TUFest: The Ultimate Fighter's Ten Brightest Alumni
Another chapter in the Ultimate Fighter series will come to a close this Saturday, Jun. 20, as two additional contestants will join a growing list of Ultimate Fighter champions. As we wait for that moment, let’s examine the merits of the show by electing the most influential fighters from seasons past.
While the indicated UFC records matter, it is worth noting that a fighter’s impact on the sport is equally as paramount as their wins and losses.
Forrest Griffin: 7-3
The lack of the obligatory moniker aside, he is as tough as they come. Forrest is the original Ultimate Fighter winner, and the poster boy for the popular series. His fistic duel with Stephan Bonnar on the season finale was coined “the most important fight in UFC history” by UFC President Dana White.
Forrest was also the second fighter from the show to win a title, when he defeated then champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 86. He subsequently lost the belt to season two's winner, Rashad Evans, at UFC 92. Despite that, he will likely remain the most influential Ultimate Fighter alumnus for a while.
Forrest is back from in-fight injuries, with a book and a stern test at UFC 101, when he takes on Anderson Silva, one of the best fighters in the world. A victory would place him back in title contention in the light heavyweight division and further solidify his place in UFC lore.
Rashad Evans: 8-1-1
Rashad Evans became the third fighter from the show to capture UFC gold when he beat Forrest Griffin at UFC 92. While you could make the argument that Rashad should be ranked first because he beat Forrest, he does not possess the appeal of the latter.
Still, Rashad has been relevant. After winning the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, Evans became the only contestant to have won all of his fights en route to a title, minus his draw with MMA legend Tito Ortiz. During that run, Rashad captured another win over a Ultimate Fighter contestant in Stephan Bonnar.
Rashad will coach season ten of the show, opposite Quinton Jackson, which will give him the chance to get back in title contention if he can beat “Rampage” after the show. Perhaps, the opportunity will also allow the reserved Evans to better connect with fans.
Kenny Florian: 9-2
Florian is another original cast member. Competing as a middleweight, he defeated Chris Leben before losing to Diego Sanchez in the finals. He is ranked above Diego for several reasons.
For starters, Florian will be the second Ultimate Fighter graduate, after Matt Serra, to twice contest for a title when he takes on lightweight champion BJ Penn at UFC 101. Ever the ambassador for the sport, Kenny is also a regular panelist on ESPN.com’s MMA Live show, which airs every Thursday.
Much Like Griffin, Florian has been able to transcend the sport and find an appeal outside of the octagon. If Florian can pull off the upset at UFC 101, it would send his stock into the stratosphere, and he would be favored to win a potential rematch with Diego Sanchez.
Diego Sanchez: 9-2
Diego was a proud 17-0 fighter, before conceding back-to-back split decisions to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch. Never one to be deterred, Diego brought his “nightmarish” pace to the lightweight division.
Having defeated season two winner Joe Stevenson in his lightweight debut, Diego will take on the frantic Clay Guida on the season nine's finale this Saturday, in a bout that may be more appropriate for the Fourth of July. A win for Diego would have title shot implications, or at least a fight against the loser of the upcoming Penn vs. Florian championship fight.
Should Sanchez end up facing Florian, fans will be treated to a rematch of their first Ultimate Fighter Finale bout, and Diego would have a chance to, later, become one of only four Ultimate Fighter contestants to taste UFC gold.
Michael Bisping: 7-1
This polarizing fighter was the light heavyweight division winner of season three. Bisping’s popularity has since skyrocketed, and he is a coach on season nine. He will battle opposing coach, and MMA legend, Dan Henderson at UFC 100.
A win over Henderson would be the tipping point Bisping needs to be considered a great fighter, and could propel him to the front of a crowded middleweight line vying for Anderson Silva’s belt. If that is the case, the UFC will surely look to fill a British soccer stadium.
Bisping’s only loss is a split decision to former light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans.
Mike Swick: 9-1
Mike Swick went 5-0 as a middleweight, before running into a much bigger Yushin Okami. After the decision loss, Swick dropped down to the welterweight division, where he has compiled a four-fight win streak. It’s hard to believe Swick started out on season one as a light heavyweight, losing to Stephan Bonnar in the semi-finals.
Swick is coming off a UFC 99 win over season six alumnus, Ben Saunders, and has likely earned a top contender status. He could be next on a growing list of Ultimate Fighter fighters to earn a title shot.
Josh Koscheck: 10-4
He has been the busiest of all, fighting fourteen times since his stint on the show's first installment. Koscheck lost in the semi-finals to Diego Sanchez, only to exact revenge at UFC 69.
The win earned him a fight with George St. Pierre to determine the No. 1 contender at the time, though he took a unanimous loss at UFC 74.
Having suffered an upset in his latest outing, Josh looks to welcome MMA veteran Frank Trigg back to the octagon at UFC 103; and a win will be critical to Koscheck moving forward in the welterweight division.
Gray Maynard (5-0-1)
Gray Maynard lost to season five winner Nate Diaz in the semi-finals of the show. In his first UFC fight, which took place on the season five finale, Maynard was involved in a rare double KO, and the no contest ruling results in the single blemish on his professional record.
“The Bully” is a solid contender in the lightweight division. His undefeated UFC run lands him in this spot, instead of Nate Diaz, even though they both have a promising career in the UFC.
Matt Hamill: 6-2
Keith Jardine, with a 6-4 record, or Stephan Bonnar, who has a 5-4 record, could quite possibly fill in here. Despite their mediocre records, both have fought the toughest opponents the light heavyweight division has to offer. The nod goes to Matt Hamill, though.
Hamill was on season three. His sustained injuries that prematurely sidelined him at an early stage of the competition. Hamill did get a crack at the season three winner, Michael Bisping, at UFC 75, narrowly losing in one of the more controversial decisions in UFC history. A rematch was in order for UFC 78, but Hamill withdrew due to knee surgery.
Hamill’s other loss is to friend, and former training partner, Rich Franklin, at UFC 88. He has an upcoming, pivotal fight against Brandon Vera at UFC 102. The bout will go a long way in determining Matt Hamill’s contender status in the UFC light heavyweight division.
Patrick Cote (4-5)
Every list needs a dark horse and, as such, Cote will be mentioned in lieu of graduates such as Diaz, Davis, Serra, and Grove.
Patrick was on season four, which involved fighters who had previously enjoyed limited success in the UFC. Coming into the show with a 0-3 record, he made it to the finals, but lost to season winner Travis Lutter.
Now a less than stellar 0-4, the Canadian diligently compiled four consecutives wins, including a victory over season three's winner Kendal Grove. The run earned Cote the shot at Anderson Silva’s title that had previously eluded him.
At UFC 90, a tough Cote fought Silva to an unprecedented third round from the UFC champion. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious knee injury that brought his title dreams to a screeching halt.
Cote is currently recovering and eyes an October return to the octagon. Look for the heavy-handed striker to be back in the middleweight mix, possibly—hopefully—in a stand-up war against Wanderlei Silva.
There you have it: the top 10 fighters to come from The Ultimate Fighter!
The first five seasons have, seemingly, produced the best fighters. That may be the result of a longer time frame for growth, or the fact that these fighters simply were the better prospects.
Only Mac Danzig accounts for season six, while season seven winner Amir Sadollah has been marred with injuries and runner up C.B. Dollaway has yet to blossom.
In time, Ryan Bader and Krzysztof Soszynski could quite possibly make an excellent account of season eight. Will season nine finalist DeMarques Johnson along with Nick Osipczak prevail in the UFC?
And if all that weren't enough,The Ultimate Fighter 10 will soon air; and the Kimbo Slice era might just be resuscitated.
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