Enrique Marin may lack some confidence before he steps into the Octagon, but if his latest first-round finish over Hector Aldana is any evidence, he certainly shows a ton of toughness and fortitude to get the job done once the cage door closes.
Marin and Aldana faced off in the first semifinal bout this week on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, and with both fighters hailing from Team Gastelum, it certainly created an odd situation for the competitors from Spain and Mexico, respectively.
Marin's rollercoaster ride has been well documented all season long, but it seemed to all come together for him at the right time, as he became first fighter to represent Spain on the reality show and one who punched his ticket to the finals on November 21 in Monterrey, Mexico.
From the first day he stepped on set, Marin admitted that he never felt comfortable going into fights and he always felt that no matter how much experience he gained, he always imagined his next bout as his first one all over again. There were butterflies in the stomach, a nervous twitch in his step and Marin just couldn't get past the hurdle in his own mind that may have kept him from gaining much attention in his own career until now.
Getting a win in the opening round of the tournament seemed to help Marin's confidence grow, but he was hesitant once again this week as he was forced to face a friend and teammate in Aldana. Obviously, Marin and Aldana just became teammates over the last month or so that they've been training together, but there is a certain amount of camaraderie that comes from living in the same house and walking the same path with people who share the same experience on The Ultimate Fighter.
Despite his struggles, he did get some good news this week that may have helped him jump over a few roadblocks when Kelvin Gastelum arrived with word about his father's health back in Spain. When Marin left for the show, his father was struggling with a blood circulation problem that could have cost him his life. Not much news gets to the fighters while they're in the house, but Marin was overjoyed when Gastelum shared with him that his father's condition was improving, he's up and walking on his own again and he had a message to deliver to his son.
“Go out and win.”
Marin broke down into tears at news about his father's health, but he also got the inspirational message he needed to get ready for the fight as he prepared to face Aldana in the semifinals, with only one of them getting the chance to represent the welterweight division at the finale.
In other action on the show this week, Team Escudero decided to use their down time to get a few more pranks going, and the setup was rather elaborate as they targeted the coaches, including head coach Efrain Escudero. The plot involved putting on a “play” for the coaches at the house, but the fighters opted to make this a much more realistic portrayal of a famous battle when they surprised Escudero and his assistants with a full-on assault, including buckets of ice water and water balloons.
For the second time this season, The Ultimate Fighter house got doused in water as the fighters and coaches from Team Escudero chased each other around with balloons and buckets, and even a water hose got involved.
Following the water fight at the house, it was time for Marin and Aldana to get ready for the fight as the two roommates set friendship aside to face off in the Octagon. Marin stated in the lead up to the fight that he felt like he was the better, more technical of the two but he still needed to be composed or risk getting drawn into a brawl with his Mexican opponent.
It didn't take long for Marin to implement his game plan. After the two fighters circled as soon as the bout began, both stinging the other with jabs, the Spaniard got in close and launched a pair of hard knee strikes on his shorter opponent. The second knee sent Aldana crashing against the fence as the hard smack of bone on flesh let Marin know that his opponent was in trouble.
Marin rushed forward and clasped his hands behind Aldana's legs as he sent him to the canvas, and he immediately transitioned to take the back. Marin showed incredible patience as he sought to lock on to Aldana's body and as the Mexican fighter struggled to get free, the fight was careening towards a finish.
Marin locked his arm underneath Aldana's chin, wrenched up on the hold, and a second later he got the tap out.
Marin celebrated as he realized his dream to make The Ultimate Fighter finale in the welterweight division while representing and making his country proud with the performance. Marin stated this week that he believes Spain is a huge untapped resource for great MMA fighters, but the sport is still not very well known there. Seeing a fellow countryman like Marin make good on a show like this is a great representation of what's possible for any future fighters out of Spain.
After the win from Marin, the semifinals will move on next week as Team Escudero now has to learn what it's like to see two squadmates face off when Horacio Gutierrez steps into the Octagon with Marco Polo Reyes in a battle of lightweights. We saw Team Gastelum struggle a bit trying to adapt to the concept of teammate versus teammate this week, but will Team Escudero learn from their mistakes while helping Gutierrez and Reyes prepare for battle?
Tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 next Wednesday on UFC FIGHT PASS to find out.