TUF Latin America – Episode 1 Review
In the first episode of TUF Latin America which airs in the United States only on Fight Pass, UFC President Dana White welcomes 16 promising Latin American Bantamweight and Featherweight fighters to Las Vegas to compete for a contract in the UFC.
The men split into two teams, Mexico and Latin America, led by UFC World Heavyweight Champion Caín Velásquez and his number one contender, Fabricio Werdum. Team alliances and cultural differences come into play as the fighter’s pursue the dream of becoming an MMA star.
Velásquez will coach the Mexican team while Werdum will mentor the Latin American team. The fighters as well as Dana White seemed anxious to get the show started. A coin toss determined the team that would receive the first fight pick. Team Mexico won the coin toss and the two opposing coaches will have a few days to evaluate their fighters before making the pick.
What really impressed the fighters was the size and the amenities that the TUF house would provide.
The Mexican fighters feel that they have an advantage because they share the same cultures and mostly know one another before getting to the show. The Latin American fighters may each represent a different country, different cultures and may not know each other very well.
Werdum said off the bat that he was highly impressed with the wrestling and jiu-jitsu of a few of his fighters. “I was very surprised by the way the boys train, not because I thought they weren’t good, but because in their countries the level is not so competitive.”
Arrival in the house would not go without incident. Right away the Mexican team complained that the Latin American team was not doing their fair share in cleaning up in the kitchen. The fighters left a joking note along with the drawing of a pig egging on their opposing team, stating they were not pulling their weight when it came to chores. The Mexican fighters also took the Mexican flag and wrapped it around the flags of all the other countries symbolic to a position of dominance.
Velásquez was able to study his pupils the same way Werdum did and one thing that was notable in the abbreviated and edit session shown to viewers is that Team Mexico lacks jiu-jitsu. Most of the heavyweight champion’s praise for his fighters came in the arena of boxing and kicks. There was no mention of wrestling or jiu-jitsu. It will be interested to see how that pans out.
The first fight announced was Jose Quinonez vs. Bentley Syler.
The Latin American team turns to Syler for a lot of answers, tips and suggestions as we learn that he has a background in medicine and left the practice to become a fighter.
Syler states that his strengths are Muay Thai, kickboxing and Olympic wrestling.
We learn that Quinonez has a strong bond with his brothers as his parents split following a divorce. He states that they were very poor and often times had gone hungry.
When it comes time for weigh-ins Quinonez is several pounds overweight. “I made the mistake of drinking water this morning,” he said.
Team Mexico rallies around their fighter and they all work to help him make the cut by doing the same training and cut alongside Quinonez. Quinonez sports a unique mustache and to support him at the weigh-ins the entire team including coach Cain wear one.
Upon weigh-ins Quinonez came in over the 135-pound limit. He weighed in at 136.4 The commission will allow one pound over the limit, but he was still 0.4 over that limit so the fighter had to remove his trunks for another shot. It was then that he made the weight and would begin to focus on fight strategy rather than cutting weight.
His opponent Syler easily made 135 on the first attempt. The two then stood toe-to-toe for a staredown and had to be separated as they butted heads.
If the weight cut was a factor for Quinonez it was not apparent. Although he was taken down early by Syler, he quickly worked his way back to his feet, landed two takedowns of his own, knocked his opponent down twice with strikes and had two dominant ground and pound sessions bloodying the face of Syler.
Since Team Mexico still has control of the fights they picked Gabriel Benitez and Diego Rivas to do battle next week.