The second round of The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions will come to a close in the latest episode, with a pair of fights that will ultimately determine the two competitors moving into the final four this season.
In the first fight this week, submission specialist Ronaldo Candido will take on his training partner from Team Benavidez and upstart talent Eric Shelton. The second fight will match up former UFC contender Tim Elliott against Team Cejudo fighter Matt "Danger" Schnell in the last bout of the second round.
Ahead of the fights this week, Joseph Benavidez will bring in a surprise guest coach to help assist his team as the last pair of bouts get ready to unfold. Former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will join the show to help coach Benavidez's team, but he will also be a valuable asset considering that he hasn’t spent all season with the fighters so there's no way he could show any bias ahead of the first quarterfinal matchup. Because of the tournament style format, Candido and Shelton both pulled off wins in the opening round but now they will meet in the quarterfinals while still training alongside each other on a daily basis.
RELATED: Recap last week's episode | Meet tonight's fighters - Eric Shelton | Ronaldo Candido | Tim Elliott | Matt Schnell
That means Benavidez will more or less bow out of coaching duties this week so he doesn't have to seemingly favor one fighter over the other, but that will allow Dillashaw to step in and help both Candido and Shelton ahead of their showdown.
Dillashaw has experience both as a coach and a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter after he started his career with the UFC as part of the 14th season, when he was part of team coached by middleweight champion Michael Bisping. Despite still being a novice that early in his career, Dillashaw managed to make it all the way to the finals, and while he came up short against John Dodson, that moment helped launch a very successful career for him in the UFC.
Dillashaw would eventually go on to become the UFC bantamweight champion and he returned to The Ultimate Fighter during season 22 to help out former teammate Urijah Faber when he was coaching opposite featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Dillashaw has seen all sides of the reality show, so he'll definitely be able to impart some wisdom to Candido and Shelton ahead of their matchup.
As far as this fight goes, Candido is a world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor with incredible toughness that he showed off in his first round matchup with Jaime Alvarez. Candido got dropped by a hard punch early in the opening moments of the fight, but then managed to hold on, grab a leg and eventually pull his opponent down into his world on the ground. Eventually, Candido wrapped up a beautiful standing submission to get the first round victory. As for Shelton, he ended up with the biggest upset of the entire tournament when he submitted Yoni Sherbatov in the opening round.
Despite being ranked No. 15 when the tournament started, Shelton showed that he was a dark horse to potentially make it all the way to the finals after a stunning performance against the No. 2 seed in his first fight. Now Shelton has a chance to prove that was no fluke when he faces off with Candido in the quarterfinals this week.
Obviously, Shelton knows that Candido will want to drag this to the ground, where he has his best chance to win, and considering that the winner will still have two more fights to go before earning a shot against flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, coming away unscathed is almost as important as a victory. If Shelton can avoid those takedowns and force Candido into a stand up war, this could favor him to once again pull off the upset and move into the next round.
Conversely, Candido only needs Shelton to make one mistake on the mat and he could easily wrap up a submission from anywhere to get the win. Candido is not only a skilled ground technician, but he's well versed in transitioning from one submission to the next, which could give Shelton fits on the mat.
In the second quarterfinal matchup, No. 3 seed Tim Elliott will face off with the only representative from Team Cejudo this week in Matt Schnell. Elliott may have been ranked third in the tournament, but he had to be considered one of the odds on favorites to win the entire show considering his background in the UFC and experience against some of the best fighters in the world at 125 pounds. Elliott showed that he was one of the favorites with his quick submission victory over Charlie Alaniz in the opening round, but he'll have his hands full this week against Schnell.
With a career that launched on a reality show, Schnell is well versed in dealing with the bright lights and pressure filled situations ahead of his fights. Schnell is best known as a striker, but he showed off some nasty submission work with his triangle choke finish over Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Matt Rizzo in the opening round. Schnell was hyper critical of his performance afterwards because he believed that fight didn't show off his best skills, but if he can put things together in the right way this week, he could give Elliott fits on the ground or on the feet.
Elliott has to be considered the favorite because he also possesses the ability to win this fight on the feet or on the ground as well, but he certainly has more experience against top-notch competition than his opponent. Of course, Schnell wasn't supposed to out grapple Rizzo in his first fight, but he still finished by submission.
Who will move on to the semifinals when this episode is over? Don't miss a minute of the action with two fights this week - Candido vs. Shelton and Elliott vs. Schnell - on the new edition of The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10pm ET on FS1.