Ten years after The Ultimate Fighter began, Marco Polo Reyes and Christihian Soto did their best in one round to duplicate the kind of fight that put the show on the map when Forrest Griffin defeated Stephan Bonnar in the first ever finale a decade ago.
Now that's definitely high praise for the two lightweights who battled it out on the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2, but Reyes and Soto deserve a lot of credit for throwing down in the second round of their fight to move on to the next round of the tournament in what has been the best bout of the season thus far.
Before Reyes and Soto did their best Griffin vs. Bonnar impression, the fighters from Team Escudero were still suffering a little bit from last week's intense training session that left Alvaro Herrera depleted after just a few minutes into his fight with Hector Aldana. Herrera started strong, but after a few exchanges, his body began to shut down and he could barely put together a combination after that.
Following the loss, the fighters from Team Escudero are convinced that their coach is over training them in the lead up to the competition. Former Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero has been working his fighters through a rigorous schedule - a similar plan he followed while he was on the show and eventually won the competition. He even tries to inspire his team this week by bringing in his trophy from winning the show back in season eight, but the fighters are still struggling with their conditioning after a few brutal weeks of training.
They decide to talk to coach Escudero about the training regimen that feels a lot more like breaking them down right now than building them back up again.
As Team Escudero deals with a problem inside the training room, Team Gastelum celebrates another team win while also helping Christihian Soto enjoy his birthday at the house while he gets into the final phases of preparation for his fight.
Soto has learned a lot about his approach to fighting in recent years after he started with the mindset that this was a job he could succeed at for the sole purpose of providing a better life for his family back home in Nicaragua. But a coach pulled him aside at one point and gave Soto some very smart advice: fighting has to be selfish to succeed because you have to want it for yourself to truly be a winner. To go out there and give it everything you've got, it has to be something you want, not something you're doing for somebody else.
Following the birthday party this week, the fighters get a break from beating each other up to go to a local gym in Las Vegas, where they meet up with UFC President Dana White and special guest Montserrat Oliver, who helps introduce this season's coach's challenge. When Escudero and Gastelum step into the gym, they see mats on the ground and it's clear the two former wrestlers believe they might be putting on singlets and throwing blast double legs at each other for the $10,000 in prize money.
Instead, White informs the coaches that they will be sumo wrestling with bloated outfits and a simple game where Escudero and Gastelum will battle each other with the winner declared after scoring five points. The way sumo works is that two men push each other around the ring, but whoever touches outside the circle first loses the point.
Regardless of a disparity in weight, Escudero holds his own against the bigger Gastelum as the two of them volley back and forth with points throughout the match. When Gastelum would score, Escudero would find a way to come back with a point of his own. Finally, with the score tied up at four a piece, Escudero is able to trip up Gastelum and send him to the mat and outside the ring to end the match.
Team Escudero finally wins a team competition after losing the two previous games this season and everybody on the team will get $1,500 as a prize while the coach leaves with an extra $10,000 to celebrate.
Later that night, Team Escudero celebrates the win but they are minus one man the entire time - Polo Reyes is upstairs documenting his thoughts on paper and just spending some time alone before his fight. Reyes explains that in those final moments before the fight he just likes some quiet and solitude, and while it's not easy in a house like this, he's managed to find a corner where he can get his thoughts together before the battle ahead.
The fight between Reyes and Soto was definitely everything as advertised, because these two lightweights were both gunning for the finish and maybe some bonus money of their own.
Round one was fairly close, as both fighters landed some good kicks and punches over five minutes, with neither one of them really taking a big lead over the other. Round two is where the brush fire turned into an inferno, as Soto connected with a big shot early that dropped Reyes to his knees. Soto followed up and started blasting away with punches and elbows, but Reyes refused to go down.
Without ever actually having time to recover, Reyes somehow fires back and he stuns Soto this time and begins to stalk him across the cage, looking for the finish as well. The two fighters then engage in an absolute brawl, with punches and elbows going back and forth for a couple of minutes in one of the most ridiculous exchanges in the history of the reality show.
Finally, Reyes connected with enough shots to send Soto to the ground. Reyes followed up and continued to pour on the punishment until he got the mount and dropped a few more punches and elbows before referee Herb Dean finally had to call a stop to the action. Reyes wins in a thriller, although Soto has very little to be ashamed about after a performance like that.
Following the end of the fight, the final welterweight matchup for the opening round was announced, as Wilmer Fernandez from Team Gastelum takes on Vernon Ramos from Team Escudero. Next week will see the last preliminary round fight and then it will be time to see who faces who in the quarterfinals.
Don't miss a minute of the action, with the new episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 airing live on UFC FIGHT PASS every Wednesday.