Heading into this week's fight on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2, it appeared that Team Escudero fighter Enrique Barzola was a slight underdog in his matchup with Team Gastelum's submission specialist Jonathan Ortega, but after three hard-fought rounds, it was clear that the odds didn't matter much in this showdown.
Barzola showed a ton of confidence when the matchup was made while never showing any trepidation in facing Team Gastelum's best grappler on the mat. Former Ultimate Fighter finalist Uriah Hall said in the lead up to this bout that Ortega was the real deal on the ground and even joked that he thought he caught Efrain Escudero in a submission once upon a time as well.
Ortega had a lot riding on the fight as well after giving up his career as a natural sciences teacher in his home country of Chile to travel all the way to Las Vegas for a shot at fighting in the UFC. Ortega knows his family isn't exactly enthusiastic about this particular job, but he's dreamed of fighting in the UFC for years and now he's only a few wins away from a guaranteed contract and a life-changing situation.
Ahead of the latest matchup in the lightweight division, the fighters are paid a visit by former Mexican national soccer coach Miguel “El Piojo” Herrera, who is a celebrity in his home country, and most of the fighters are smiling ear to ear when he arrives. But Herrera isn't there to just give the guys a motivational speech - he's in Las Vegas to invite the fighters from Team Gastelum and Team Escudero to another competition, and this time they'll be playing soccer.
The friendly match ends up as a four-on-four style game with two 10-minute halves, but here's the catch: the losing side will have to wash the winning team's van that they use to travel from the house to the gym and do it while wearing nothing more than a thong. Now that might seem like a punishment for the losing team, but why the winners would want to watch that might make everybody a loser in this competition. Either way, that's the wager.
From the beginning of the match, Team Gastelum seems more in tune with this particular game as they go up 1-0 in the early part of the game before rocketing home another goal to get them a big lead with just minutes left in the second period. Team Escudero finally finds a home for the ball in the net late in the second half, but by that point it was already too late and they go down in yet another crushing defeat as Team Gastelum wins again.
Back at the house, the fighters and coach Escudero are carrying out their bet and washing the vans, but thankfully they decided to do so while clothed. When one of the fighters from Team Escudero decides to try and make them pay up to the letter of the law, Escudero answers back by carrying the hose into the house and turning the car wash into a full-blown water and food fight when it was all said and done.
By the time it was over, just about everybody from both sides had been tossed in the pool, thankfully nobody got down to a thong and the vans still looked fairly dirty.
Once the water fight was finished, it was time to move on to the real competition this week, as Jonathan Ortega took on Enrique Barzoal in the latest lightweight matchup on the show.
The first round saw Ortega at his best as he cracked off a series of body kicks that seemed to surprise Barzola as the submission grappler looked more than comfortable on the feet. Eventually, Ortega found an opening to look for a guillotine choke as he pressed forward against the cage, but when he couldn't quite apply the hold, he decided to turn to a series of knee strikes instead. At one point, Ortega landed a hard shot while Barzola's hand was on the mat and the referee paused the action because technically it was an illegal strike.
The referee didn't warn Ortega, however, and instead admonished Barzola for playing the game where he puts his hand on the mat to avoid a strike but then lifts it again to get back into a better position. Once the fight restarts, Barzola is able to slip under and get a takedown with just under 90 seconds to go, but Ortega immediately latches on to an arm and looks to apply a triangle choke. There are a few moments where it looks like Ortega might force his opponent to submit, but with time winding down, Barzola was able to stave off the submission and make it to the second round.
As good as Ortega looked in round one, it appeared that the effort to finish Barzola first with a guillotine and then with a triangle also zapped his energy. Barzola started to put together his combinations as Ortega stood flatfooted across from him. Barzola mixed in a takedown late in the round to likely seal the deal and force the fight into a final five minutes for sudden victory.
The third and final round was all Barzola, as he controlled the pace with a series of takedowns, and at this point Ortega was completely zapped and didn't have the energy to fight back, much less to get up off the ground. When it was over, the fight was clearly for Barzola, who got Team Escudero on the board for the second time this season.
"I'm very happy that I have won," Barzola said. "I made it to the semifinals, I tried hard. I've never fought left-handed fighters, so boxing was hard for me, but I tried to trust my fight and I was able to win."
With Team Escudero back in control, the next fight moves to the welterweight division as Alvaro Herrera will take on Hector Aldana from Team Gastelum. Both fighters hail from Mexico, and while Herrera hoped to avoid facing any of his fellow countrymen during the show, Aldana promises this will be a war to remember.
"There's nothing better than fighting another Mexican," Aldana said, "If you want a good fight."
Get ready for the battle of Mexico next week on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America as Team Escudero looks to tie up the overall competition against Team Gastelum with a welterweight main event.