Check out the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America on UFC FIGHT PASS on Tuesday at 12am ET
It was very clear from the debut episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America that the divide between the two teams living in the house this season may be wider than any cast in the history of the show. It's quite common for the international versions of the series to feature the most hostile relationships as home country pride goes on the line, and it's also natural for the fighters on each team to stick with the guys from their native land.
In the case of Team Velasquez, all eight fighters came out of Mexico, with many of them already knowing or training with each other before the show. They already did their best in the first episode to rattle Team Werdum by wrapping the flag of Mexico over top of the flags from all the other nations. Team chemistry was a big part of the Mexican squad and it only got stronger when Jose Alberto “Teco” Quinones took out Bentley Syler by TKO in the first round.
Now when a team debuts with a lot of vigor and wins a fight right out of the gate, there are a couple of ways to react. One would be to calmly take advantage of the situation, select the next fight and start preparing for war again the next day. The other way involves celebrating and more or less shoving it in the other team's face that you won.
Well, needless to say Term Werdum is none too happy at the prospect of another week of hearing the Mexicans from Team Velasquez very loudly declare their dominance in the opening fight as the second matchup approaches. The tensions inside the Ultimate Fighter house generally take at least a week or two to develop, but in the case of Team Velasquez vs. Team Werdum these two teams are already at each other's throats and it seems destined to get even worse. It gets so bad this week that a physical altercation happens, and as anybody who has watched this show for the past 20-plus seasons, that's never a good thing, especially this early on in the competition.
As far as the training goes this week, head coach Fabricio Werdum deals with the fallout of his first fighter being defeated and how to keep his team morale high as he starts getting his next team member, Diego Rivas, ready for his fight to kick off the featherweight competition. Over on Team Velasquez, the hard work is still being done, but the team is obviously happy to have won the first fight, and they even manage to get UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in on the action.
While Velasquez is normally a very stoic champion who looks like he's all business all the time, the guys on his team certainly change that perception with one particular celebration they get the coach to join in on in the upcoming episode. When this hour of The Ultimate Fighter is over, Velasquez can prepare for a whole lot of videos and GIFs being made of this particular scene.
When it comes to fight time, the featherweights are in action this week as Gabriel Benitez from Team Velasquez takes on Rivas from Team Werdum.
Benitez is one of the most experienced fighters on Team Velasquez, coming into the show with an impressive 16-4 record with fights stretching back to 2007, when he first started his career. His record is littered with finishes, which bodes well for him gaining favor with UFC President Dana White, and Benitez has a mixed bag of knockouts and submissions, although he's much more prone to a stand-up war than dragging an opponent to the ground. Benitez stands 5'9", and for a featherweight that's a solid height, especially when he's a striker with long, rangy arms to tag his opponent with punches from the outside while avoiding the takedown.
His opponent from Team Werdum is Rivas, an undefeated prospect out of Chile. Rivas is 5-0 as a professional fighter, with finishes in all but one of his fights. Rivas is definitely a ground fighter by trade, always fishing for the takedown and looking for submissions on the ground. He did pick up his first TKO win two fights ago, but Rivas would probably be the first one to tell you he's much more comfortable on the mat, where he can ply his grappling and wrestling to outwork his opponents.
On paper, it seems like this is a fight that pits striker against grappler, but it's not fair to just peg Benitez as only a kickboxer, considering his submission skills in past fights. He has fallen prey to some high level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the past, so Rivas needs to do his best to take advantage of that perceived weakness right away while the fighters are still cool and the sweat hasn't gathered, which can oftentimes allow an opponent to slip out of a submission with physics and biology playing a much bigger part than technique. If Rivas can't secure Benitez on the ground within the first couple of minutes and keep him there, he may suffer the same fate as his teammate last week.
Benitez has the size and the experience to hand Rivas a real learning lesson in this fight and chances are by the time the second round starts, he'll be looking for the knockout and putting Team Velasquez up 2-0 in the competition.
To find out who wins, make sure to tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America this Tuesday, exclusively in the United States on UFC FIGHT PASS.