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Check out the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America on UFC FIGHT PASS on Tuesday at 12am ET
One of the hardest concepts to accept on The Ultimate Fighter is separating the team aspect from individual success. There's not a fighter in the UFC today who won't take the time before or after a bout to thank their team, coaches and the people who helped them get ready for the competition.
For the better part of six weeks already, both Team Velasquez from Mexico and Team Werdum from Latin America have worked, trained and lived together while competing for a chance to earn a contract in the UFC. The Mexican team took the spotlight for the biggest part of the season because the fighters from there had more experience, many had trained together in the past, and the skill level difference showed up in a hurry as they racked up win after win after win.
By the time the preliminary round was over, Team Velasquez had six of the eight semifinalists vying for a chance to fight in the finale on November 15 at UFC 180. While the domination in the early part of the competition gave Team Velasquez an overall advantage, it also set them up for a bit of a downfall, because starting this week, Team Velasquez will watch teammate face teammate when Yair Rodriguez takes on Rodolfo Rubio.
Both fighters were impressive in their opening fights. Rodriguez and Rubio secured second round submission finishes, but now they have to move away from the weeks upon weeks of training together and one of them will ruin the other's dream.
How will the rest of the team react? How will UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez - who is part of a huge team at American Kickboxing Academy that treats each other like family - deal with seeing two of his prized fighters face off in the Octagon? In reality, this show is all about every man for himself, and Rodriguez and Rubio have to know that as much as they don't want to face each other, this is the fight that will put one of them on a potential path to greatness.
In the house this week, things are winding down as the fighters are starting to think about going home finally. At this stage, all 16 men have been living in the Las Vegas house for about five full weeks and with only four more fights to go, they'll be home in no time. The stir crazy nature of living together for this long will boil over this week as the cleanliness of the house once again sets both teams off in a heated argument.
It may not seem like much for one fighter or even an entire team to skip doing dishes or cleaning up a mess for a day. But when that day is compounded over the course of a week, and there's also an additional mess being added by the other team, a lot of fingers are getting pointed and very little is getting done about it. Each side believes the other is at fault and nobody is bending an inch in conceding that the pile of garbage that continues to grow belongs to them.
The coach's challenge also returns this week, and this is always a popular and fun part of The Ultimate Fighter every season. Each year has featured a different competition for the coaches to participate in, with the coach receiving a chunk of cash as well as a payoff for the fighters on the winning side. It doesn't hurt morale either as the fighters get a chance to sit back and just enjoy the show for once as each of the coaches tries to best the other one in the competition chosen.
There have been a ton of different games played over the years, everything from rock climbing and canoeing to ping pong matches and bowling. The winning coach definitely gives his or her team a boost as well as a nice bonus to take home when the show is finished.
Without giving away any spoilers, this week's challenge definitely seems to favor one particular coach, but that doesn't mean things will go his way. When this one is over, it's going to be very easy to see why Velasquez and Werdum are two of the nicest guys outside of the Octagon, but two of the fiercest competitors when the Octagon door closes.
As for the fight this week, it's going to be hard to pick a winner just because the teammate vs. teammate situation does come about and negativity will certainly play a role in the outcome. Rodriguez and Rubio know each other very well and now that they have to face off, this could be an absolute barnburner or a whole lot of posturing while trying not to make the other guy look bad.
Rodriguez showed great killer instinct in his last fight, pulling off a quick second round submission. Rubio did the exact same thing to his opponent, but can he do the same thing to his roommate and friend? Is there a chance Rodriguez fails to pull the trigger because the person standing across from him happens to be a friend?
The only way to know for sure how this one plays out is to watch The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America every Tuesday on UFC FIGHT PASS.