The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 airs on UFC FIGHT PASS on Wednesday, November 4
It's down to the final two fights after a long season on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America this year, with Team Gastelum's Erick Montano set to face Team Escudero's Vernon Ramos this week, the winner moving on to face Spaniard Enrique Marin at the finale on November 21 in Monterrey, Mexico.
Montano got through to the semifinals after a fluke injury brought an end to his fight with Marco Olano earlier this season when his opponent suffered a broken arm as a result of takedown during the first round. It was an unfortunate ending for Montano, who was excited to prove himself after being one of the most highly touted fighters coming onto the show while training alongside his brother Augusto “Dodger” Montano, who is a rising prospect in the UFC welterweight division.
Montano will certainly enjoy being the favorite once again when he faces ultimate underdog Vernon Ramos, who surprised just about everybody when he defeated Wilmer Fernandez in the quarterfinal round just a couple weeks ago. Ramos was one of the most inexperienced fighters to be selected for the season, but through sheer grit and determination, he was able to get the job done in a three-round battle with the Team Escudero welterweight.
Ramos will fight with a busy mind and a heavy heart as he goes into his semifinal matchup, as his mind still focused on his family back home in Panama. There's no doubt after several weeks spent living in the house with no real contact with the outside world that everybody is feeling stir crazy and a little cooped up, which can certainly impact training and the fighters who still have to compete in these final two matchups.
Ramos does his best to stay fight ready but even he's looking forward to escaping the house and getting home to his family when the show is over. Ramos spoke openly prior to his last fight about the loss his family suffered when his father left home one day and never returned again under a lot of speculation that something happened to him due to the nature of his job, and his disappearance has served as motivation for the young Panamanian fighter to win to make his father proud, who was a huge UFC fan as he grew up.
Ramos still carries around the UFC hat his father wore around the house before his disappearance and he'll certainly look to that fors inspiration as he tries to pull off another huge upset this week and punch his ticket to the finals. More than anything, however, Ramos just hopes to go home one day and be able to hand the hat back to his father while standing proud after finally making it to the UFC.
As training gets underway this week to prepare Ramos for his battle with Montano, coach Efrain Escudero does his best to fire up the troops behind their teammate. Escudero knows that Ramos is a massive underdog once again, and that feeling is starting to permeate the team practices as many of the other fighters doubt that the Panama native can get the job done against a very tough opponent like Montano.
"Even some people on our team don't believe in him," Escudero says while trying to inspire Ramos and his team to victory.
While Montano is heavily favored to win going into this week, that kind of pressure also comes with its own set of problems. Montano wasn't able to silence the naysayers in his early fight after Olano suffered a broken arm early in their bout because while it gave the Team Gastelum fighter the win, it still left everyone with a feeling that he didn't prove himself.
Montano has fought a lot to prove he belonged over the years while trying to get out from under the shadow of his famous older brother. Montano admittedly struggles from time to time being known as “Dodger” Montano's little brother or sometimes even being looked at as his twin instead of as his own man. Deep down inside, however, Montano wants to make his brother proud by living up to the same status he's achieved by making his way to the UFC as one of the first Mexico natives to represent the country in the Octagon.
As far as the fight goes this week, Montano is definitely the odds-on favorite to pull off the win, and with good reason. Montano is a solid all-around fighter with good wrestling and heavy hands while standing. Montano is also a big welterweight, which bodes well for him in this particular matchup, considering Ramos is one of the smaller fighters on the show. Ramos will also give up a lot of reach in this fight, which will certainly help Montano if the two get into any big exchanges.
Ramos is tough as nails and as he showed in his previous fight, even when he's down, he's never out. Ramos doesn't do any one thing great, but he's a jack of all trades in the cage, where he mixes a ton of heart with a good dose of determination and somehow finds a way to get the job done. He was doubted before his last fight and Ramos surprised everyone with his tenacity to outwork Fernandez and tire him out by the time the third round started. Ramos could do the same against Montano, who will undoubtedly have the harder weight cut getting down to 170 pounds, and if this fight goes deep into the second round, it could start to favor the Team Escudero fighter.
That said, Montano is certainly the favorite as he begins to look towards the Nov. 21 finale and a potential showdown with his on-air teammate, Enrique Marin. Montano has a heap of expectations piled on his back and he'll even have a watchful eye from a special guest joining the show this week, as he tries to take out Ramos and make his way to the finals in Mexico.
Who will join Marin as part of the live finale from Monterrey, Mexico on November 21? Tune in this week to see Erick Montano battle Vernon Ramos to find out.