With all the talent that tried out and eventually fought for merely the right to compete on the show, the one that went completely under the radar before the first episode aired had to have been Diego Brandao. A resident of Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico, Brandao had all the earmarks of a typical prospect on the show: he looked the part and had enough fights to warrant it but perhaps not someone that’ll be in the UFC longer than the finale. “The Ultimate Fighter” has produced these sorts of fighters by the armful; it is the one downside to bringing in over thirty people twice a year.
Eventually you need training room fillers in the same way Hollywood awards shows have seat fillers. It’s better television to have 16 guys in a room with maybe a handful of them able to compete at the highest of levels than have four guys. Eventually you run out of really talented people and have to get fillers in there to make it interesting and have warm bodies for training, etc. And while this season was filled with perhaps the best talent in years, there were a handful of guys who appeared to be there to fill a spot.
At least on paper, that is.
That’s where Brandao fit in an odd sense. Brandao was a good fighter but looking at his resume you’d think he’d be another guy in the same category as Andy Main or Richie Hightower, amongst others, in that if he showed you something it’d be impressive but you weren’t counting on him to make an impact.
No one told him that, though, and now he stands on the verge of becoming the first UFC TUF Featherweight winner. He’s put together the best run in the show’s history to get to the finals, ending all three of his fights in the first round in devastating fashion. He’s been a featherweight wrecking machine, making the comparison to Jose Aldo in terms of his striking style an easy one to make and now the Brazilian finds himself on the verge of a UFC contract. Standing in his way is Dennis Bermudez, an accomplished wrestler and grappler.
This has all the makings of a striker vs. grappler matchup as Brandao’s style, reminiscent of the old Chute Box team, has the potential to be win some sort of award bonus as well as could be the fight of the night.
Brandao’s career has been one where he tends to come out guns blazing. And it’s for good reason, too, as he has legitimate one strike knockout power in both hands and both legs. He also has shown solid takedown defense, as well, keeping the fight from going to the ground from a talented Bryan Caraway. Bermudez has similar grappling credentials as Caraway, though not as deep, and that’ll be the key to how this fight plays out. Whether or not Bermudez can take this to the ground in top position is going to be the key to the fight. Brandao’s ground game has been alluded to on the show and his record and some YouTube footage shows he has some potentially strong BJJ skills, but there isn’t enough to take a truly educated position. His coaches and teammates on and off the show have raved about his ground skills so there has to be something there. What it is we don’t know … and that’s what his opponent will need to uncover to win the fight and the six figure contract.
If the wrestler can take this to the ground, Bermudez should be able to grind out a decision. Bermudez has shown some strong striking skills but he uses them to set up his ground game; he has to take the fight to the mat to win. If he can’t he’s in for a short night as Brandao has some scary striking skills.