As personal as the rivalry has been thus far between coaches Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3, the actual competition inside the cage hasn't been nearly as fierce.
Silva's team is up 2-0 in the competition, and after winning a team competition last week, they continue to control the fight selections, and the Brazilian legend wasted no time choosing his top pick Ricardo 'Demente' Abreu for the next middleweight bout, as he faces Guilherme 'Bomba' Vasconcelos.
There's no way for the losses both in the cage and outside of it not to demoralize Team Sonnen at least a little bit given the unique time frame and competition that takes place over the course of six weeks. Two losses to start the competition are the toughest pill to swallow, but things aren't made any easier when the teams are matched up in other physical competitions and still Team Sonnen can't seem to find a win.
They will get another chance on the upcoming episode, but the stakes aren't for a fight selection and it's something much bigger than bragging rights. The payoff is not going to be fun for the losing team, and that's enough reason alone to watch the latest episode.
As far as coaches go in Ultimate Fighter history, Chael Sonnen might be one of the best and most attentive the show has ever had. He's a hands on teacher who loves to mix it up with his fighters, and he's continuously shown his interest in making sure they all compete and succeed. Up to this point, however, despite Sonnen's best attempts to turn the corner with his fighters to where it translates into performances inside the Octagon, things continue to come up short.
This week, Sonnen's hopes of ending his two fight losing skid to Silva sits on the shoulders of 'Bomba' Vasconcelos. Bomba is a multi-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion, but coming into this fight he will also have a slight reach and height advantage over his opponent, so it could come in handy once he steps inside the cage with Abreu. At this point, confidence might really be the true key to victory because after watching two teammates fall and the pressure that mounts for the next person to fight and win, there can be no place for fear when facing off in the Octagon.
His opponent 'Demente' Abreu (the nickname means madman in English) comes from similar jiu-jitsu roots, where he also took home numerous titles over the years. His Brazilian grappling lineage comes from coach Andre Pederneiras, who is also the head coach and team leader of Nova Uniao - the squad of fighters led by UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Abreu was a heavy favorite from the early days of this competition to potentially come in and win the entire tournament, but he'll have his hands full with Bomba in the next round.
The same pressure that mounts on Bomba to win and stop the bleeding for his team can also have the reverse effect on Abreu, considering that he is such a heavy favorite to do well in this competition. Abreu has to be careful not to let the hype and expectations overwhelm him and lead him to a loss.
In terms of the actual fight, Abreu should be favored to win because while both fighters are grappling experts, it's 'Demente' who possesses the better and stronger striking game. Abreu has knockout power in both hands and a wrestling game that should also be superior to that of Bomba. On the other side, Bomba needs to use his length to his advantage to keep Abreu away as long as he can, and when the fight hits the ground, which it inevitably should do, he should use his long arms and legs to toss up submissions and keep his opponent guessing until he either locks one on or gets back to his feet in a scramble and escapes.
It's a huge moment for Team Sonnen because a win here over Wanderlei's top pick could swing the momentum hugely in their favor, but a loss will put them down 0-3 with only five fights remaining in the opening round of the tournament.
The next episode of TUF Brazil airs tonight, exclusively in the United States, on UFC Fight Pass.
TUF Brazil 3 - Episode 5 Preview
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil's third season, featuring coaches Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva, continues, only on UFC Fight Pass...
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Saturday, December 3
Las Vegas, Nevada