The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 airs on UFC FIGHT PASS on Wednesday, September 16
Team Escudero was finally able to get in the win column a week ago, as Horacio Gutierrez set aside an ankle injury that was hampering him in practice to take out Team Gastelum fighter Danny Salas by unanimous decision.
Gutierrez had to dig down deep to find the willpower to fight through his ankle injury, but once he got in the Octagon, the dream of fighting in the UFC finally came true and he performed like there wasn't anything holding him back. The win by Gutierrez also gave control to coach Efrain Escudero for the first time this season and he looked to select the best possible matchup for his team while also maintaining control in the overall tournament.
Just like last week, when Gutierrez was chosen just after he suffered a sprained ankle, this time it was Team Gastelum fighter Enrique Marin who gets the call just after he revealed to his coaches that his confidence going into this competition was wavering and he needed some help to get past a few mental roadblocks that have slowed him down in the past. Escudero selected his top choice, Kevin Medinilla, to oppose Martin in the next bout at 170 pounds.
Marin came to Gastelum and the rest of his coaches during last week's episode to express concern about his mental well-being going into the competition. Despite having an 8-2 record that included a current six-fight win streak, Marin just can't find the confidence inside himself and instead is haunted by indecision and nervous energy as he's about to enter the cage.
"I need to work on my confidence," Marin admitted. "I've already fought quite a lot, but whenever I fight, I feel as if it were the first time."
Many fighters are able to harvest that nervous energy and then project it back towards their opponents when it comes time to fight. UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has openly admitted to crying in the hours leading up to her fights because she's in such a hyperactive emotional state just before she performs. Even ultimate alpha male Matt Brown says that he's always got a nervous energy floating around his body before a fight, so maybe what Marin is feeling is more natural than he actually realizes.
Either way, Gastelum will do his best to get Marin ready in mind, body and spirit before he steps into the Octagon with Medinilla this week.
As for Escudero's preparation to make sure Medinilla brings home another victory to the team, he's a big believer in his top overall pick and sees this 5-0 prospect from Argentina as a candidate to win the entire show. Medinilla trains out of the Nova Uniao team when he's at home and that's the same gym system that produced featherweight champion Jose Aldo and top ranked women's fighter Claudia Gadelha, so the talent is there to turn this raw piece of clay into a real contender one day.
Unlike his opponent, Medinilla is ultra confident, and he passes that along to his teammates this week as they look to up the ante in the ongoing wagering war that's been happening with Team Gastelum.
When the season started a few weeks back, the two teams were placed into a wager during an obstacle course competition, with the losing side being forced to serve a four-star dinner to the fighters from the other team. The bet was paid off as promised when Team Escudero went down in the competition, but that has only fueled their desire for revenge.
Of course there's always something to be said about getting out while you're ahead, but Team Escudero is on a mission to get revenge on Team Gastelum with their latest wager. Don't forget, Team Escudero is already on the line for a loss a couple of weeks back when Erick Montano defeated Marco Olano and they were supposed to all sleep on the tennis courts for a night as payback. Team Escudero hasn't been forced to enjoy a night under the stars as of yet after Team Gastelum gave them a slight reprieve following Olano suffering a broken arm in his fight, but time is ticking away and the debt needs to be paid.
That won't stop Team Escudero from once again offering another compromise to relieve their shared debt and you won't want to miss how this gamble pays off in the end. Needless to say, the gamble is even bigger and probably much more embarrassing for the losing side.
When it comes down to the matchup this week, Medinilla and Marin are actually very evenly matched, even if one of them is the top pick of the entire competition. Medinilla has become a favorite of his coach Efrain Escudero thanks to his hard work in the gym and well-rounded fight game whenever he's in the cage.
Medinilla has been more prolific on the ground, where he's wrapped up four of his five wins by submission. Medinilla has a variety of holds on the mat, including a slick rear naked choke as well as a triangle choke where he shows his versatility off his back as well. Medinilla has looked good with his striking as well, and he's been working a ton with Escudero and his coaches while likely anticipating a ground attack from Marin.
Marin may not have full confidence in his own game, but it seems like he shines whenever he's actually fighting. Marin has strung together an impressive list of victories lately, with most of his wins coming by submission. Marin also has an experience edge over Medinilla, which is always helpful when fighting on The Ultimate Fighter for the first time. Remember, the guys who are on this season of the show didn't have to fight their way into the house, so this is the first chance for both Medinilla and Marin to experience those infamous Octagon jitters.
While that feeling might shake apart someone like Marin, who is already questioning his own worth going into the competition, it can also serve as the ultimate motivation to go out and win. Marin knows this is his chance to represent his family and friends back in Spain while also trying to regain control of the competition for his team. On the other hand, Medinilla feels like this is his coming out party, where he sets the tone for the rest of the fighters on the show, and a big win over Marin goes a long way to prove his selection as the top pick overall was a correct one.
Can Team Escudero keep this momentum going or will Marin find the intestinal fortitude to battle past the butterflies in his stomach and return a win for Team Gastelum? Tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 this Wednesday on UFC FIGHT PASS to find out.