TUF Enough: The Top 10 Ultimate Fighter Alumni
The Ultimate Fighter reality show changed the landscape of MMA when it debuted in 2005. Millions of people tuned in to watch 16 fighters live in the same house with one another, while simultaneously fighting each other for a six-figure contract with the UFC.
The combination of exciting, free fights every week and the drama that came at the Ultimate Fighter house made the show an instant success.
The Forrest Griffin v. Stephan Bonnar match at the finale of the first season is seen as the turning point in the UFC's history. The Ultimate Fighter 1 finale introduced a whole new audience to the most exciting sport in the world today.
The UFC has not looked back since, continue to grow each year, breaking pay-per-view records. The Ultimate Fighter is seen by many as the spark behind the growth of the UFC, so let's take a look at the 10 best fighters to come from the Ultimate Fighter show.
10. Michael Bisping
This final spot was a difficult one. The decision came down to Bisping and Matt Hamill. Seeing that Bisping holds a win over Hamill (though controversial) and is competing at a lower weight class, I went with Bisping.
Michael Bisping has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride since his win on the Ultimate Fighter season 3. Bisping strung together four straight UFC wins before being defeated by future champ Rashad Evans by split decision.
He then began his Middleweight career with 3 straight wins before being viciously KOed by Dan Henderson. Bisping then won by TKO over international sensation Denis Kang, then lost by decision to former PRIDE champ Wanderlei Silva.
Michael has since won his last two fights and seems comfortable at Middleweight. Bisping seems to struggle against the top talent, but his losses have come against some of the UFC's best (all three have been champions at some point), so you can't be too hard on the guy.
Next fight: TBD
9. Diego Sanchez
The original Ultimate Fighter winner has shown great potential to be a contender at both Welterweight and Lightweight; however, two sets of consecutive losses have put a damper on his title hopes.
Diego won his first six UFC fights and was approaching a title shot when he was derailed by fellow Ultimate Fighter Josh Koscheck. He lost again to Jon Fitch, putting his future at Welterweight in jeopardy.
In hindsight, these two losses are nothing to be ashamed of as Fitch and Koscheck are two of the top Welterweights today. Sanchez dropped to Lightweight and defeated Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida before being picked apart by BJ Penn.
He lost again to up-and-comer John Hathaway, but has recently gotten back on track with an exciting win over Paulo Thiago. Hard to say what Diego's future will hold, but no matter what weight class, he will always bring the fight.
Next fight: TBD
8. George Sotiropoulos
George Sotiropoulos' exit from the Ultimate Fighter Season 6 was filled with controversy as he was knocked out by Tommy Speer shortly after an incidental eye poke. Sotiropoulos has bounced back strongly though, winning his first six fights as a UFC fighter.
George has quickly added his name into the Lightweight title picture and could only be a win or two away from a shot at Lightweight gold.
The Aussie's latest wins have come against Ultimate Fighter veteran Joe Stevenson and longtime UFC vet Kurt Pellegrino.
Sotiropoulos' combination of slick Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and equally potent boxing skill has made him a force to be reckoned with in the UFC's 155-pound division.
Next fight: Joe Lauzon
7. Manny Gamburyan
The Ultimate Fighter 5 finale and the fights thereafter, quickly taught Manny Gamburyan that the Lightweight division was not for him. Manny started out 2-3 in the UFC's 155-pound division before deciding to make a change and drop down to Featherweight.
Manny quickly took the WEC's Featherweight division by storm, winning three straight fights against stiff competition like Leonard Garcia and Mike Brown. After Manny's KO win over former champ Mike Brown, he earned a title shot against the Brazilian wonder Jose Aldo.
Gamburyan started well and was holding his own against Aldo before he succumbed to the superior speed and striking of the champ.
Despite the loss, Manny's future at Featherweight looks bright, especially considering he will be back fighting for the UFC again.
Next fight: TBD
6. Ryan Bader
Ryan Bader has potential to move up this list very quickly. Bader has stormed out of the gate from his win on the Ultimate Fighter and has jumped into title contention faster than any other Ultimate Fighter winner.
Bader is currently undefeated and has wins over former Ultimate Fighter contestant Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Ryan has a difficult task ahead of him in his next fight, Jon Jones, maybe the most hyped young fighter since BJ Penn.
Bader will have to find a way to deal with Jones' athleticism and unorthodox striking, but if he can, a title shot may be in order. That coveted title shot maybe all that Ryan needs to move his name higher on this list.
Next fight: Jon Jones
5. Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck was a very controversial figure on the show and has continued that with his appearance as coach on this season's Ultimate Fighter. No matter what you think about Koscheck personally, one thing is for sure, he has done nothing but improve since his time on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter.
On the show, Koscheck lost a split decision to Diego Sanchez, which he later avenged with a unanimous decision win. Josh has run into a few bumps in the road during his UFC career: decision losses to Georges St. Pierre and Thiago Alves, a submission loss to Drew Fickett and a KO loss to Paulo Thiago.
However, since his loss to Thiago, Koscheck has strung together three impressive wins over Frank Trigg, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, and Paul Daley. This recent stretch has earned him a title shot in December.
Next fight: Georges St. Pierre - UFC Welterweight Title
4. Kenny Florian
Just like many of the other top fighters on this list, Kenny Florian may not have won his season on the Ultimate Fighter, but he has made the most out of the opportunity nonetheless.
Florian was 30 pounds out of his weight class when he entered the first season of the Ultimate Fighter fighting at Middleweight (185 pounds, he now fights at 155). Despite being significantly smaller than all of the other competitors, Florian still made it to the finale.
Kenny lost to Diego Sanchez, but has since rebounded earning himself two separate title shots and proving himself against some of the Lightweight division's toughest fighters.
Florian may have never been champion, but he has beaten some big names: Roger Huerta, Joe Stevenson, Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi.
Next fight: Evan Dunham
3. Gray Maynard
Gray Maynard may not have won his season of the Ultimate Fighter, but he has certainly made the most of his time since leaving the show.
Maynard recently avenged his Ultimate Fighter loss to Diaz with a split decision win. Maynard has now set himself up for a title shot against Frankie Edgar, a fighter Maynard has already beaten.
Gray's size, athleticism, and wrestling ability make him a force to be reckoned with in the UFC's very deep Lightweight division.
Maynard has also beaten highly touted Lightweight contenders Kenny Florian, Roger Huerta, and Jim Miller.
Next fight: Frankie Edgar - UFC Lightweight Title
2. Forrest Griffin
One of only two traditional Ultimate Fighter alumni to become UFC Champion (Matt Serra became champ after season 4, which gave current UFC fighters a chance at a title shot). Forrest Griffin outworked Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the Brazilian's UFC debut.
Forrest was a heavy underdog in that fight, but he pushed the pace with Shogun, tired him out before sinking in a last minute Rear Naked Choke. This pivotal win earned Forrest a title shot and he made the most of it.
Forrest again used his pace and tenacity to outwork Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and become the first Ultimate Fighter alum to become UFC Champion. Forrest's championship reign was short-lived though, he lost in his first title defense against...
Next fight: Rich Franklin
1. Rashad Evans
Season 2's Heavyweight winner was less than impressive on the show, especially if you ask coach Matt Hughes. Rashad's in-ring antics angered Hughes, who eventually called Rashad out about it.
Rashad won back-to-back decisions over Keith Jardine and Brad Imes. Since the show, however, Evans has shown a whole different attitude toward the sport, becoming more dedicated and dropping down to Light Heavyweight.
Rashad defeated the No. 2 fighter on this list, Forrest Griffin, by TKO to become the UFC Light Heavyweight champion. Evans also knocked out former UFC champ Chuck Liddell and recently defeated Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to earn himself a shot at current LHW Champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Rashad has validated the Spike TV show and proved that you can come from the Ultimate Fighter and have great success in the UFC.
Next fight: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua - UFC Light Heavyweight Title
Some big names did not make this list, so let's take a look at a few who almost made the cut:
Matt Hamill - Record: 10-2
Reason left off: Lost to Bisping, LHW is one of the UFC's deepest divisions
Joe Stevenson - Record: 31-11
Reason left off: Lost to Florian, Sanchez and Sotiropoulos
Nate Diaz - Record: 13-5
Reason left off: Lost to Stevenson and Maynard
Roy Nelson - Record: 15-5
Reason left off: Recent loss to Junior Dos Santos, still early in his UFC career
Brendan Schaub - Record: 7-1
Reason left off: Lost to Roy Nelson, still early in his UFC career