This season has been so lopsided and yet still so entertaining. I’ve found that it usually doesn’t matter how competitive a season is, it’s more about how the respective teams handle the situation. The same was true of TUF 20 (Team Pettis v. Team Melendez), which we slyly referenced in our last recap. If anything, it is fascinating to me how a team can dominate in this setting with an unfamiliar training environment and such little preparation for their contests.
In this case, it’s fair to say that Team Nogueira has been in turmoil ever since Anderson Silva had to bow out. The ensuing dysfunction has been too much to overcome and it doesn’t help that The Spider might not have been the best judge of talent. And Shogun’s fight selection has been on point. He has a great feel for putting his guys in the right place at the right time. Like, I didn’t think Korea would be able to handle Pitbull, but that’s why Shogun is Shogun and I’m writing about TUF on my computer.
The pre-show narration offers the sobering reminder that Adamas is the last chance for Team Nogueira to advance a bantamweight to the next round…or at least that’s the case when the episode starts. DUN DUN DUN!
Pitbull apologizes to Korea for not congratulation him after their fight. Another fine showing of etiquette that probably wasn’t necessary considering how chaotic things can be before and after a fight. The positivity is flowing as Soldado addresses the house. “I look around,” he says. “And I don’t see any losers.”
(Of course, that’s an easy sentiment to express when your team has won everything).
Adamas echoes the statement. This cast is really close, even by TUF: Brazil standards.
Representing Team Vermelho this week is Netto BJJ. Don’t ask me why he is called that. All they seem to talk about is his knockout power. Netto believes his style can nullify Team Azul adversary Índio Brabo.
Like many who have appeared on TUF, Netto talks about how hard it has been to leave his family to pursue this opportunity. I don’t mean to sound jaded, but I wish they would give us more specifics about their struggle, like maybe some kind of anecdote. Even though it would lead to static, talking head segments, it would also help with differentiating the fighters and their backgrounds.
Índio is from Manaus, the Amazon, hence the nickname that translates to “Mad Indian”. He got the name for being an absolute animal in practice, something we get a glimpse of in his training montage.
Okay, I have a stupid question to ask now. Are natives in South America also referred to as Indians? Why would that be? My gratitude to anyone who can help me with this. History and geography are not my strong points. Be gentle.
The main storyline this week revolves around the accumulating medical issues of Soldado. Not only are his injuries worsening, he has also contracted a bacterial infection. Next week’s fight with Adamas is in serious jeopardy. He returns from his latest trip to the doctor’s office with a new fashion accessory.
The doctor prescribes him antibiotics to combat the infection, which wreak havoc on Soldado’s body. He can’t train at all. Back in the locker room, he breaks down into tears. They calm him down and tell him that he needs time alone to think about whether he is truly able to continue. The coaches worry that his “mind-set is gone”.
Soldado confirms the worst: he won’t be ready in time for the fight. Everyone starts bawling (author included). Even Shogun can’t escape the emotional outburst.
Dana White shows up to ask Soldado if he is quitting. After Soldado exits, Dana says that Soldado “couldn’t make it here”. That is harsh. Is it possible that they didn’t inform him of the circumstances of Soldado’s departure?
Things only get more awkward when Dana asks Pitbull if he wants to fight again. Pitbull explains that he’s both hurt and heavy. It sounds like one of his teammates cusses him out (“Leandro, what the f**k?”) and when he eventually agrees to fight it is without any conviction. There is no explanation given as to why Pitbull was chosen over Bulldog or Reginaldo Vieira. Vieira’s exclusion is particularly glaring since he was the only one of the three Nogueira bantamweights to go to a decision and he’s had the longest rest period.
I’m going to give Dana the benefit of the doubt here and say he was the victim of bad editing, because he comes off as a super dick with the way he dismissed Soldado and put Pitbull on the spot. A rare TUF: Brazil segment that left me cold.
Here to raise the temperature (ugh) is Noelle Freeman. She believes she has what it takes to be a UFC octagon girl and, pardon my crudeness, does she ever. Noelle is very much my type and I like her energy…which makes it all the more difficult for me to cut her for being yet another non-Brazilian.
Lightweight Bout: Team Shogun’s Netto BJJ (7-0) v. Team Nogueira’s Índio Brabo (16-4)
Team Shogun’s strategy is obvious: Netto needs to stay calm and counter while Índio tires himself out. It leads to a good first frame for Índio, who is more than happy to juke and jive while scoring with leg kicks. When Netto gets impatient, the two end up trading with no conclusive winner. The round ends with Netto pressed against the cage. I lean towards Índio (10-9) for the effort.
Índio is noticeably slower in the second round and that is bad news for Team Azul. We find out later that his nose was broken in the first. Air is at a premium for him and as the round goes on he becomes a stationary target. Netto rocks him.
Netto has a heck of a chin himself, absorbing hard shots from Índio who is still winging punches even though he’s hurt. Still, it’s only a matter of time until Netto starts to pull away. He avoids Índio’s sloth-like overhands and connects with anything he wants. With two minutes to go, I’m not sure Índio would be able to get off his stool for a third round. He’s moving with his back to the cage, as if he needs it to stay upright. I’m surprised Big John doesn’t call it off.
Instructions are flying from the perimeter of the cage. Shogun wants Netto to finish Índio with a Muay Thai clinch and the Nogueiras want Índio to get off the fence so he can take Netto down. Both men have taken a lot of punches to the head, so I doubt all the signals are coming in loud and clear.
They need a third round to settle things. I saw Índio as being a dead duck, but he comes out firing and actually lands several times. He’s giving as good as he’s getting. The turning point comes when he goes for one last takedown, expending a lot of energy to drag or lift Netto off of his feet. The end result is Netto still standing and Índio bent over with his hands on his knees.
It’s a great fight, one that goes to Netto for being more precise in the final round. Índio showed incredible heart throughout. The judges make it official and Netto dedicates the win to Soldado. That’s six straight wins for Team Shogun.
The episode ends with both good and bad news for Team Azul. The bad news is that Pitbull is out. There just wasn’t enough time for him to recover from his injuries (again, why was he chosen when they knew he was hurt?). He is replaced by Reginaldo, who should have been the pick in the first place. So I guess everything worked out…?
As for the good news: Reginaldo is facing his teammate Adamas, so Team Nogueira is guaranteed to have at least one fighter in the semi-finals. Default! Default! Default!