Two disclaimers to start here:
*I should have had this up sooner and since Sunday, The_Vortex has written a TUF: Brazil recap. I don't mean to step on his toes, but since I had been planning to do this season I thought it would be okay if I posted my thoughts as well. If he's intent on writing a recap every week, then I'll gladly stand down and focus on TUF: Nations while keeping the Brazil recaps for my own blog instead of posting them here. I don't want to be a..."TUF hog" or something.
*This week’s episode of TUF: Nations was a "recap show", with highlights and unseen footage from the season, so I decided to pass on writing about that.
That’s right. It’s time. It’s time to answer the age old question: How much of "The Ultimate Fighter" can one man take? In the coming weeks, I will be providing my loyal readers with not one, but TWO TUF recaps. For the low, low price of $0 (Canadian), you not only get a recap of The Ultimate Fighter: Nations, you’ll also be getting my slightly less coherent thoughts on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3!
For anyone unfamiliar with the TUF: Brazil series, it is best described as the wacky foreign cousin of TUF "Classic". The Balki Bartokoumos to our Cousin Larry, if you will. Anyone who has watched a foreign game show (or a parody of a foreign game show) will know what I’m talking about. The only thing more jarring than the bright and shiny atmosphere is the sheer phoniness that everyone agrees to go along with. The first season stuck closer to the TUF format, even as its competitors shattered my expectations with all of their singing and crying. The second season (which I’ll discuss in greater detail next week) exists in its own cartoonish reality and is one of the most purely enjoyable TUF seasons ever produced.
Much like TUF 1, the first TUF: Brazil season was a showcase for some excellent fighters who wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much exposure otherwise. Guys like Rony Jason, Francisco Trinaldo and Serginho were already big names on the Brazilian scene and to nobody’s surprise they’ve emerged as solid competitors in the UFC. Other fighters who are currently fighting for the company are Renee Forte, Hugo Wolverine, Rodrigo Damm, Pepey, Cezar Mutante, Daniel Sarafian and Thiago Bodão. That’s ten out of the sixteen contestants on the show. I’d say that the first foreign edition of TUF was a worthy venture.
From what I’ve seen in the commercials for this season, they’re heavily pushing this Wanderlei Silva/Chael Sonnen feud. These are two of the most well known personalities in all of MMA, so it disturbs me that they’re going to such great lengths to fabricate confrontations. I already believe these two don’t like each other. Do they have to show us conveniently taped run-ins at conventions and staged brawls that are as believable as Sonny beating on Carlo for smacking his sister? They hype the rivalry as the biggest in the history of TUF and "maybe even the sport". Off the top of my head, I can’t say it’s bigger than Chuck/Tito, Rampage/Rashad, Rousey/Tate, Cruz/Faber, Serra/Hughes...and that’s only talking about feuds featured on TUF.
Other questions I have:
· With Sonnen’s testosterone issues, will we actually get the chance to see him and Silva fight? Thankfully, the last four scheduled fights have gone off without a hitch, but before that there was an ugly streak of cancellations: From TUF 11 to TUF 16, five out of seven coaches’ matches never materialized. It would be a shame if the "greatest rivalry" didn’t even include an actual meeting between Sonnen and Silva.
· Will we finally have TUF: Brazil season where injuries don’t derail one of the tournament finals? The first two seasons included featherweight, welterweight and middleweight tournaments. Only the featherweight tournament featured the fighters who won their way to the finale (Jason and Pepey).
· Does the UFC care about drawing in new viewers? Let us not forget, that this is the reason TUF was created in the first place, to provide a fresh platform. They’re starting off this season with two episodes of elimination fights. While I find that easier to watch, I think it’s a terrible way to draw casual interest. These episodes are just so monotonous.
· Are they going to tone down the wacky hijinks of my beloved Brazilians? I’m disturbed to see that the new production has overtaken TUF: Brazil. They even got rid of the jovial voice-over guy. And there’s the manufactured drama during the opening speeches. *sigh*
Oh look, there will be a ring girl pageant this year.
Okay, I’m back in it.
Another peculiar addition (that I can only assume is related to some deal with Brazilian television), two famous female athletes are being added to each team as coaches: Hortência Marcari (basketball) for Team Sonnen and Isabel Salgado (volleyball) for Team Wanderlei. From now on, I’ll be referring to them only by their first names, which I think is appropriate given their stature in Brazil.
On to the fights!
Heavyweight Fight 1: Gonçalo Salgado v. Job Kleber
If Salgado is successful, he’ll be on his way to being the first Portuguese native to compete in the UFC. He’s a former bodyguard for Ronaldo and we even get a video message from the football superstar! That’s a big get for the show. Can you imagine LeBron James or Peyton Manning doing a testimonial for an American TUF competitor?
Kleber is a cop. His nickname is "Cabo Job", which is Portuguese for "Corporal Job", presumably his rank in the force.
Salgado comes out strong, smothering Kleber while constantly hitting him with short punches. He’s not doing much damage, but is definitely ahead on the scorecards. They break and when Salgado over-pursues, Kleber lands a sloppy hook that causes Salgado to fall right into a soccer kick to the face. Brutal! The fight was so short and the finish so sudden that it’s difficult to gauge the skill level of either man. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of that from the heavyweights. What we won’t be seeing is anymore Ronaldo.
Advancing: Capo Job
Middleweight Fight 1: Paulo Costa v. José Roberto Rocha
Hot on the heels of Elias Theodorou, we have another pretty boy at 185: Mr. Paulo Costa aka "Borrachinha". Even Silva says that "He looks better than his picture." His opponent, Rocha ("Negão") is fighting for the memory of his deceased father.
Two fights in and we’re already getting only highlights. Borrachinha looks a lot bigger, which leads to a predictable fight with Negão being completely overpowered. The larger man ends it with a nasty looking standing guillotine in the second round.
Heavyweight Fight 2: Ewerton Rocha v. Jollyson Francisco
If this fight were all about looks and cred, Rocha ("Gigante") would take this in a walk. He’s a riot policeman from the mean streets of Rio:
Gigante: I wake up in fear every day. I’ve learned that fear keeps me alive.
Sounds like a fun guy. His opponent, Francisco was a salesman and he looks about as intimidating as a guy trying to sell you a used RV.
So of course, it’s Francisco who gets the takedown early. He’s aggressive with his jiu-jitsu, passing beautifully into full mount to set up an arm triangle choke. Gigante taps. He’s lucky he’s never ran into Francisco selling fake Rolexes on the corner.
Advancing: Jollyson Francisco
Middleweight Fight 2: Douglas Moura v. Joilton Santos
In what has to be the first case of a TUF competitor being overshadowed by the athletic accomplishments of their significant other, we find out that Moura is married to world champion boxer/MMA fighter Duda Yankovich. It doesn’t do him much good as he drops a split decision to the soft-spoken Santos ("Peregrino") in a good back and forth contest (that we again only get the highlights of. Are we only showing the heavyweights then?).
Moura also had Eric Albarracin in his cheering section! Albarracin was Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira’s wrestling coach on TUF: Brazil 2 and emerged as one of the best personalities. Fighters who have relationships with famous athletes on this show are 0-2 so far.
Heavyweight Fight 3: Felipe Dantas v. Edgard Castaldelli
Both big fellas gave up a lot to be here. Dantas ("Monstro") left his job of ten years, while Castaldelli ("Magrão") is missing the birth of his child. We’re given highlights, with Sonnen noting that the fight was size versus power while Silva paints it more as boxing versus wrestling. Monstro’s limited ground game proves to be his undoing as Magrão gets him down and busts him open. The ground and pound isn’t thundering, but Monstro is a bloody mess and the ref waves it off.
Middleweight Fight 3: Christiano Pontes v. Wagner Silva
Pontes ("Ferrugem") boasts that what he lacks in competition experience he makes up for in breadth of training. He believes that God prefers him because he is "pure". He should have no trouble against Silva (Wagnão), who is a divorcee. We all know that God is going to pick the pure guy over the divorced guy. Wagnão says that marriage conflicted with his life; what he doesn’t mention is that the conflict was over him wanting to have sex with more than one woman.
The fight ends up on the ground and Wagnão starts wailing on Ferrugem. I’ve never seen someone give up their back so quickly. That’s the difference between training and the real thing. Even after victory by rear naked choke, Sonnen thinks Wagnão has a long way to go to be ready for the UFC.
Middleweight Fight 4: William Steindorf v. Ricardo Abreu
The award for "most interesting hairstyle" goes to Steindorf, who sports a ghastly purple mohawk. It’s a good thing he has something to help him stand out because he’s facing "Demente", a fighter with a lot of buzz around him due to his training with Silva. He was known for being hyperactive and he has channelled that into a world champion jiu-jitsu career.
Abreu looks great, but Steindorf is a tough out. Somehow he doesn’t tap despite Abreu trapping him in an arm bar and threatening to break a limb. Isabel says the prospect of that arm snapping almost made her leave the gym. In the second round, Abreu switches to ground and pound to get the finish. Steindorf is a tough son of a gun though, no question.
Heavyweight Fight 4: Guilherme Viana v. Antonio Carlos
Carlos is known "Cara de Sapato" or "Shoe Face". He looks like a giant Brazilian Urijah Faber.
Could he be hiding a butt chin under there?
Sapato shows off some excellent grappling, causing Viana to be on the defensive the whole fight. As they get up, Sapato clocks Viana with an overhand right. Viana takes more shots as he tries to walk away and the ref has to call it. Both coaches are really impressed by Sapato, who has a nice motor for a heavyweight.
Isabel is fascinated by the poor mother having to watch her son get beaten (especially since Viana was riddled with illness as a child). Viana’s brother complains about the stoppage, only for the show to run a clip of Viana asking questions that clearly show he had no idea what happened at the end of the fight.
Advancing: Cara de Sapato
Next week: Eight more fights to round out the middleweight and heavyweight brackets. One of the remaining fighters is former Bellator heavyweight contender Thiago "Big Monster" Santos. I’m rooting for him, if only because of his bouts with Eric Prindle. There’s another rivalry that I’d put above Sonnen/Wanderlei.
Until we get a TUF ring girl pageant winner (I can’t believe I typed that), let me end this recap with a picture of Camila Oliveira, who really grew on me during her stint on TUF: Brazil 2
Nice to see a Brazilian model with a decent set of buns for once.