The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 airs on UFC FIGHT PASS on Wednesday, September 23
Through the first four episodes of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2, Team Gastelum has found the right matchups to win three out of the first four bouts as they continue to one up Team Escudero in the fights, as well as the team challenges and bets that keep racking up this season.
Last week, Team Escudero thought they had the perfect matchup scouted as their first overall pick Kevin Medinilla took on Enrique Marin, who admitted to having his confidence shaken as he walked into the cage for every professional bout he's ever had. Medinilla even commented that Marin's hands were shaking as they stared each other down following the weigh-ins.
Well, either Medinilla was mistaken or maybe Marin was just shaking from hunger because there wasn't an ounce of fear in his performance as he went out and earned a majority decision win after two rounds to put control back on the side of Team Gastelum going into the fifth fight of the season. If Team Gastelum keeps notching win after win each week, the first eight fights will tick away and this will look like a rather lopsided competition, so Team Escudero needs to get a victory to start bringing things back to even.
For the fight selection this week, Team Gastelum goes with submission specialist Jonathan Ortega, who assistant coach and former Ultimate Fighter finalist Uriah Hall calls the best grappler on the entire team thanks to the great Brazilian jiu-jitsu arsenal he has under his belt. As an opponent, Gastelum chooses Enrique Barzola from Team Escudero, who comes in with a strong boxing background and solid wrestling. Gastelum is counting on Ortega's ground skills to trump those of Barzola while they hopefully get a fourth win, which would mean Team Escudero would have to sweep the remaining three quarterfinal fights to just tie the overall competition.
While every competitor comes to the show with their own unique story and path to becoming a fighter, Ortega joins former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin with something they share in common before throwing hands inside the Octagon. Before he came to Las Vegas to pursue his dream of being a mixed martial artist, Ortega was a schoolteacher in his home country of Chile, where he taught natural sciences.
Ortega never gave up his pursuit of fighting, however, and now he's on the precipice of fighting for the biggest MMA organization in the world. He admits this week that his family would probably rather see him stick to the chalkboard instead of the Octagon, but Ortega wants nothing more than to compete in the UFC one day.
Before the fighters step in to do battle, Team Gastelum and Team Escudero will get a visit this week from Mexican soccer royalty as former national team coach Miguel “El Piojo” Herrera joins the show to give the guys a motivational speech on teamwork while inviting them to the latest team challenge for the season.
Herrera is a legend around the world of soccer, which is a hugely popular sport throughout Latin America. Most recently, Herrera led the Mexican squad to a win at the CONCACAF gold cup, which was the same tournament that included the United States and several other countries from the area.
Needless to say, the fighters on the show are excited to see Herrera stop by to visit them, but he also invites the competitors from Team Gastelum and Team Escudero to join him in a soccer match with another wager on the line. This won't be the first time soccer has been played on the show, as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeated Frank Mir during season eight while exchanging penalty kicks and Chael Sonnen got the better of Wanderlei Silva in a soccer obstacle course during The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3.
It's not likely anyone from this season of the show will be giving up fighting to begin playing for a soccer team, but the competitiveness is definitely still there as both sides jockey for position to get a leg up on the other side with another wager that raises the stakes even higher.
Once the soccer match is finished, it's time to pay attention to the fight this week, as Ortega looks to put Team Gastelum in firm control of the tournament as he faces Barzola from Team Escudero.
Ortega is a seasoned grappler with submissions being his best weapon during any fight, but he also happens to be a southpaw, which makes his stance and striking a test for anybody not used to facing a left-handed fighter. Ortega probably won't blow anybody away with his kickboxing, but the awkward angles can be a nightmare for an orthodox fighter if they aren't prepared for that particular stance.
Barzola is actually the more complete fighter of the two and also has slightly more experience inside the cage. Barzola is a good boxer with a solid wrestling game as well, so he's not afraid to keep this fight standing or take it to the ground. Obviously, Barzola has to know Ortega will want to look for a submission if this fight hits the mat, so his best bet would be to use takedowns as an offensive weapon to change positions but not to get locked down in his opponent's guard, where he can look for the finish or possibly the sweep to reverse positions.
Gastelum is ultra confident that Ortega is a strong lock to win this fight and that's why he made the matchup in the first place, but Barzola might actually be the better fighter considering his overall skill set from striking to the ground game to wrestling.
Can Team Escudero finally get another win on the board or will Team Gastelum continue to rack up the wins in the tournament and the team competition as well? Tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 this Wednesday on UFC FIGHT PASS to find out.