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A hand injury ended Luiz Dutra‘s time on the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” but he has a second chance to make good in the UFC.

Dutra, the top pick of coach Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on the reality-show, didn’t get the call to fight in the octagon until this past November. But he is thankful it came nonetheless.

“In reality, it was a minor injury, but because of the shooting schedule, there wouldn’t be enough time for me to heal up,” he told MMAjunkie. “I was cut, per the UFC rules. Then they sent me to a therapist; I recovered after about 10 days or so. Immediately thereafter, I continued training, and thankfully the UFC sent me a contract to fight.”

Dutra (11-2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets Kiichi Kunimoto (15-5-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the main-card of UFC Fight Night 34, which takes place Saturday at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore and streams live on UFC Fight Pass.

“I’ve always believed they’d call me,” said Dutra. “I’ve been working hard, racking up a solid record, and that’s why I had faith that they would give me a chance. I was very happy when it did happen.”

Dutra said his only career setbacks are due to injuries sustained during fights. While they’ve made him harder to employ, they haven’t changed the way he fights.

“Against Luis Brito, in 2004, I hurt my shoulder when I was throwing a punch,” he said. “And against Paulo Thiago, in 2008, I threw a leaping high kick, and I ended up tearing a ligament on my right knee. So it’s hard to take any lessons from these fights.

“Against Brito, I won the first round, and against Thiago, the fight was too short. Losing twice to injuries is a very rare thing.”

The Brazilian hopes such occurrences are a thing of the past, though, as he begins his professional octagon career against Kunimoto, who has won his past four fights and has won eight career bouts via submission. Kunimoto was booked to fight Dutra when original opponent Hyun Gyu Lim was promoted to the headliner opposite Tarec Saffiedine.

“He’s a tough guy with Pancrase experience,” Dutra said of the Japanese fighter. “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find too many videos. He is battle-tested, but I’m confident on my ground game. Let’s see how it goes. I’m highly confident on my luta livre skills.

“I know I can frustrate him if he thinks that he’ll be at an advantage on the ground. And standing up, I believe in my boxing skills. Despite only having 34 days’ notice, I’m working closely with our boxing coach, who’s from Cuba. I feel great. I believe I’ll be able to frustrate my opponent’s plans.”

On Saturday, Dutra aims to win not just for himself, but for his style of fighting. As a lifelong practitioner of luta livre, a lesser-known form which emerged as an early foil against fighters trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he is representing a team of veterans from MMA’s early days.

“Unfortunately, luta livre fighters have had no luck in the octagon,” he said. “I’m talking about practitioners such as Hugo Duarte, Eugenio Tadeu, Flavio Moura, Alexandre ‘Cacareco’ Ferreira and Jose Maria. I want to step into the octagon with the right foot and end this stigma against luta livre, and to bring my team and my martial art to their deserved place, which is among the best in the world.”

Now that he’s healthy to do so, Dutra’s goal is closer than ever.

For more on UFC Fight Night 34, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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