After dropping the first two fights of the season, Team Benavidez got on the board last week with an impressive submission victory by Hiromasa Ogikubo, as he eliminated Nkazimulo Zulu from Team Cejudo with a second round rear naked choke to punch his ticket to the next round of the tournament.
The final fight on the left side of the bracket will go down this week, as No. 4 seed Damacio Page takes on No. 13 seed Adam Antolin in a battle between a pair of fighters from two of the most well respected training camps in the world.
With nearly 30 fights on his pro record, Page is by far the most seasoned veteran in the competition this season while fighting out of the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp in New Mexico. Page has been a member of the famous team for most of his career as he works under head coach Greg Jackson and trains with a bevy of superstars, including Jon Jones, Carlos Condit, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and John Dodson. Page is also an eight-fight veteran of the UFC and WEC, so he knows what it's like to fight in the big show and this opportunity certainly won't overwhelm him when it comes to the pressure to win.
Oddly enough, Page has actually also faced current UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson when the two of them fought in 2010 while both were competing in the WEC. Page put on a great fight that night and arguably could have stolen the first two rounds from the future flyweight king, but Johnson was tenacious and ended up finishing the bout with a third round guillotine choke to get the submission victory. While Page's last stint in the UFC only lasted for three fights - all of which ended with a loss - he bounced back with a 4-2 mark over his past six bouts while also becoming the Legacy Fighting Championships flyweight champion.
Page is well known for being one of the most powerful flyweight fighters on the planet and there is not an opponent in this competition who he can't finish with his powerful fists. Page can get a little wild during some of his exchanges, but if he connects flush on Antolin in this matchup, the Team Cejudo fighter might wake up looking at the lights watching his opportunity to fight for the flyweight title disappear. Page is so dangerous that UFC President Dana White not only sees him as a potential favorite to win the tournament, but he has the kind of power that could upset Johnson if they face off in the Octagon for a second time.
"To be honest with you, this guy has a legitimate threat to win it all and get a rematch with Demetrious," White said.
As for Antolin, he's an 11-3 prospect who comes to The Ultimate Fighter as the Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion. Tachi Palace was a prime promotion for flyweights just a few years ago, with names like Ian McCall, Jussier Formiga and Dustin Ortiz all coming from that organization before joining the UFC. Antolin is a former junior college wrestler who transitioned to MMA in 2008, where he actually ended up competing in Strikeforce for several fights.
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Unfortunately, Antolin ran into a streak of bad luck, losing three out of four fights, and it left him searching for answers as he wondered whether or not the fighting life was for him anymore. Antolin found the solution when he joined the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose and he's never looked back.
AKA is responsible for some of the top fighters in the UFC, including light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Antolin has been training at the same facility for several years, and ever since he joined up with AKA, he's gone a perfect 7-0 before joining the show this season. Antolin has also become a finishing machine, with six of his last seven wins coming by either KO or submission.
On paper, Page certainly has an experience edge, along with the most knockout power of any flyweight in the tournament this season, but Antolin could be a dark horse selection to make it deep in the competition. Antolin has a wrestling background, but he's developed a very good kickboxing game over the last few years while working with head striking coach Javier Mendez. If Page underestimates Antolin and just tries to steamroll him in this fight, he could be in for a big surprise.
Outside of the fight this week, Page also has another potential fight on his hands - this time with head coach Henry Cejudo. Long before this show started, Page was actually supposed to fight Cejudo back in 2014 but the bout never took place. The first time, Cejudo dropped out of the bout due to “personal reasons.” The fight never got a chance to come together again because Cejudo ended up signing a contract with the UFC but Page has never forgotten that he had a chance to put a stop to the golden boy's run before he even got his shot in the Octagon but instead they never fought. That animosity will boil over this week when it's finally time for Page to step into the Octagon with a member of Cejudo's team.
Cejudo is taking shrapnel from all sides this week because Page's assault isn't the only one he'll deal with thanks to fellow coach Joseph Benavidez still going after him following last week's encounter. Benavidez accused Cejudo of having a robotic personality where his responses seem pre-programmed and very unoriginal. Benavidez's verbal assault continued through the weigh-ins after their fighters were about to face off, and the disdain shared between the two coaches will definitely continue into the latest episode as well.
Between the upcoming fight pitting Page against Antolin and the brewing feud with Benavidez and Cejudo, the newest episode is definitely one you should not miss.
Watch the brand new episode of The Ultimate Fighter tonight at 10pm ET on FS1.