Check out the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America on UFC FIGHT PASS on Tuesday at 12am ET
It's all come down to this.
After six weeks of living in the house and eleven episodes into the series, The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America will come to an end with one final matchup in the featherweight division as Team Velasquez fighter Gabriel "Moggly" Benitez takes on the final fighter from Team Werdum, Leonardo "Chimy" Morales.
It's definitely do or die for coach Fabricio Werdum because he's been behind all season long dealing with a more experienced Mexican team led by UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Much like the last international season of the series when Canada took on Australia in TUF Nations, one country just had a vast number of veterans to pit up against a much younger and much more novice group of fighters. When TUF Nations was over, Canada represented all four fighters in the finals, much to the dismay of the Australian squad.
Werdum and his Latin American squad do not want to get shut out going into the finals, which will be held this weekend at UFC 180 in Mexico City, Mexico. So all of the extra effort, focus and push will go into getting Morales ready for battle this week as the show gets ready to wrap and the fighters prepare to go home.
Before the season ends, get your tissues ready because there will be a touching moment that takes place in the upcoming episode and it will definitely tug at the heartstrings. The fighters from TUF: Latin America have all had some incredible stories of struggle and what they overcame just to make it to this point has been a pretty inspiring journey. For one particular fighter, it's been even more arduous, but thanks to the UFC and President Dana White, the final episode will be like a weight being lifted off his shoulders.
Following the tear-filled moment, the fighters begin to pack up and get ready to head home. The funny part about The Ultimate Fighter this season is that from the day these competitors moved into the house, national pride was on the line and no one was willing to bend an inch. The fighters almost always stayed separated into their own teams, rarely mixing with each other at any designated point during the season.
Small battles ensued occasionally, whether it was about cleaning up the kitchen, doing dishes or some kind of fight over food, but for the most part the Mexicans avoided the Latin Americans and the Latin Americans avoided the Mexicans. Everybody knew how big this opportunity was to not only win, but represent their home countries with pride, so there was very little camaraderie until now.
The final days bring a sense of peace to everybody in the house (short of the two guys fighting this episode) because all the bad blood is gone, the flags aren't waving and the competition is virtually over. It's time to commemorate the historic six weeks spent living in the house, training, working and fighting together and there's a real sense of accomplishment on the faces of everybody who took part during the season.
Before it's over, the final fight takes place between Benitez and Morales. It's probably easy to see why these two were the last remaining fighters to compete because there's little doubt that this matchup has the potential to be the best of the entire season.
With a 16-4 record overall, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that Gabriel Benitez is still around with one more fight to go until the finals. Benitez has a wealth of experience and a multitude of tough fights on his resume. At just 26 years of age, Benitez has already been fighting for almost eight years, so he's literally grown up doing mixed martial arts.
Benitez even called his shot in the opening round matchup when he heard the Latin American team challenge his ground game after losing two fights by submission. So when Benitez took on Diego Rivas in the second fight of the season, he went out, dominated and finished the fight by rear naked choke in the second round.
On the other side of the Octagon stands the quietest man in the entire competition, Leonardo Morales. He's the definition of "speak softly and carry a big stick.” The sticks Morales carries around are his two legs because he's got some of the most vicious kicks of anybody on the show. Morales mixes in a nasty Muay Thai style with good takedown defense and a rapidly developing boxing game as well. Morales was the only member of Werdum's team to go out and absolutely decimate his opponent from start to finish in the fight.
He's unassuming, but underestimating him could cost Benitez dearly.
Given Benitez's background and well-versed mix of knockouts and submissions, it would be easier to think he's going to find a way to win this one, but if you strip away all the team names, home countries and colors, Morales might be the brightest prospect in this entire tournament. Morales has a chance to be a serious star if he can keep his run going with Benitez and then do the same should he make it to the finale.
Will he get there or will the Mexican team get the clean sweep going into the finale at UFC 180? The only way to know for sure is to tune into the final episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America this week.