TUF Live Finale: Power Ranking the 25 Best TUF Fighters
Friday night, Al Iaquinta meets fellow Team Faber fighter Mike Chisea in a lightweight battle that will crown one of them as the winner of The Ultimate Fighter:Live.
After years of training and countless hours of donating their blood and sweat, their ultimate test has finally arrived.
Let's not forget the cast members who are fighting outside of the tournament final. It's important to remember that, win or lose, any house guest who is lucky enough to be invited back is capable of making a major statement in the world's biggest fighting organization, as past members of the show, winners and losers alike, have gone on to do remarkable things.
Let's take a look at TUF cast members who have made an impact in the sport. This is the power ranking of the 25 best fighters in Ultimate Fighter history
25: Matt Mitrione
If you have ever wondered which fighter in TUF history has the best winning percentage, look no further than Season 10 fighter Matt Mitrione, who has seen his hand raised after 83.3 percent of his fights.
While there was a lot of contention for the final spot on this list, this statistic isn’t one that would be easy to ignore.
Mitrione knocked out Marcus Jones in his UFC debut and followed it up with a TKO over Kimbo Slice. His most recent win showed off his much improved striking when he knocked out Christian Morecraft.
Although Meathead may not have a career full of wins over top names, he began his professional career in the UFC and has compiled a 5-1 record while there. With his only loss coming in a decision to Cheick Kongo and a finishing rate of 80 percent, Mitrione is threat in the heavyweight division.
Mitrione is expected to face Rob Broughton on August 4, 2012, at UFC on Fox 4.
24: Keith Jardine
Talk about a fall from grace.
At the close of 2008, Ultimate Fighter II contestant Keith Jardine held a professional record of 15-4-1, which included wins over Chuck Liddell, Brandon Vera and Forrest Griffin, and he had gone 6-3 while fighting under the Zuffa umbrella.
Jardine would only win two of his next nine fights, although he continued to be competitive against ranked talent like Rampage Jackson, Ryan Bader, Matt Hamill and Gegard Mousasi.
These days, the Dean of Mean is still trying to gather his bearings. He competes against Roger Gracie on July 14 at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy.
23: Joe Stevenson
As the welterweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Season Two, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson was one of the first TUF alumni to get a crack at UFC gold. On the heels of a 4-0 start to his lightweight career, Stevenson squared off with B.J. Penn in an emotion-filled battle that left Stevenson with nothing but tears.
Joe Daddy has put together wins over impressive stars of the lightweight division, including Melvin Guillard, Kurt Pellegrino, Gleison Tibau, Nate Diaz and Spencer Fisher.
Stevenson fell on hard times and was released from the UFC after four consecutive losses. His first post-Zuffa fight takes place on June 30 against recent Ultimate Fighter alumni Dakota Cochrane, who will likely be remembered for entering the show with a past that dabbled in gay pornography.
The bout takes place under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance banner.
22: Ed Herman
Ed “Short Fuse” Herman desperately wanted to be a member of Team Punishment when he competed on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Although he had to settle for membership on Team Shamrock, he earned the respect he craved from Tito Ortiz with his strong performance in the middleweight tournament.
Herman has won seven fights in the Octagon, and six of them have come via stoppage. At the moment, he rides the momentum of a three-fight winning streak.
Herman has defeated former UFC champion Dave Menne, rising light-heavyweight prospect Glover Teixiera and UFC middleweight contender David Loiseau. Even with experience against very game fighters, “Short Fuse” faces arguably his toughest challenge to date when he squares off with Jake Shields at UFC 150.
21: Ross Pearson
Winner of Season 9, Ross Pearson is arguably the only decent thing to come out of Team USA vs Team UK. You know, other than the incredible knockout that happened in the coaches’ fight.
Aside from a razor-thin decision loss to Edson Barboza at UFC 134, Ross Pearson carries a 5-1 record in the UFC that includes wins over quality opponents like Dennis Siver and Spencer Fisher.
Pearson has two Fight of the Night trophies and looks to improve his featherweight record to 2-0 when he faces Cub Swanson on June 22 at UFC on Fox 4.
20: Nate Quarry
How will you remember Nate Quarry?
As the protective brotherly figure of Chris Leben on The Ultimate Fighter? As the first cast member to get a title shot in the show's history? Or as the guy whose heavy hands were so terrifying that Kalib Starnes chose to let us mock him forever as opposed to letting Quarry hit him again?
Quarry retired with an overall record of 12-4, and he was 7-3 during his UFC career. Quarry’s biggest wins came at the expense of Shonie Carter, Jason MacDonald and Tim Credeur.
Fun Fact: Quarry appears as a guest zombie in the popular video game Left 4 Dead 2. The link will take you to a video of his flesh-eating appearance.
19: Matt Hamill
Matt Hamill could arguably be the most disappointing fighter in Ultimate Fighter history. Not because he wasn’t talented, but instead because the world expected him to accomplish so much more.
Hamill was widely expected to win the third season's light heavyweight tournament until an injury forced him out of the semifinals.
While he never became the main eventer that we expected, he did pick up some signature wins along the way, including early wins over future middleweight contenders Tim Boetsch and Mark Munoz and decisions over Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz.
The Hammer's final record goes down as 10-4, although it’s hard to find fans who feel his record shouldn’t be 9-5, after the “win” he scored against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones from elbow strikes that were deemed illegal.
18: Marcus Davis
What can be said about Season 2 competitor Marcus Davis? One of the most successful boxers to cross over, Davis put together a record of 17-1 in boxing, which rivaled the 16-4 MMA record he once carried.
At one point, Davis was a top contender in the welterweight division after winning 14 fights out of 16, which included an 11-fight winning streak. That momentum would have likely parlayed into a title shot had it not been for a controversial split decision loss to Dan Hardy back at UFC 99.
Not bad for a guy who announced his retirement after getting eliminated in the TUF house.
Fun Fact: Davis fought seven times in 2006, winning every time and finishing five of his opponents.
17: Joe Lauzon
Lightweight Joe Lauzon has the rare distinction of defeated a TUF coach before entering the house. In his UFC debut, Lauzon shocked former lightweight champion Jens Pulver with a 48-second knockout.
Surprising to many, Lauzon elected to join the Season 5 TUF cast instead of remaining on the main roster.
Since his time of Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, Lauzon has seen a rise and fall in stock several times. He's defeated Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens, but he's also lost pivotal matchups to Kenny Florian, Sam Stout, George Sotiropoulos and Anthony Pettis.
16: Mike Swick
Few people are as deserving of their nicknames as Mike “Quick” Swick. A light-heavyweight from the inaugural season of the show, Swick scored first-round victories in his first four UFC bouts; two of which were knockouts that occurred in less than 25 seconds.
Swick went 9-1 in his first 10 fights with the UFC against notables like David Loiseau, Joe Riggs and Marcus Davis, but he fell on hard times against Dan Hardy and Paulo Thiago in his most recent appearances. His only loss during his original streak came against Japanese wrestler Yushin Okami.
Spending the last 30 months on the sidelines doesn’t sound like fun for any fighter, but a string of injuries have forced Swick into that unfortunate position. Finally ready to return to the cage, the AKA product will take on DaMarques Johnson at UFC on Fox 4.
15: George Sotiropoulos
A member of Team Serra during Season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter, Australian fighter George Sotiropoulos was able to string together seven victories, tying the sixth longest winning streak in the history of the UFC. The streak included wins over notables Joe Stevenson, Joe Lauzon and Kurt Pellegrino.
G-Sot was a favorite to win his season of TUF, but he was eliminated after being knocked out by finalist Tommy Speer. It should be noted that the knockout occurred shortly after an errant eye poke.
Sotiropoulos has had a rough time since the start of 2011. After losing a decision to Dennis Siver, the Aussie was quickly knocked out by Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 132.
An injury forced Sotiropoulos out of a return bout with Japanese legend Takanori Gomi at UFC 144, but now, there is talk that George may end up coaching the Team Australia vs Team UK season of The Ultimate Fighter.
14: Melvin Guillard
Before we analyze Melvin Guillard’s UFC career, I want to point out something that isn’t said enough: Melvin’s split decision wins over Gleison Tibau and Jeremy Stephens are erroneous.
Oh well, if those fights had gone to their appropriate winners, we couldn’t make jokes about Melvin losing only via submission.
One of the most experienced Ultimate Fighter alumni, Guillard has competed 16 times in the Octagon since, and he has seen his arm raised after 10 of them. With seven knockouts to his credit, Guillard is commonly referenced when discussing the most powerful lightweights.
Guillard might rank higher if it weren’t for his method of losing—all by submission—including five times in the first round. After back-to-back losses to Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller, Guillard drops to the undercard of UFC 148 where he will meet unsung, yet dangerous, Black House fighter Fabricio Camoes.
13: Ryan Bader
Season 8 winner, Ryan Bader, isn’t the undefeated star he was back in early 2011. However, at 28 years old, “Darth” is 7-2 in the UFC with wins over Rampage Jackson, Lil Nog and Keith Jardine.
What about those losses?
When you consider the only men to defeat Bader are the reigning UFC light-heavyweight champion and the longest reigning UFC light-heavyweight champion in history, it is easy to forgive them.
Bader faces another former world champion in his next bout, as he has signed on to fight Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida at UFC on Fox 4.
12: Chris Lytle
Aside from Matt Serra shocking the world, when we look back on The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback, the biggest success story has got to be that of Chris “Lights Out” Lytle.
With a pre-TUF record of 2-4 in the Octagon, few could have predicted that the firefighter from Indiana would go on to become both a title contender and one of the most fan-friendly fighters in history.
Losing to Matt Serra in the finals of TUF4 and again to Matt Hughes shortly thereafter, few expected much out of Lytle’s second chance. In his final Octagon appearances, however, Lytle would win eight-of-12. The most notable wins would come over former champion Matt Serra and one-time challenger Dan Hardy.
Lytle racked up six Fight of the Night awards, one Knockout of the Night and three Submission of the Night awards before retiring last August. His ten trophies have earned “Lights Out” an extra half-million dollars and the record for most fight night awards in history. There is one other Ultimate Fighter alumnus later on this list who is currently nipping at his heels.
Can you guess who?
Fun Fact: In 54 professional fights, Lytle was never submitted or knocked out, however on two occasions, he lost via TKO due to cuts.
11: Roy Nelson
Few Ultimate Fighter winners have been thrown to the wolves like Roy Nelson. In his third UFC bout, Nelson met future champion Junior dos Santos. As if that weren’t enough, his next bouts would come against two-time champion Frank Mir and PRIDE legend Mirko Cro Cop.
The revolving door of mythical creatures didn’t stop there, as Nelson was next paired up with Top 5 heavyweight Fabricio Werdum. Need more? Although he ended up facing Dave “Pee Wee” Herman at UFC 146, his original opponent was literally a giant: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
Nelson has done a good job of staying competitive, despite being thrown into extremely deep waters. He has gone 4-3 in the UFC, with all wins coming via knockout.
10: Chris Leben
Leben holds the record for most fights by any active UFC middleweight at 19. Losing only seven times, Leben has competed with some of the best 185-pound fighters in the world, including Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva and Michael Bisping.
“The Crippler” also holds some unfortunate distinctions. At one point in time, he lost five out of eight fights, and on two occasions, he's failed post-fight drug tests, eating lengthy suspensions for each.
But the worst scar on the face of his career is the fact that he lost a decision to Kalib Starnes. It makes me shudder to think about it, even to this day.
All jokes aside, Leben was voted Comeback Fighter of the Year in 2010, and his career will ultimately be highlighted for his 27-second knockout win over PRIDE legend Wanderlei Silva last summer.
9: Diego Sanchez
Few stars shone as brightly as Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Diego Sanchez. “The Nightmare” would win his first six UFC contests, which included bouts with welterweight veterans Nick Diaz, Joe Riggs and Karo Parisyan.
As if the welterweight division wasn’t enough, Sanchez has picked up wins over top names in the lightweight division as well. Wins over Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida both earned Fight of the Night honors, and the latter gave Sanchez a crack at lightweight champion BJ Penn.
Sanchez holds a UFC record of 12-5, with an overall record of 23-5. He has never been knocked out or submitted, but his title fight with BJ Penn is on his record as a TKO loss due to a nasty gash that was opened in the fifth round.
Currently, Sanchez is toying with a move back to the lightweight division after his February loss to Jake Ellenberger.
Fun Fact: Diego is part of an elite group of fighters who has won the Fight of the Year award from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter twice. He won it in 2006 for his bout with Karo Parisyan and again in 2009 for his absolute war against Clay Guida. Other two-time winners are Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson and Forrest Griffin.
8: Gray Maynard
Fun Fact: Maynard avenged the only loss of his career when he won a split decision over Nate Diaz in 2010. Diaz submitted Maynard in the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 5. The loss is not on either man’s official record, as all fights in the TUF house are exhibitions.
Fun Fact: Maynard is the only fighter in TUF history to remain undefeated in his first 10 UFC contests.
Fun Fact: Maynard won eight consecutive fights to secure his title shot with Frankie Edgar. This is the longest winning streak in the history of the UFC lightweight division.
Funny Fact: Maynard submitted his first UFC opponent, Rob Emerson, based on the impact of a slam. Why is it funny? Maynard slammed his own head into the canvas, knocking himself unconscious in the process. With neither man able to continue, the fight was determined to be a no contest.
7: Josh Koscheck
Undoubtedly one of the most accomplished fighters coming out of the TUF house is welterweight Josh Koscheck.
Kos was immediately hated by fans after he and Bobby Southworth bullied fan-favorite Chris Leben during the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. The two never quite squashed the beef, and when Koscheck teased a return to the middleweight division, fans salivated over the thought of a rematch.
Koscheck’s career reached it’s peak when he was invited back as a coach on TUF’s 12th season against champion Georges St. Pierre. At the end of the season, Koscheck got his long-awaited title shot in a bout where GSP battered the bleached-blonde badass with a series of effective jabs that swelled the challenger’s eye closed.
Josh Koscheck has fought 21 times for the UFC, and he has had his hand raised after 15 of those fights.
Major wins came against former UFC champions Matt Hughes, Dave Menne, as well as contenders Diego Sanchez, Anthony Johnson and Paul Daley. After a split decision loss to Johny Hendricks, Koscheck unsuccessfully lobbied for a bout with BJ Penn. His next contest is unannounced as of this time.
Fun Fact: Josh Koscheck is the only TUF non-winner to come back and coach a season of the show.
Fun Fact: Dana White apparently thinks of Josh Koscheck as a stepping stone. Three fighters have received title shots after defeating Koscheck: Georges St. Pierre, Thiago Alves and most recently Johny Hendricks.
6: Kenny Florian
“Ken-Flo” is the highest-ranked non-winner in Ultimate Fighter history, and rightfully so.
As a winner of 12 UFC contests, we have seen Florian get the best of top lightweights Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Takanori Gomi and Sam Stout. All coming via rear-naked choke.
While his finishing rate is extraordinary, Florian may go down as a guy who always lost when he absolutely couldn’t afford to. All five of Florian’s UFC losses came in do-or-die situations.
His first loss was in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter to Diego Sanchez. He wouldn’t lose again until meeting Sean Sherk for the UFC Lightweight championship. Florian would then win six consecutive fights to get another crack at the championship.
This time he faced champion BJ Penn in a contest where he lost via rear-naked choke in the fourth round.
His next loss came in a No. 1 contenders fight with Gray Maynard at UFC 118. Finally, Florian got a crack at UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Although Florian appeared to be on track to dethrone Aldo, the champion proved he was able to adapt against a tough opponent and won a decision.
In any event, Florian remained a top-ranked fighter for five full years. When you take a look at the sharks who swim in that water, it’s easy to see how impressive of a feat this really is.
Fun Fact: Kenny Florian is the only fighter in history to compete in four different UFC weight classes. He originally competed as a middleweight and worked his way down to the featherweight division during his seven-year UFC tenure.
5: Nate Diaz
Remember when I mentioned earlier that one TUF alumnus is nipping at the heels of Chris Lytle and his 10 Fight Night awards? That man is Nate Diaz.
The Stockton bad boy holds an 11-5 record in the UFC, with an incredible nine wins by stoppage. His willingness to engage and his incredible grappling prowess have earned him four awards for Submission of the Night and five more for Fight of the Night.
Although he briefly toyed with the welterweight division, Diaz burst onto the scene as the winner of the first lightweight-only season of The Ultimate Fighter. Nate recently earned a crack at the UFC Lightweight championship by submitting a tough-as-nails Jim Miller in the main event of UFC on Fox 3.
As the younger brother of Nick Diaz, Nate needed to work diligently to avoid his brother’s shadow, and he has done an incredible job of doing so. In addition to Miller, contenders Donald Cerrone, Takanori Gomi, Marcus Davis, Kurt Pellegrino and Melvin Guillard have all fallen to Diaz.
Fun Fact: Of his five losses, two came in the welterweight division against larger grapplers and another two came via split decision. Since joining the UFC, the only uncontested loss in Nate’s lightweight career came via decision to Joe Stevenson at the TUF 9 finale.
4: Michael Bisping
With an incredible record of 12-4 in the UFC (22-4 overall), the only fight that evaded British star Michael Bisping is one that had gold hanging in the balance.
While a pair of razor-thin losses to Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva has derailed his momentum, Michael Bisping appears to be on the cusp of finally breaking through as a contender.
When Bisping stepped up as a late replacement for Mark Munoz, many expected Sonnen to use him as a whipping boy. Yet again proving that he is not someone to be underestimated, Bisping rose to the challenge and gave Sonnen quite the struggle during their 15-minute affair.
He may not have won the fight, but he won the respect of those unconvinced fans who still believed that “The Count” was nothing more than the product of favorable matchmaking.
The Season 3 winner of The Ultimate Fighter came back to coach Team UK on the ninth season of the show.
While the matchmaking has gone in favor of Bisping in some situations (I’m looking at you Charles McCarthy and Elvis Sinosic), he has defeated many excellent fighters, including Matt Hamill, Chris Leben, Denis Kang and Jason Miller. Bisping will look to shut down the momentum of surging middleweight Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 in July.
Fun Fact: Surprise, surprise! Michael Bisping has eight KO or TKO wins in the UFC. This is more than any other fighter in TUF history, including knockout artists Chris Leben and Melvin Guillard.
3: Matt Serra
Hold back your groans.
No matter how you feel about the charismatic New Yorker and his less-than-stellar record since becoming champion, he still won the belt, which is the highest accolade a fighter can receive, short of entering the Hall of Fame.
Serra was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback, which featured fighters from the UFC’s past and granted the tournament winners title shots in their respective divisions. As the only season that did not officially have coaches, Serra took on the role in spirit, as he helped aid his teammates. “The Terra” was successful, as seven fighters made it to the quarterfinals.
Still cited as the biggest upset in MMA history, Serra knocked out champion Georges St. Pierre in the first round of their 2007 encounter to claim the UFC welterweight championship. He was the first champion to come out of the TUF system and was also the first contestant to come back in a coaching capacity.
Serra isn't ready to claim that he is retired quite yet. However, if he does have hopes of making a return, he should start getting in shape. Father Time isn't the cornerman of 37-year-old fighters.
Fun Fact: Serra owns his own gym and teaches with the aid of coach Ray Longo. Two of their students, Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou, are currently on a tear in the middleweight division, with a combined UFC record of 7-1.
2: Forrest Griffin
The original Ultimate Fighter winner will go down in history as one of the most celebrated fighters of all time.
UFC President Dana White cites Griffin’s TUF Finale fight with Stephan Bonnar as the fight that put the UFC on the map. In addition, Griffin unseated world-ranked fighters Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to win UFC gold in the ultra-competitive light-heavyweight division.
Like Serra, Griffin was invited back to coach The Ultimate Fighter based on his colorful personality and competitive nature. Griffin coached the seventh season against Rampage Jackson, which culminated in his capturing of the belt.
Griffin has tasted defeat at the hands of top names, but he has also doled out hefty punishment of his own. Throughout his career, Griffin has compiled a 9-5 record in the Octagon, and he has seen his arm raised after bouts with Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz, Chael Sonnen and Jeff Monson.
Currently on the docket for Forrest is a rubber match with Tito Ortiz at UFC 148. The two men have each won a split decision in their previous two meetings and will be looking to end their epic trilogy on top.
1: Rashad Evans
The Ultimate Fighter has never had a more successful star than “Suga” Rashad Evans. Evans set a record for most fights without a loss with his first nine fights, and although the record was later surpassed by Gray Maynard, it is still notable.
Evans’ final win during that streak saw him capture the UFC light-heavyweight championship by dethroning Forrest Griffin at UFC 92.
Rashad has only suffered losses to Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones, but he has made up for them by beating some of the top names in MMA, including Griffin, Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson, Thiago Silva, Tito Ortiz, Michael Bisping and rising star Phil Davis.
Rashad returned to TUF for the 10th season of the show, where he coached his team to glory. Team Evans saw seven fighters move into the quarterfinals, and Roy Nelson was ultimately crowned the winner. Not only that, “Suga” beat Rampage Jackson in the coaches’ challenge and the coaches’ fight that took place afterwards.
What’s next for Rashad?
Maybe we will see him make another run at the light-heavyweight championship. Perhaps he will test the waters down in the middleweight division. Only time will tell. However, with the support of his team, The Blackzilians, it’s hard to anticipate Evans to be anything less than successful.