisions to make in regards to the coaches who would corner each of the fighters in the semifinal matchup. Coach selection ended up as a much bigger issue for Team Gastelum last week when two of their fighters faced off in the welterweight division, but coach Efrain Escudero decided to keep things simple and diplomatic for his guys.
Escudero flipped a coin, with the winning fighter choosing his cornermen. Then the other side would do the same while he would join the rest of the team sitting on the bench cheering them on and not training either one ahead of the fight.
As the fighters got into the final hours of training before weighing in and facing off, Ultimate Fighter season one winner Diego Sanchez paid a visit to the gym to meet the competitors from Team Escudero and walk them through a few training techniques. Sanchez is a legend from the first season of the show and he's faced a who's who list of fighters during a UFC career that's spanned the last decade, and this was his chance to give back to the next generation of Ultimate Fighters.
"I'm back where it started to give back to the younger guys," Sanchez said. "I'm here to help, I'm here to spread some knowledge, some wisdom, some experience and let these younger guys know what got me where I am and why I'm still in the UFC."
Many of the fighters on the show weren't even in high school by the time Sanchez was wrapping up his Ultimate Fighter title, so it was a real treat for them to train with an iconic figure of the mixed martial arts scene. In addition to Sanchez's visit, the fighters also got the chance to escape the house this week and ride dune buggies all over the desert in Las Vegas.
Living inside the Ultimate Fighter house for six weeks might not sound too bad, but after about a month of not seeing anything but the four walls in the house and the gym, it can make anyone get a little stir crazy. The trip to the desert was the perfect escape for everyone to unwind, although it was clear that both Gutierrez and Reyes were more focused on what was going down between the two of them in just a matter of hours.
For his part, despite the time off due to the skin infection, Gutierrez was supremely confident taking on his teammate, and while it was tough to face a friend, he also knew Reyes very well from spending so much time sparring him during the season, and he believed it gave him a leg up when they actually fought in the Octagon. Gutierrez is a promising prospect out of Mexico, and he's definitely not lacking in the belief that he can conquer the world once he makes it to the UFC.
"No one has defeated me in any discipline," Gutierrez said.
It certainly seemed like Gutierrez was prophetic with his prediction because he put on a show in his fight against Reyes. The two Team Escudero fighters met in the center of the Octagon, unloading on each other with furious punches and kicks. Both fighters were winging hard shots, but it was Gutierrez who really started to set the pace with some devastating kicks to the legs and body, as he used good distance to keep Reyes guessing in the first minute of the fight.
Once he had his timing down, Gutierrez started to unload more combinations before he finally uncorked a huge left hand that clipped Reyes and put him down on the canvas. Reyes was dazed and clearly hurt, so it didn't take much from Gutierrez once he pounced on his prey to land a few more shots before the referee saw enough and stopped the fight.
Horacio Gutierrez has officially punched his ticket to the lightweight finals in Monterrey, Mexico on November 21.
"I fulfilled my dreams. I'll be in the final in Mexico," Gutierrez said with a smile.
Gutierrez becomes the second finalist following Enrique Marin's big win last week, and now there are only two fights left to go this season. The next matchup will determine Marin's opponent at the finale, as Team Gastelum fighter Erick Montano takes on Team Escudero's lone representative at 170 pounds, Vernon Ramos.
Don't miss a minute of the action between Montano and Ramos as the next Ultimate Fighter: Latin America finalist is chosen one week from today, only on UFC FIGHT PASS.