Following a week of introductions as coaches Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin got to know the fighters and make their team selections, the first bout of the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America took place, as the next crop of hopefuls in the lightweight division look to make an impact this year.
In the first fight, Team Griffin's Pablo Sabori got things started with a dominant performance and eventual finish over Team Liddell fighter Santiago Cardenas. The victory helped Team Griffin gain some momentum to start the competition, but this season of the show is much different than almost every other version of The Ultimate Fighter over the years. Rather than Team Griffin retaining control following a win, the coaches will actually alternate picks this year, so Team Liddell was then put in charge of the fight selection for the second week.
Two-time coach and UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell knows very well how this game is played so he wasted no time taking his No. 1 overall pick in Claudio Puelles to take on the final pick for Team Griffin in Jose David Flores. It's a lot of pressure to be the No. 1 pick overall, but it's just as much to end up as the last selection for the entire season, so both fighters have a lot to prove in this particular matchup.
Puelles enters the show as one of the youngest competitors in the house at just 20 years of age, while holding a 7-1 record as a professional. Puelles is also the only fighter during The Ultimate Fighter this season to represent his home country of Peru. Despite his native country not being known for producing top mixed martial arts talent over the years, Puelles has a lot of hype around him and he seems to be a tremendous prospect for the future, and that's why Liddell was more than willing to gamble on him as the No. 1 overall pick.
As for Jose David Flores, he entered the competition as a decided underdog, and that's part of the reason why he was the final fighter selected in the tournament. Fighting out of Bolivia, Flores holds a 5-1-1 record while winning his last three bouts. Flores has submitted his last two opponents by guillotine choke, but he's best known as a striker, as he's finished three previous fights by TKO. Considering that he's going up against a very dangerous grappler in Puelles this week, it's probably in Flores' best interest to avoid the ground game and instead look for the knockout. Flores has plenty of power in his hands to get the job done, but whether or not he can connect on a shot before Puelles drags him to the mat is the big question going into this fight.
If Puelles is able to take the fight to the ground early or put Flores on the mat repeatedly with no real problem, it could be a very long - or very short - night for the Team Griffin fighter. Following a tough start to the competition, Team Liddell could certainly use a big win, while Team Griffin would love nothing more than to take out the opposition's No. 1 pick in the second fight of the tournament.
Once Puelles and Flores handle their business this week, Team Griffin will get the next fight selection and there will be a second bout that will take place during the same episode. Those picks won't be revealed until the first bout is finished and Forrest Griffin has a chance to assess the competition and make his pick for the third fight on the show.
Without giving too much away, let's just say the two fighters selected are rivals and this will certainly bring a lot of heat into the competition in only the third bout since the tournament began.
While the fighters rarely get a break from training and preparation during the six weeks spent on The Ultimate Fighter each season, those few moments of levity are a nice distraction from the intensity of the competition. To help the fighters unwind this week, Octagon Girl Jhenny Andrade will stop by to visit with the competitors while making some food and drinks to keep everyone entertained. The international seasons of The Ultimate Fighter probably make the competitors in the United States rather jealous considering some of the perks the fighters from Brazil and Latin America have enjoyed over the past few years.
Whether it was the Octagon Girl competition that took place throughout the entire season during The Ultimate Fighter Brazil or the visits from celebrity actors and singers like the casts from The Ultimate Fighter Latin America have enjoyed over the past two years, these competitors have enjoyed the best of what the UFC can offer both inside and outside the Octagon.
Everyone will enjoy the visit from Ms. Andrade this week, but the real focus is maintaining control of the competition, and that starts with Claudio Puelles and Jose David Flores, who both try to pick up a win and move forward in the tournament. Then the second fight will kick off almost immediately after that as Team Liddell and Team Griffin push ahead in rapid-fire succession.
Don't miss all the action, including the face off for the fourth fight of the season, which is something that you do not want to miss at the end of this latest episode. Make sure to check out the new Ultimate Fighter Latin America tonight, only on UFC FIGHT PASS.