The 5 TUF Cast Members Who Have the Best Shot at Winning the Show
Cristiano Marcello, courtesy of Sherdog.
The new season of The Ultimate Fighter has begun, and 16 lightweights have made their way into the house by winning one-round elimination bouts on the show's first episode. Now the fighters must endure 12 weeks of training and fighting as well as being cut off from the outside world.
There were a number of surprises in the show's first episode, as some big names went home. WEC and Bellator veteran James Krause, highly touted Jordan Rinaldi and former adult film actor-turned-fighter Dakota Cochrane came up short in their efforts to make the house.
Let's take a look at a handful of fighters who are likely to have their hand raised at the end of the show, thereby becoming the next Ultimate Fighter winner.
Daron Cruickshank, courtesy of Sherdog.
Although Cruickshank has a wrestling pedigree, the fighter possesses quite the arsenal on his feet. He showcased that against veteran striker Drew Dober to earn his way into the house.
Six of Cruickshank's 10 victories have come by first-round knockout. The only two losses of his career have come against Strikeforce veteran Bobby Green and Bellator fighter Luis Palomino.
Cruickshank's willingness to trade on the feet may pose problems for his fellow cast-mates since he can always fall back on his wrestling should he need to.
Mike Rio, courtesy of Sherdog.
Florida's Mike Rio has the best wrestling credentials of any lightweight remaining on the show. He also has the ability to finish fights, as Ali Maclean learned on the first episode when he succumbed to a rear-naked choke.
A three-time NAIA wrestling champion, Rio is certainly comfortable on the mat. He has finished seven of his eight career fights with four by knockout and three by submission. The only blemish on his record came at the hands of former TUF winner Efrain Escudero.
What Rio's fellow competitors need to be wary of are his finishing abilities and strong takedowns. Otherwise, "The Wolverine" may be crowned TUF champion.
Myles Jury, courtesy of Sam Morris/"Las Vegas Sun."
After suffering a knee injury and being removed from the show's 13th season, it was a bit of a surprise to see Jury added to the fighter pool for this season. However, his 9-0 record with nine first-round finishes likely played a factor in the decision.
The San Diego-based fighter may be the most well-rounded competitor on the show. In addition to wrestling in high school, Jury possesses a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has knockout power.
Ironically, his decision win over Akbarh Arreloa to get into the house was the longest fight of his career. His ability to finish fights may be the key to him winning the show.
Justin Lawrence, courtesy of Sherdog.
If you didn't know who Justin Lawrence was prior to the elimination round, you likely do now. The Black House product needed less than 90 seconds to overwhelm long-time veteran James Krause.
At just 21 years old, Lawrence has tremendous upside. Despite his lack of MMA experience, he has shown composure under fire, having made his professional debut under the Strikeforce banner.
In addition to training with a world-class team such as Black House, Lawrence is a multiple-time kickboxing champion and a two-time Golden Gloves winner in St. Louis. That striking prowess could be what propels him to a six-figure contract.
Cristiano Marcello (rear) secures a rear-naked choke (courtesy of Sherdog).
Without a doubt, Brazilian Cristiano Marcello is the most decorated submission fighter on this season. The former Chute Boxe trainer and Royler Gracie black belt proved that by destroying another highly touted grappler, Jared Carlsten, in the elimination round.
The Pride veteran is the oldest competitor on the show and has fought against some high-level competition in his career, including veterans Luiz Azeredo and Mitsuhiro Ishida. Marcello is best known for a backstage fight at Pride Shockwave 2005, in which he choked out Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett with a triangle.
Every fighter in the house has to be wary of the Brazilian's world-class ground game, and it's likely that a number of them will fall victim to it.