Just over a week ago, Enrique Marin was trying to probe his coaches for advice on how he could get over the mental roadblocks that had him feeling like it was the first time he stepped in the cage, despite more than 10 bouts on his professional record.
Marin certainly wasn't the first competitor on The Ultimate Fighter to deal with anxiety and nervousness going into a fight, but he openly admitted that his internal strife had become a distraction that opponents would eventually feast upon if he didn't get it under control. Of course, minutes after Marin expressed his own confidence issues, Team Escudero chose him to face off with their No. 1 pick, Kevin Medinilla, in the latest welterweight bout taking place on the show this week.
Medinilla impressed his coach Efrain Escudero from the very start of the show, and he was just champing at the bit to get his chance to finally prove his worth by stepping into the Octagon and getting a win for his team. Unlike his opponent, Medinilla was brimming with confidence as the two fighters stared each other down, and as soon as they went back to the locker room, Team Escudero was convinced they were about to tie the competition at two wins apiece.
"I know that in his mind, Kevin has already defeated him," Escudero said about the matchup. "We already know he's afraid and he's nervous and Kevin is ready to fight."
Medinilla claims that Marin was even shaking during their staredown, and that only added extra fuel for him to go out and stomp the Team Gastelum fighter while showing why he was the top pick on the show.
Meanwhile, back at the house this week, the fighters from Team Gastelum are a little unsettled about the fact that Team Escudero hasn't paid up on their bet from a couple of weeks ago. Leading into the fight between Erick Montano and Marco Olano, Team Escudero and Team Gastelum wagered that the losing side in the bout would be forced to take their mattresses and pillows out to the tennis courts and sleep out under the stars for a night. There are much worse places than Las Vegas in the middle of summer to get stuck with when forced to sleep outside, but Team Escudero still hasn't lived up to their end of the bargain.
The representatives from Team Gastelum finally decide to confront them this week while admitting they gave Team Escudero a slight reprieve after Olano lost the fight when his arm got broken on a takedown. Still, a bet is a bet and they expect compensation for being the winning team. Instead of camping out on the tennis courts for a night, Team Escudero opts to offer one more bet - double or nothing - and the losing team would be forced to clean the entire house, from top to bottom, while wearing bunny ears. Where the idea to have anyone wear bunny ears came from is unknown, but it's an embarrassing enough prospect that Team Gastelum happily accepts while putting the weight of their team's success on the shoulders of Enrique Marin.
Marin is still trying to get his wits about him as he prepares to face off with Medinilla in just a matter of hours, so his coaches give him another mental exercise that will also test his physical abilities as well. Marin is forced to jump into an ice bath, which is routinely used by high performance athletes to aid in muscle recovery following a hard workout, but it also takes a strong mind to calm the brain after the shock of being exposed to below freezing temperatures.
Marin definitely wasn't prepared for the ice cold water and nearly abandoned the training technique immediately, but his teammates stood by his side and used this as a tool to get his mind ready for the fight. While Marin shivered, his teammates repeatedly told him to focus on his opponent and to just think about victory while having his hand held high in the Octagon. Marin made it through the brutal five-minute ice bath while conquering his own bad thoughts in the process.
When it came time to fight, Marin endured a hard-fought first round as Medinilla came storming out of the gates looking to overwhelm the Team Gastelum welterweight. Medinilla tagged Marin with a few hard punches as he blasted across the cage and then pinned Marin against the wall before initiating a takedown. It looked like Medinilla was in control until Marin eventually worked his way back to the feet and started to mount a comeback.
Marin began outpunching Medinilla with crisp combinations and a snapping jab that popped his opponent in the face while his head wobbled with each punch. The second round saw more of the same as Marin was clearly the fresher fighter, and he took advantage of Medinilla's inability to keep his hands up after the first few minutes.
Marin started the round with a gorgeous reversal on the mat following a takedown from Medinilla that ended with a kimura from the bottom. Marin applied the shoulder lock but actually used the hold to force Medinilla to roll over and give up his position. From that moment on, Marin was in complete control as he outstruck and outworked Medinilla for the remaining part of the round.
When it was over, Marin was declared the winner by majority decision as Team Gastelum regained control while knocking out Efrain Escudero's top pick.
"I was tired and he won," Medinilla said after the loss.
With the next fight selection, Gastelum moved back to the lightweight division, where he chose Jonathan Ortega to take on Team Escudero fighter Enrique Barzola. As confident as Escudero was in his fighter going into the week, Gastelum sounded just as sure that Ortega would take out Barzola to keep his team in control.
"Jonathan's level of jiu-jitsu will be higher than Enrique's level of fight," Gastelum said. "So I believe he'll finish this fight by submission."
Is Gastelum right on the money or will Escudero be able to get his fighter ready in time to get another win for his team? The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 returns next Wednesday on UFC FIGHT PASS.