TUF Break: The Biggest Busts in Ultimate Fighter History
With last Saturday's showing of UFC 147, another season of The Ultimate Fighter came to an end as new winners were crowned in the Middleweight and Featherweight divisions. Since its inception in 2005, there have been 24 TUF winners and 240 total castmembers, many of whom have become stars within the UFC. Yet, for every Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans, there is a Phillipe Nover and Luke Cummo.
And while there have been lists talking about the best winners from the show or best seasons, this list will discuss those guys who failed when it came to becoming a UFC fighter. Whether it was on the show or in the UFC, these guys failed to deliver the goods, and for that we'll always remember them.
Before Michael Chiesa became the Cinderella story of TUF after winning the last season and overcoming the death of his father on the show, there was Kris McCray.
As the third pick for Team Punishment on the 11th season of TUF, McCray would end up losing his first fight in the tournament to Josh Bryant. He would become part of the first wildcard match in the history of the show, and there he would defeat teammate Kyacey Uscola to move on to the next round.
From there he would fight two more times to earn his way to the finals to face off against Court McGee, a new record for the show as he fought five times leading up to the final.
He would lose in the finals by submission but would still get to fight in the UFC after the show ended.
After all of the buildup concerning how tough McCray was after what he went through to make it to the finals, he would lose all of his matches in the UFC, first to Carlos Eduardo Rocha by submission and then to John Hathaway by split decision, giving him a 0-3 record with the promotion.
Another obvious choice for this list is the running man, Kalib Starnes. As a member of Team Shamrock in the thrid season of the show, fans only got a glimpse of what was to come with Starnes.
After making it to the semifinals of the Middleweight tournament, Starnes was matched up against eventual winner Kendall Grove. After taking a couple body kicks, Starnes would verbally tapout 30 seconds into the third round saying that his ribs were injured.
Later, many on the show would say that Starnes was faking his injuries, including his coach Ken Shamrock.
Starnes would win on the season finale and would even get a surprise win over Chris Leben. But that was short-lived as Starnes would become infamous after his fight with Nate Quarry at UFC 83.
After the first round, the rest of the fight consisted of Starnes circling around Quarry and not engaging him at all, even running away at some points. This would lead to Quarry openly mocking Starnes by doing the running man or hitting himself with his arm, much to the cheers of the Canadian Crowd and referee Dan Miragliotta.
From the apparent “over the top” abuse that he received from nearly everyone under the sun for his performance, Starnes asked for his release from the UFC with a 2-3 record. He would then bounce around the regional circuit before finally retiring in 2011 after going on a two-fight losing streak.
Known for his wild fighting style and all-out brawls inside the cage, Keith Jardine became a fan favorite. As the first Heavyweight pick for the second season of TUF, Jardine was viewed by many as the favorite to win the tournament.
Jardine would lose in the semifinals to eventual winner Rashad Evans, but would get signed by the UFC after beating Kerry Schall via TKO due to leg kicks.
Jardine would get a huge fan following due to his wins over Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, but his climb to contention would end after devastating losses to Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva.
Then after a decision win over Brandon Vera, Jardine would go on a huge skid in his career, losing his next four fights in the UFC.
He was released after he lost to Matt Hamill, leaving his record with the promotion 6-7.
After becoming an internet sensation with videos of his backyard brawls, Kimbo Slice became a hot topic within the MMA world after he signed with Elite XC in 2007.
After getting a couple wins over cans like Bo Cantrell and James Thompson, Slice would become the center of controversy after his knockout loss to Seth Petruzelli. Seth made implications that he was being paid extra to try and knock out Slice, which ultimately led to the promotion closing down in 2008.
Then came word that Slice would be joining the tenth season of TUF, which would have an entirely Heavyweight cast and coaches Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans.
The entire season would end up being built around Kimbo, if he could hang in the big leagues of the UFC. Slice would finally fight in the third episode of the season and lose against the eventual winner Roy Nelson.
Yet, even though he lost, the rest of the season was still built around the possibility of him returning to fight if someone was injured.
After the season was over, Kimbo had a lackluster win in a catchweight fight against Houston Alexander, which saw Kimbo land a German suplex on Houston.
His final match in the UFC saw him fighting fellow TUF castmate Matt Mitrione, which ended with Kimbo losing by TKO in the second round. He would be released the following day and the hype train would finally come to a stop.
One of the few guys on the list who became a bust without even stepping into the Octagon for a pro fight is Marc Stevens.
In the 12th season of TUF, when Georges St. Pierre faced off against Josh Koscheck, Stevens would end up being Koscheck's first pick after being duped by GSP into thinking that Marc was the Canadian's top pick. Instead, he was just trying to get Michael Johnson.
After letting his first-pick status get to his head, he was matched up against Team GSP member Cody McKenzie, who up until that point had won all but one of his pro fights via a modified guillotine choke called the McKenzietine.
So with that information in mind, wouldn't you think the wise thing to do would be to keep the fight standing and avoid any position that could leave you vulnerable to that choke? Stevens, I guess, comes from the “what's the worst that could happen” school of thought, as he immediately shot in for a takedown once the match started and in turn right into the McKenzietine. Stevens would pass out in what would be the quickest submission win in the history of the show.
Stevens would earn another shot in the wildcard match against teammate Aaron Wilkinson. The match would go into the second round where again Stevens would fall prey to a guillotine choke in the opening minute of the round.
He would then become more memorable for his impersonation of coach Josh Koscheck and his apparent lack of leadership.
As part of Team Lesnar on the 13th season of TUF, Len Bentley was the first pick overall for the show, and again that notion seemed to go to the fighter's head.
From complaining to Brock Lesnar about how teammate Chris Cope may be a mole for Team dos Santos, to telling everyone how he was the best fighter in the house, Bentley was a complete diva.
Yet after all the talk and posing, Bentley would lose in the quarterfinals to Ryan McGillivray by majority decision.
That caused all sorts of excuses, including that he had no support from his team or coach, as Brock Lesnar was away dealing with a personal issue and didn't corner Bentley. He also continued voicing his suspicions that Cope had sold him out to the other team.
Then, when the announcement came for who would be fighting in the wild card, Len was considered to be a sure thing for one of the spots due to his close match. Unfortunately, the spots went to Javier Torres and Chuck O'Neill.
Again feeling like the world was against him, Len confronted Dana White after the announcement, but rather than complaining about not being in the wild card, he asked for a rematch with McGillivray at the season finale.
Dana would retort that neither he nor the coaches felt that he wanted the fight badly enough, though Len felt his fight was evidence to the contrary.
He would continue to stew and pout after being denied, eventually leading to him bashing his coach and his credentials as a fighter, which caused fighters from both teams to get increasingly frustrated with him.
The incessant whining and the initial plea to fight on the finale were most likely the final nail in Bentley's coffin, as he would end up not fighting for the UFC after the season was over, leaving him to fight in regional promotions.
What is there to say about War Machine that hasn't already been said on this site or other ones by numerous writers, myself included?
From a stint on the 6th season of TUF as a part of Team Serra, War Machine showed promise within the UFC, especially after his Fight of the Night performance against fellow castmate Jared Rollins.
Yet, with disparaging remarks about the late Evan Tanner and turning down a fight offer from Joe Silva, War Machine's time in the UFC was short-lived, going 1-1.
After bouncing around different promotions and having a brief stint as a porn actor, he would eventually find himself in jail a few times on assault charges.
Similar to War Machine in that his tenure was ruined due to outside activities, Jesse Taylor had the makings of a good UFC fighter. As the third pick for Forrest Griffin's team, Taylor would work his way to the finals with wins over Mike Dolce, Dante Rivera, and Tim Credeur.
Before he could fight Amir Sadollah, Taylor was removed from the finals after going on a drunken rampage in Las Vegas, which included him breaking limo windows and threatening people, all the while yelling that he was a UFC fighter.
After being pulled from the finals, Taylor went to AA to deal with his problems and would eventually fight in the UFC, losing to the man who replaced him in the finals, C.B. Dollaway, by submission.
He would then be released from the promotion following supposed negative comments made about a double standard when it comes to dealing with fighter issues, namely how he was punished in comparison to how Rampage Jackson was punished after his arrest in 2008.
The other reason Taylor was such a bust was because after he was released from the UFC, he earned a pretty decent record 14-6 in other promotions, so it leaves one to think how well he could have done in the UFC with the tools that he had at his disposal.
After winning the second season of TUF, Joe Stevenson seemed set for better things within the UFC. He would earn a Lightweight Title shot against BJ Penn after winning four of his next five fights, and that is when it all seemed to come apart for Stevenson.
In one of the bloodiest title fights in the UFC, Stevenson would be ravaged for two rounds before finally tapping out to a rear naked choke after bleeding like a broken faucet.
That loss included, Stevenson would have a record of 3-7 in his last ten fights with the UFC. He would be summarily released after his loss to Javier Vasquez, his fourth in a row.
You can't have a list about failed TUF fighters without having the King of Fails himself, Travis Lutter. Having been a member of the Comeback season of TUF, Lutter was vying for a shot at the Middleweight Title and champion Anderson Silva.
Lutter would get wins over Scott Smith, Pete Sell, and finally Patrick Cote in order to win the tournament, giving himself the match with Silva.
That's all well and good, but then something unfortunate happened that many MMA and TUF fans will remember for a very long time.
Lutter came in overweight, thus making his guaranteed title shot against Anderson Silva now a three round, non-title fight.
He was subsequently booed when he entered the octagon on fight night and would ultimately lose by submission due to elbows in the second round. His next and last UFC fight would be against Rich Franklin, which resulted in a TKO loss in the second round, making his UFC record 2-4.