The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 airs on UFC FIGHT PASS on Wednesday, October 21
As the semifinals for The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America kick off this week, the age old scenario pitting teammate versus teammate happens right out of the gate as Team Gastelum welterweights Enrique Marin and Hector Aldana get ready to square off.
Following the final fight in the welterweight division last week, one that saw Vernon Ramos punch his ticket as the only Team Escudero fighter to push through to the next round of the tournament at 170 pounds, UFC President Dana White didn't have much choice with the matchups but to place two members of Team Gastelum against one another.
Unfortunately for the fighters he selected, Marin and Aldana have become two of the closest friends and roommates in the house and it could definitely affect their preparation because only one of them will get through to the finals while the other will have to go back home off a loss.
"I hope that fighting my friend Hector doesn't affect me because I wouldn't be doing my job well," Marin says this week.
Marin has already struggled with the mental side of the game this season after confessing to his coaches prior to his first fight that he felt extreme nervousness every time he stepped inside the cage and routinely doubted himself going into each and every bout. There's not a fighter on the planet who will deny that being ready mentally is just as important physically, and Marin showed a few flaws in his preparation ahead of his first fight.
Thankfully, Marin's execution was picture perfect as he went out and got a win to move into the semifinals, but can he gather that kind of strength again while facing his friend and roommate? Will fighting a teammate push Marin past his mental breaking point and affect his performance?
If that wasn't enough pressure on Marin's shoulders, the welterweight from Spain will also get some news this week about his ailing father back home in Europe. Marin came to the show while his father was dealing with a disorder that affected the circulation in his body. While it's rare that news ever slips into The Ultimate Fighter house, when it comes to the health and well being of the fighter's families, all bets are off and Marin will get an update this week.
Between his father's condition in Spain and being forced to fight a friend, will Marin truly be ready to fight for a spot in the finale this week or can Aldana take advantage?
As Marin struggles with more than a few mental and emotional roadblocks, Team Gastelum will have to deal with a few of their own as the coaches end up arguing about how to handle the situation of two of their fighters facing off against each other. This definitely isn't the first time something like this has happened, but the head coaches of every season have all handled it differently.
Gastelum's coaches - including his former opponent from the finale, Uriah Hall - end up at odds trying to figure out who should train Marin, who should train Aldana and what happens if everyone is attempting to train together? Needless to say, it's a messy situation and there's little doubt it could fall back on the fighters if their coaches don't get it together.
While Team Gastelum is sparring amongst each other, Team Escudero enjoys a little down time while preparing the ultimate prank on their coaches.
From the very start of the season, Team Escudero has been the practical jokers in the house, whether it was putting hot peppers in poor Wilmer Fernandez's soup or engaging in every manner of wager while trying to get over on Team Gastelum. Most of their plots have backfired, but this week it's Team Escudero versus the coaches and we'll see if they have what it takes to put one over on the people getting them ready for fights more than they have the team on the other side of the Octagon.
Once the hijinks are settled within Team Escudero, it's finally time to get down to the fight.
Both Marin and Aldana went to a decision in their first-round matchups, so neither man will have a huge physical advantage when it comes to one of them taking more damage than the other before this fight.
Marin steps into the Octagon with a long reach, a stiff jab and a very solid ground game. While his confidence seemed lacking going into the last fight, Marin certainly didn't show any ill effects when facing Kevin Medinilla, who was Team Escudero's No. 1 overall selection at welterweight. Marin didn't need to show off much in the way of his submission skills last time around, but chances are that he'll look for the takedown this time against a slugger like Aldana. Marin will also be fighting for the pride of his home country, as he's the only fighter in the house hailing from Spain. Marin believes Spain is an untapped territory for a lot of great European fighters who just haven't been able to get the recognition they deserve because MMA hasn't flourished in the country.
As for Aldana, who hails from Mexico, he showed great tenacity in his last fight, along with a good chin and heavy hands. Aldana survived some early fury from Alvaro Herrera, and once the Team Escudero fighter began to fade, he took over. Aldana packs a serious punch and he loves to brawl, so Marin will have to stay technical or risk catching a haymaker from his opponent.
If Marin struggles with all the mental issues he's had this season - not to mention the latest issue where he's forced to face a friend - it could be his downfall. Then again, Marin has more experience and he's the better technical fighter as well. Marin just needs to get out of his own head and he could be looking at a date on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America finals on November 21.
Who wins in this first semifinal matchup between the two fighters from Team Gastelum? Tune in to The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 this Wednesday on UFC FIGHT PASS to find out.