The welterweight final for The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America is now set after the latest semifinal matchup took place on an episode that also featured a slew of guest appearances.
Before Erick Montano met Vernon Ramos in the Octagon, the fighters in the house all started to lament the final days as the excitement that once filled them upon arriving has now turned into boredom and anxiety as they wait to get unleashed so they can return home again.
The monotony of living in the house with no contact with the outside world has started to make more than a few of the fighters a little stir crazy, and it's impossible for those feelings not to affect both Montano and Ramos as they get ready for their fight this week. In past seasons, some of the competitors who are the last to perform on the show find that it's tough to get great training or even accessible training partners to help them push the pace for weight cuts and last minute touches before a fight.
In Ramos' case, he has to deal with the doubts of an entire team as he walked into his fight with Montano as a heavy underdog after already pulling off a big win in his last bout against Wilmer Fernandez. Ramos has been fighting an uphill battle all season long as one of the least experienced fighters on the show, and even his coach Efrain Escudero has to remind him and the rest of the team what advantages he could have going into this final bout.
While Ramos certainly faced a physical disadvantage going into his matchup against Montano as the smaller, less experienced fighter, he still had plenty to fight for with thoughts of his father still lingering in his head ahead of his second bout in the competition. Ramos spoke openly a few weeks back about how his father disappeared several years ago and never returned home, and while the government has promised to look into his case, there's still no closure for his family to find out if he's alive or dead. Ramos has chosen to be inspired by his father, who was a huge UFC fan while he was growing up, but it leaves him with a heavy heart throughout the competition as he tries to honor the man who gave him the inspiration to get into the sport in the first place.
As Ramos deals with loss and a feeling of self-doubt, Montano prepares for their fight with confidence and a chance to make his family at home in Mexico proud, just like his older brother Augusto “Dodger” Montano did when he got the call to join the UFC roster a year ago. The younger Montano brother has talked about living in the shadow of Dodger while both were rising stars coming out of Mexico, but he really looks up to him and wants to make him proud by following in his footsteps.
Montano gets an even bigger boost this week as Dodger surprises his younger brother with a visit just days before his fight with Ramos. Dodger is one of the UFC's top rising stars out of Latin America, and he was excited to see his brother and give him moral support as he got ready to fight. Dodger even promised to stick around to watch Erick's performance, which helped the younger Montano relax and feel even closer to home with his big brother in the audience.
Unfortunately, Montano's visit had the opposite effect on Ramos, who was reminded once again that his father wouldn't be in the audience to see him perform. It's a loss that has haunted him for years, and seeing his opponent celebrate the arrival of his sibling only made it tougher that he knew his father wouldn't be there to watch and wouldn't even be there once he got home to Panama again.
Elsewhere in the show this week, former Ultimate Fighter season one winner Diego Sanchez returned once again after helping out Team Escudero a week ago, this time lending his support to Team Gastelum. Sanchez was a welcome addition to the training sessions for Escudero's squad and it's the same for Gastelum, as the veteran UFC fighter helped pass along a few tips both inside and outside the cage for the young group of hopefuls that look to join him in the Octagon one day.
Following the training session with Sanchez, it was finally time for Montano and Ramos to battle it out for the other spot in the finals, with the winner taking on Enrique Marin on November 21 in Mexico.
Montano immediately showed his power and dominance during an early exchange with Ramos where he connected with a huge left hook that sent his opponent crashing to the canvas. Montano followed Ramos to the ground, where he started to hammer away with elbow strikes as the referee warned the Team Escudero fighter to show signs of defense or he would stop the action. Ramos found the will to pull guard and keep Montano from inflicting any more damage, and a moment later as he squirmed for a submission attempt, he actually reversed positions and landed on top.
Ramos tried to land some ground-and-pound as he maintained control, but Montano worked his way back up to the feet before the two fighters engaged in a quick scramble for control. This time it was Montano that won out, as he latched on to Ramos and quickly turned to take his back before wrapping an arm underneath the chin, looking for the rear naked choke. As the two fighters fell back to the canvas, Ramos winced as Montano locked on the hold, and a second later he had no choice but to tap out or go to sleep.
Montano celebrated the victory while his older brother cheered him on from the stands, and he now moves on to the finale, where he faces Enrique Marin from Spain to crown the next Ultimate Fighter: Latin America champion.
Next week, on the final episode of the series, Cezar Arzamendia will look for another big knockout win as he takes on Enrique Barzola in ta lightweight semifinal and Efrain Escudero welcomes in his teammate, former lightweight champion Benson Henderson, to help his guys as the season comes to a close.