With only two middleweights left to fight, the last quarterfinal matchup comes predetermined: Warlley Alves of Team Sonnen goes up against Team Silva’s Ismael “Marmota” de Jesus in a battle between two of the season’s most highly regarded competitors.
The show wastes no time before delving into the fighters’ histories. De Jesus explains that he comes from a poor family, and that he experienced extreme poverty and hunger early in life. The muscular middleweight says that he fights for himself, since his adopted family has never supported his career, and tells assistant coach Isabel Salgado to expect a change in his demeanor come fight day.
“When I come in tomorrow, you won’t recognize me,” says Marmota. “I transform myself. My entire face changes. My eyes become red. I’m another person.”
Alves’ story is a familiar one: he was expelled from school three times due to fighting, eventually leading him to try MMA for a “fresh start.” Assistant coach Hortencia Marcari calls Alves “a mystery” and “a caged animal,” while Chael Sonnen praises his student as “close to perfect right now.” Sonnen may not know much about his man’s opponent, but the way the Oregonian sees it, that doesn’t matter.
“You know how sometimes you’ll eat a piece of pizza, and then you’ll tell everybody, ‘That’s the greatest pizza in the world?’” he asks his team. “Even though there’s plenty of other pizza you haven’t had, you just know there’s no pizza better than this pizza I’m eating right now. That’s Warlley. I don’t know [de Jesus], I just know the guy I’m working out with every day. I can’t accept that there’s somebody better right now.”
It’s time for this season’s “Coaches’ Challenge,” where Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva will clash on the soccer pitch. The prize at stake is $33,000 -- $23,000 for the winning coach, $10,000 for his team -- plus a jersey autographed by Brazilian icon Pele. The obstacle course tests the fighters’ agility, coordination and ball-handling skills, and as host Joel Santana notes, Silva is simply “too slow.” Sonnen blows by his future opponent for the win, much to the delight of his squad. Naturally, Silva writes off the victory as meaningless and declares that he will have the last laugh.
Famed boxing trainer Luiz Dorea joins Team Silva in the gym to replace banished coach Andre “Dida” Amado. The fighters are thrilled to see the Champion Team leader, but none more than heavyweight Antonio “Cara de Sapato” Carlos, who trains under Dorea in his home state of Bahia.
Back at the house, the fighters enjoy a Hawaiian-style party in the backyard along with this season’s potential Octagon girls. The morning after the luau, coach Sonnen shows up to check on Alves’ weight. Midway through a bowl of pasta, Alves insists that he’s fine, but Sonnen wants him to step on the scale anyway. Sonnen seems surprised when Alves, who normally competes at welterweight, is two pounds under the middleweight limit.
“You’re right,” Sonnen tells Alves. “You can have some more pasta.”
Sure enough, at the official weigh-in, Alves and de Jesus hit their marks without incident, checking in at an identical 184.9 pounds. There follows an intense staring contest, after which coaches and fighters seem to agree that this could be the best fight of the season.
Just before the fight, de Jesus gets a boost of confidence when his coach from home, Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras, arrives in the locker room. Alves’ pep talk comes from Sonnen, who tells the unbeaten prospect that he’s the best boxer, kickboxer, wrestler and jiu-jitsu practitioner in the competition.
It’s time for the fight, and Alves opens the bout with leg kicks in the center of the cage, but he’s quickly forced to back up as the taller, rangier de Jesus lobs long right hands. Alves closes the gap and muscles Marmota against the fence, holding Silva’s fighter in place with an underhook while kneeing his legs and stomping his feet. When Alves pulls down his opponent’s head using the Thai plum, de Jesus first looks to defend, then throws a right hook to Alves’ body. The punch leaves de Jesus’ hands out of position, allowing Alves to drive up the center with a knee to the face. De Jesus’ legs give way, but before he hits the ground, Alves blasts him with another knee. Heavy right hands follow, and when de Jesus manages to struggle back to his feet, Alves is waiting with one last knee to finish the fight. De Jesus slumps to the ground, unconscious, and the referee calls an end to the assault.
After a 0-4 start, Team Sonnen has now won three straight fights. Next week, Marcos Rogerio “Pezao” de Lima will have a chance to even the score when he faces Team Silva’s Jollyson Francino Sosatleta in the last heavyweight quarterfinal.