The first country other than the U.S. to get to host the reality show The Ultimate Fighter is Brazil.  Brazil has long held the fascination of MMA fans, ever since Royce Gracie dominated the early UFC events.  Since then a host of champions and popular fighters have emerged for the South American country, including the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil.

The coaches for TUF Brazil are two legendary fighters, both in their native Brazil and in the States.  Wanderlei Silva reigned supreme over Pride’s middleweight division, the equivalent of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, from 2001 until 2007.  During that run, he was arguably the pound-for-pound greatest fighter in the sport.  But it is a fight from 1998 that still haunts “The Axe Murder.”  At UFC Brazil, Silva was stopped just 44 seconds into his fight with Vitor Belfort.  Belfort is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and UFC 12 tournament winner.  Both fighters now fight in the middleweight division and are looking to notch a victory over one more legend in the sport.

The first season of TUF Brazil follows the format of previous seasons of The Ultimate Fighter.  The show will feature 16 featherweights and 16 middleweights looking to make their way onto the show.  However, there is only room for eight fighters from each division in the TUF house.

Let’s meet the featherweights.

Favorites:

Rodrigo Damm (9-5)

Damm is one of the more familiar names on the cast of TUF Brazil.  He is a Strikeforce, Sengoku and BoDog veteran.  Up to this point, he has primarily competed in the lightweight division.   Damm started off his career with a bang, going 8-1 and racking up victories over K-1 Heroes and Dream veteran Kultar Gill and Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Jorge Masvidal.  On the other hand, recently he is just 1-4 in his last five fights.  However, those losses are to UFC veteran Eiji Mitsuoka, Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, and Strikeforce veterans Maximo Blanco and Justin Wilcox.

Rony Mariano (10-3)

Mariano is a legit prospect out of the Team Nogueira camp.  He is well-round with solid submission skills and great muay Thai striking.  He is currently on a five fight winning streak, all of them ending in the first round.  He holds a victory over UFC veteran Felipe Arantes.  While Mariano currently fights at featherweight, he has expressed interest in dropping down to bantamweight.

Marcos Vinicius Borges Pancini (19-3-1)

“Vina” is the most experienced featherweight hoping to make into the house.  With 23 fights under his belt, he has been there and seen that.  But even more remarkable is that in all 19 victories he has stopped his opponent.  While he hasn’t faced the big names U.S. fans may recognize, he has competed against solid competition record-wise.

John Teixeira (13-0-1)

Teixeira is an undefeated prospect.  He is a muay Thai specialist that prefers to attack standing but can hold his own on the mat, as evidenced by his eight submission wins.  While he has not found his way to any of the larger events, he has faced experienced competition on the regional circuit.  Teixeira has spent most of his career at lightweight, but at only 5-foot-7, the cut should not be too difficult.

Wagner Campos (11-3)

Campos is an accomplished BJJ black belt.  He has medaled in international events such as the 2008 World Cup and South American Championships.  Despite his pedigree on the ground, he also possesses some power in his hands, notching six victories via knockout.  One concern though is his size.  Campos has primarily competed at bantamweight throughout his career, so he may be giving up some size to other competitors on TUF.

Fabricio Guerreiro (14-1)

Guerreiro is an experienced fighter who has not ducked competition.  He has faced opponents with records such as 37-14, 33-11 and 20-7.  Guerreiro has stopped all but two of his opponents.  He is a well-rounded fighter who has shown skill in BJJ, Judo, striking and ground-and-pound.  His lone loss was due to a referee stopping the fight early.  In the rematch just a month later, Guerreiro won.  He may have a size advantage over some of the competition on the show since he will be cutting down from lightweight.

Dileno Lopes (8-0)

Lopes fights out of Nova Uniao.  He has been competing in MMA since 2007.  His relatively light record is because he only had three fights in the first three years of his career.  The slick BJJ ace has ended seven of his eight fights via submission.  My main concern for Lopes is his size; some reports I have seen have listed him as low as flyweight.

Giovanni da Silva Santos Jr. (10-1)

After losing in his debut fight, “Soldado” reeled off 10 straight victories.  He has won five times by knockout.  His last victory was by far the best of his career when he defeated Renato Velame, who had a 14-4 record at the time.  He will need more victories of this quality if he is going to make it very far in the TUF competition.

Underdogs:

Medeiros Anistavio (12-7)

Sherdog actually list Anistavio as 14-7.  However, his record highlights an issue with Brazilian MMA bouts.  In 2011, he went 4-1.  He kicked off the year facing an opponent who was 0-1, and he followed that up with facing a debuting fighter.  He then faced more appropriate fighters, winning a fight against a 5-1 opponent and losing to an opponent with an 11-5 record.  He finished off the year facing another inexperienced fighter with a 1-1 record.  Many of these fights would not be sanctioned in the U.S., but are very common in Brazil.

Alexandre Ramos (5-0)

Ramos trains out of Universidade Da Luta, the same team that “Ninja” and “Shogun” Rua work with in Brazil.  He is 5-0 with four first-round stoppages.  However, the competition he has faced has not been extremely impressive.  In his debut fight in 2009, he actually fought his toughest opponent, who had a 6-3 record.  Since then, three fighters he faced were in their debut fights and have not fought since, and the other fighter was just 1-1-1 at the time of the fight.

Godofredo Pepey (8-0)

Pepey’s career got off to a rather sporadic start.  His first professional MMA fight was in 2003, but that was his only fight for several years. In fact, he only had three fights in the first seven years of his career.  All eight of the BJJ black belt’s wins have been finishes, with six of them coming from submission.  However, his opponents since 2010 only have a record of 13-22.  Outside of MMA, Pepey regularly competes and medals in BJJ tournaments around Brazil.

Johnny Goncalves (4-0)

I don’t know much about Goncalves, and I wasn’t able to find out much.  He doesn’t have a record on any of the databases and he doesn’t have videos on YouTube.  The only thing I did learn was that Goncalves’ nickname is “Cabeça,” which means “Head.”  At this point, the man remains a mystery and that in and of itself is a red flag.  He isn’t appearing in decent sized shows and he isn’t facing great competition or else he would have a record or videos.

Hugo Viana (5-0)

Viana may be an undefeated prospect, but his opponents in those five fights only have a combined record of 4-2.  The other thing that stands out about his record is that all of his fights have gone to decision.  Viana has demonstrated good footwork in his fights, but sloppy striking.  When his opponents fire back, he uses decent wrestling for the takedown.  However on the ground, even in full mount, he hasn’t found a way to finish his opponents.

Fernando Duarte Guerra (10-1)

Guerra fights out of the infamous Chute Boxe.  He started his career going 9-0 before suffering his first career loss.  Since the start of 2010, three of his last four fights have gone to the judges’ scorecards.

Rafael Bueno (7-1)

Bueno started off his career by reeling off seven straight wins, five of those via submission.  He did have his winning streak snapped in his last bout before heading into TUF.  However, the reality is that Bueno appears to feast on inexperienced fighters.  Amazingly in his seven victories, his opponents had a combined record of just 4-9; he faced four opponents who were debuting, another opponent who was 0-1, and another opponent who was just 1-1.  Bueno’s loss comes from an opponent who was 10-3.

Pedro Nobre (11-0-1)

Nobre fights out of Brazilian Top Team.  All of Nobre’s victories have come via stoppage, seven by knockout and four via submission.  Unfortunately, it appears this finisher did not make the show.  He had a fight on March 4, so one can assume he was eliminated early from the show.

Photo: Rodrigo Damm (R) has been in the cage with Gilbert Melendez (Sherdog)

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.