The Ultimate Fighter season ten was hyped up as the biggest season in the series history. Whether or not it lived up to expectations is irrelevant at this point as the show is in the past and it is time to focus on the future of this seasons cast of all Heavyweight fighters.
There are currently eight fighters out of the original sixteen, who are basically guaranteed to float around the UFC waters for a little while. Let’s take a look at what should be expected from these eight competitors and how they would match up with the rest of the heavyweight division.
Roy “Big Country” Nelson
When it was announced that former IFL Heavyweight champ and longtime MMA veteran, Roy “Big Country” Nelson was set to compete on TUF, die-hard fans predicted the big-bellied individual to go all the way in the competition.
Nelson proved those fans right by defeating Kimbo Slice, Justin Wren, James McSweeney and Brendan Schaub to win the six-figure contract with the UFC. Not only is “Big Country” the newest TUF champion but he’s also extremely close to cracking the top ten in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
A few more victories over top contenders will put, “The UFC’s official suck-o-meter” in title contention where he will look to go down in history as the most obese champion in the history of sports. Don’t underestimate the fat guy, however, as Nelson possesses world class grappling skills and knockout power to boot.
Normally it isn’t wise to rush a newly crowned TUF winner into a fight with a legit fighter, but Nelson may be the exception. “Big Country” has the skills to compete with the likes of Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Gabriel Gonzaga, among others.
Most interesting first post-TUF opponent: Heath Herring
Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub
Despite suffering a devastating first round knockout at the hands of “Big Country” in the season finale, Schaub should still be viewed as the top prospect from the show. Nelson is a multi-year veteran where as Schaub has only been competing professionally for a little over a year.
Five years from now, “Big Country” may be retired from MMA but Schaub would likely still be fighting and will have potentially evolved into one of the best fighters in the division.
Currently Schaub does have the skills to compete against tough opponents and put on impressive performances. Fighting low-caliber names like Mostopha Al-Turk and Tim Hague, right now, will give Schaub the experience necessary to battle top contenders such as Velasquez and Nogueira down the road.
Most interesting first post-TUF fight: Chase Gormley
Even though he didn’t win the competition, Slice is to blame for the incredibly high ratings from this season. The bottom line is that, win, lose, or draw, people want to see Slice fight. He may not be a top-ten level heavyweight but he is by far the most popular fighter in our sport.
For the majority of his career, Slice has been nothing more than a backyard brawler with heavy hands. He never showed interest in adapting the skills of an all-around MMA fighter and was actually considering leaving the sport to pursue a professional boxing career.
Slice found a wake-up wall in the form of a first round knockout defeat at the hands of Seth Petruzelli and realized he would have to evolve in order to be successful in this sport. He is now training full-time with American Top Team in Orlando, FL and his unanimous decision victory over Houston Alexander in the finale is proof that the YouTube sensation is finally evolving into an MMA fighter.
The UFC can match Slice up with just about anyone and be guaranteed to sell a ton of tickets but the best match-ups for Slice would be in the Light-Heavyweight division. If Slice drops down, he would have a higher winning percentage at 205-pounds than he would at heavyweight for the pure fact that the Light-Heavyweight division is chock full of stand up fighters.
Most interesting first post-TUF fight: James Irvin
On the show, Madsen displayed his world class wrestling ability and not much else. He’s great at one area of the game but his stand up game and jiu-jitsu are not up to par with his elite level wrestling as was apparent in his second round knockout defeat at the hands of Schaub in the quarterfinals.
Fortunately for Madsen, dominant wrestlers usually rule the cage and are able to dictate wherever the fight goes. Madsen defeated Wren at the season finale and actually displayed an improved stand up game to pick “The Viking” apart.
If Madsen tightens up his striking and his jiu-jitsu just a little bit more, he would be a force in the Octagon. He may be slightly undersized for a heavyweight but it isn’t likely that he’d be able to drop down to 205-pounds.
Madsen could be comparable to the heavyweight version of top lightweight contender, Gray Maynard in the sense that he’d be able to use his wrestling to bully his way into the top ten.
Most interesting first Post-TUF fight: Matt Mitrione
Portrayed as “the snitch” on the show, Mitrione entered the season with the least amount of experience, boasting zero professional fights on his record. He was often seen irritating his coaches and teammates in the house by playing mind games and getting under the skins of his fellow housemates.
His two fights on the show were far from impressive, he defeated UFC vet Scott Junk (who suffered a torn retina due to an accidental eye poke in the first round) in a very sloppy fight and was easily choked out by James McSweeney in the quarterfinals.
Most expected fellow NFL veteran, Marcus “Big Baby” Jones to rip off Mitrione’s arm in the finale but Mitrione weathered the storm and knocked “Big Baby” out cold in the second round. With the victory, Mitrione silenced a lot of his critics and proved that he does have what it takes to compete in the UFC.
However, while he shows promise on his feet, unless he develops a ground game he’s going to be easy pickings for the upper echelon of the division. Mitrione will need to tighten his grappling defense in order to make it to the next level, but for a 1-0 fighter, he has plenty of time to grow.
Most interesting first Post-TUF fight: Jon Madsen
James “The Hammer” McSweeney
The British kick-boxing machine is coming off an impressive victory over fellow TUF cast-mate, Darrill Schoonover on the undercard of the season finale and will now look to improve his lackluster 3-4 record with wins over quality level opponents in the Octagon.
McSweeney is a ferocious striker but he does not possess the grappling skills to hang with the top sharks in the heavyweight division. If he were to cut down to Light-Heavyweight it would probably be more beneficial to him, but if not, he can still defeat some low-caliber heavyweights and float around in gatekeeper status for awhile.
Most interesting first Post-TUF fight: Antoni Hardonk
Justin “The Viking” Wren
Despite losing a close split decision to Madsen in the finale, Wren will likely receive one more chance to compete in the UFC. “The Viking” is a well-rounded fighter with world class Greco-Roman wrestling and at the young age of 22, Wren has time on his side.
He isn’t the biggest heavyweight out there, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in talent and raw potential. If Wren continues to train hard and evolve as a fighter, he could develop into a top contender in either the UFC’s Heavyweight or 205-pound division.
On the contrary, at the rate that Dana White and the Fertitta brothers are handing out pink slips, Wren may be one more loss away from his UFC release. Even if Wren is quickly cut from the UFC roster, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t work his way back into the Octagon in the future.
Most interesting first Post-TUF fight: Marcus Jones
Marcus “Big Baby” Jones
Formerly known as “The Darkness”, “Big Baby” impressed MMA fans this season with his overwhelming ground game and passionate attitude displayed on the show. Unfortunately, despite being a very powerful grappler, Jones’ stand up is absolutely dreadful.
“Big Baby’s” glass-jaw and striking holes were exposed in his second round knockout loss to Mitrione in the finale. If “Big Baby” can tighten up his stand up game, he could prove to be a huge force in the heavyweight division. Until then, he’s an easy target for power punchers such as Shane Carwin, Cheick Kongo and Patrick Barry.
Most interesting first Post-TUF fight: Justin Wren
*To those who participated in the TUF 10 fantasy game, I apologize for not posting the official results. I’ve been having computer issues at the moment and do not have time to count up the scores at this point. It didn’t seem like many of you were interested in the game anyway, but if enough people want me to post the results, I will once I find time.
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