The third edition of The Ultimate Fighter Brasil came to a close last Sunday. Even though the show aired way late at night on open TV, it is fair to say, it was a job well done getting fans excited for the Finale, which takes place tomorrow at the Ibirapuera Gymnasium, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Obviously, the downside here is the fact that Brazilian fans will not have the chance to witness the much anticipated bout between Wanderlei Silva and public enemy # 1, Chael Sonnen. That is especially sad because a great deal of what TV Globo and the UFC decided to show was based on this rivalry, including, of course, the infamous brawl that culminated in Andre Dida’s, Wanderlei’s assistant coach, being expelled from the show, following his participation in the brawl, where he ended up hitting Chael Sonnen in the head. Wanderlei got taken down on a hard surface and, from his back, started throwing elbows to the top his opponent’s head. The “Axe Murderer” got injured and then we all know by now what happened next.
Junior dos Santos was then called to save the day for Brazilian spectators. Watching the former Heavyweight Champion live would be a proper medicine for the Sao Paulo fans’ broken hearts. Their luck seemed to be running low though, as an injury on his left hand forced “Cigano” out of the card. The UFC acted fast and put brawler Fabio Maldonado to replace “Cigano” in the main event to face Croatian Stipe Miocic. Although Maldonado is nowhere near the level of Wanderlei Silva or Junior dos Santos, neither in terms of the achievements in his career or in popularity among MMA fans, he is a sure bet when it comes to give the audience a fight they want to watch, as he is always very aggressive and entertaining. He will put his granite chin to the test as he makes his Heavyweight debut against the Croatian.
Sao Paulo’s own, Demian Maia will also be on the main card, trying to recover from back-to-back defeats, to the hands of Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald.
Early favorites in the heavyweight division, Vitor Miranda and Antonio Carlos Jr. will be facing each other to determine the next Ultimate Fighter from Brazil. At age 35, Team Sonnen’s Miranda is a seasoned veteran, who had his MMA debut back in 2003. A talented striker, Miranda struggled to find a good break in his career, which included a pause after the passing of his four years old son in 2011. Team Wand’s Antonio Carlos Jr., also known as “Cara de Sapato” or “Shoe Face” is a Pan-American and World BJJ Champion, who’s 3-0 in MMA competition. So, this should be your classic striker vs. grappler match. Antonio doesn’t look like a natural Heavyweight, not in comparison with the current UFC roster. So, should he enter the UFC through the front door by winning his fight on Saturday, the UFC and him would be smart to think over a drop to Light-Heavyweight.
At 185 pounds, two members of Team Sonnen will be facing each other in the finale. Marcio “Lyoto” Alexandre against Warlley Alves. Alexandre beat BJJ ace Ricardo “Demente” Abreu in the semis, which makes him the slight favorite to win it all. He was able to deny Demente’s takedown attempts throughout the three rounds, to take the best of him standing and score a narrow split decision that sent him to the finals to face his well rounded teammate.
After a season when Chael Sonnen was able to overcome some of the hatred coming from the Brazilian audience, it will be interesting to see how the crowd welcomes him to the arena if he comes out to back his pupils. Episode after episode he was always shown as a caring and protective coach. We shall see if that was enough.