This week, after three consecutive wins, the resurgent Team Sonnen will try to even the score at four apiece when they send Marcos Rogerio “Pezao” de Lima against Team Silva’s Jollyson Francino in the last heavyweight quarterfinal.
Wanderlei Silva’s squad was down in the dumps at the end of last week’s show following the loss of their unofficial team captain, Ismael de Jesus. The fighters get a much needed morale boost to start this episode, as they get some coaching from special guest Andre Pederneiras of Nova Uniao.
Meanwhile, spirits are high over on Chael Sonnen’s side of the gym. His men are putting assistant coach Hortencia Marcari through the ringer with a tough workout, but the former basketball player does not seem too keen on finishing the circuit with an ice bath. Not one to back down from a challenge, Marcari eventually hops in the tub, with predictably uncomfortable results.
It’s time to meet this week’s competitors, and up first is the man known to all in the “TUF” house as simply Jollyson. Team Silva’s heavyweight hails from Recife, Pernambuco, and says he was a “calm kid” who people never imagined would become a fighter. Coach Wanderlei is banking on Francino being in better shape than his opponent and has tailored a takedown-based game plan for his charge.
Pezao talks of starting martial arts at a young age before becoming “lost” from 14 to 16: living on the streets, doing drugs and getting in street fights. The onetime Strikeforce fighter turned things around after a conversation with his father, who displayed de Lima’s older brother’s sports medals and asked his younger son what seed he was sowing for later in life. Sonnen has been backing de Lima from the start, talking up his No. 1 heavyweight pick as one of the team’s toughest outs.
At the official weigh-in, de Lima hits the scale at 232.6 pounds, almost even with Francino, who comes in at 234.6. In no time at all, it’s time for the fight.
The first strike landed is a thudding kick to the body of Francino, who clinches up shortly afterward. The big men jockey for position on the fence, trading short punches and knees in the tie-up. De Lima staggers Francino with a jab and jumps guard to attempt a guillotine, but Francino frees his head and stands over the prone Team Sonnen fighter, kicking at his legs. After exploding back to his feet, de Lima floors Francino with a big slam and roughs him up with a couple punches on the ground.
With 90 seconds left in the round, de Lima appears concerned with something about Francino and tries to indicate this to the referee. After a few seconds, the ref notices what Pezao is pointing at: Francino is bleeding from the index finger on his right hand, where he says de Lima bit him.
“Is this a cockfight?” Francino asks while being attended to by the cageside physician. “He bit my finger. He’s disqualified.”
The referee warns both fighters -- de Lima for biting, and Francino for putting his fingers in his opponent’s mouth -- and the fight resumes. Francino tries a trip takedown against the cage and takes some wraparound right hands to the side of the head. De Lima reverses the position and tries a trip of his own, but he botches the takedown and accidentally pulls Francino into full mount to finish the round.
Francino goes straight to the clinch to start the second frame, but de Lima refuses to stay on the fence. This time, Pezao hits a foot sweep and follows Francino to the ground, sitting up in half guard to deliver rough punches to the body. With about 3:00 remaining, de Lima backs out and allows his opponent to stand. It doesn’t last long, as Francino does an ugly guard-pull after eating a couple hard shots. De Lima is able to keep Francino trapped against the cage and grinds away with punches and elbows from half guard for the final two minutes of the fight.
After two rounds, the judges come to a unanimous decision, and the winner is de Lima. Team Sonnen celebrates the big win by shaking and spraying energy drinks all over their locker room. When it’s time for Pezao to move his picture in the gym’s big bracket, he skips the semifinal slot and puts himself in the final alongside teammate Vitor Miranda.
UFC President Dana White consults with Silva and Sonnen, as well as the fighters, regarding the semifinal matchups. Surprisingly, the coaches are on the same page when it comes to matchmaking.
The first semifinal will be at middleweight, with Team Silva’s Wagner Silva Gomes facing Team Sonnen’s Warlley Alves. The next fight will see heavyweight Pezao make a quick turnaround to take on Silva’s “Cara de Sapato,” Antonio Carlos. The other middleweight matchup will see Silva’s top pick, Ricardo Abreu, take on Marcio “Lyoto” Alexandre, followed by a heavyweight tilt between Miranda and “Rick Monstro,” Richardson Moreira.