The Ultimate Fighter: Fantasy Coach Pairs by Division
Over the years, one of the most exciting things about each new season of The Ultimate Fighter is who the coaches for the season are. Many times the coaches' fight is used to determine who the number one contender is, other times the fight is for a title; either way the fights have had major effects on whatever division the coaches are in.
The UFC has announced a deal with FOX, which will change the format of The Ultimate Fighter to now include live fights and follow the coaches as they prepare for their fight at the end of the season.
After UFC 137, Diego Sanchez called out BJ Penn in hopes of coaching against him on the next season of TUF. Sanchez has been wanting to coach on the show that pushed him into the spotlight years ago when he won on the original season, something many fans would like to see.
So with that in mind, I made this list of dream coaching matchups by weight class. This isn't done in reality as matches that could happen any time soon, but matchups that fans would like to see.
Bantamweight: Dominick Cruz vs. Uriah Faber
This one is an easy one when deciding who could coach in the Bantamweight division. The feud between Cruz and Faber would work well in the current TUF format, but with the new live format that includes following the coaches leading up to their fight, this would be a great way to display the new UFC weight classes to a mainstream audience.
Plus, add to the equation that both men have a victory against each other in a title match, this would be the perfect way to promote their rubber match. The only thing that could put a damper on this pairing is if Brian Bowles were to defeat Uriah at UFC 139, but in that case it could still work where Bowles would become the coach opposite Cruz. Either way having Cruz and the number one contender facing off against each other would be a great way to introduce some of the top stars in the division to the masses.
Featherweight: Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
This pairing would best work as a Team USA vs. Team Brazil season of the UFC. While the fact that Aldo doesn't speak the best English, something that didn't stop Junior Dos Santos from coaching, it would still be a good way to hype up the fight between Aldo and Mendes. Also, since Uriah Faber has moved down to Bantamweight, Aldo may be the only fighter that casual MMA fans may know within the division, outside of fighters who moved down from lightweight like Tyson Griffin or Joe Stevenson.
And since the US vs. UK season of TUF was a decent success with the coaches fight as well as the fighters who were on the show, the same can be accomplished with a US vs. Brazil version. The season could also serve as a history lesson of sorts where fans are introduced to MMA history and famous fighters/trainers from both the US and Brazil.
Lightweight: Joe Lauzon vs. Donald Cerrone
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard would have been an ideal matchup for TUF coaches, but they had their rubber match and that it looks like it will be a long time before they fight again, if ever. Guida vs. Henderson also would have been a nice pairing as coaches but they are having their match this coming Saturday.
The pairing of Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone is great for the fans as both are always in title contention and never have a dull fight. That along with the fact that both fighters can finish a on the ground while at the same time are able to have strong standup battles makes it even more exciting matchup. Add to the mix the personalities of Cerrone and Lauzon, the thought of the winner receiving a title shot, and this pairing has the legs to become one of the best seasons of TUF.
Welterweight: Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger
While a matchup between Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz would have been interesting to see in the old TUF format, it would not work in the new format. Diaz has shown that he doesn't prefer being in front of the camera unless it's in a fight. That along with Diaz being too unpredictable for a live version of the show makes the pairing unlikely.
With that in mind, Diego Sanchez would be great as a coach since he called out BJ Penn. Yet since BJ looks to have hung up his gloves, someone else would need to fill that spot; Ellenberger would be a perfect fit.
If the UFC feels that Ellenberger is the future of the Welterweight division, this would be the best way to introduce him to casual fans and give him some publicity. And since the fight between him and Ellenberger could determine title contention, this would be the best launchpad for either fighter.
Since Diego has been clamoring to coach a season of TUF for a while, why not give him the chance while at the same time testing Ellenberger to see if he can take on an upper level who has more dimensions, unlike Jake Shields who relied on his wrestling.
This would also see if Diego still has enough left in the tank to make another run at UFC gold. Plus with his personality, the season would be entertaining and exciting for fans.
Middleweight: Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Leben
Ever since Koscheck has stated that he wants to move up to Middleweight, fans have been wanting this fight to happen. Koscheck was involved in the prank of squirting water on a sleeping Leben, and would then beat Leben by unanimous decision in order to move on to the semifinals of the tournament. Koscheck would then also be the biggest cheerleader in the audience for Anderson Silva during his debut, where Silva knocked out Leben in under a minute.
With how far Kos has shown he will go to get under an opponent's skin and Leben's ability to lose his composure, it would be fireworks ratings wise as well as entertaining. The coaches' fight also allows Leben the chance to avenge his loss to Koscheck as well as keep his name in the title discussion. For Koscheck, it would allow him to get a win over Leben on his pro record while at the same time see if he could hang in the Middleweight division.
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
If there was one thing that we learned from the fight between Jon Jones and Rampage Jackson it's that given the right amount of prodding, Jon Jones can get frustrated by the trash talk of an opponent. When the whole MMA Spygate occurred when Rampage claimed that Jones' management had a spy in his camp, Jones went on the defensive and then some, calling Rampage petty and small for thinking such a thing about him, even though Rampage had called out Jones' management not Jones.
So with that in mind and the recent, escalating feud between Jon Jones and former teammate Rashad Evans, it would be perfect to see them as opposing coaches on TUF. With Rashad's tendency to trash talk and get under his opponent's skin, it would be a long season for Jones to keep his composure. Another aspect would be Greg Jackson's involvement in the season as he would surely be part of Jones' coaching staff like he had done for Rashad Evans and Georges St. Pierre. There would be that added tension between Rashad and him as Rashad would feel that Jackson would be partly to blame if he couldn't get enough one-on-one time with the coach.
Having Jones and Evans coach against each other would also be a fitting end to their feud that has been building since Jones replaced Evans to face Shogun Rua for the title. It would also allow Rashad to finally get the title shot that has eluded him since he beat Rampage Jackson after coaching the 10th season of TUF.
Heavyweight: Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir
This is probably the easiest pairing business-wise for a season of TUF. The feud between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans pales in comparison to that of the feud between former Heavyweight Champs Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir. It started with Lesnar's UFC debut against Mir, who would end up winning after getting Brock to tap to a kneebar.
This would lead to a war of words between the two which culminated in a match to unify the Heavyweight title and Interim Heavyweight title at UFC 100. Brock would beat Mir bloody and win by TKO in Round 2. Lesnar then went on his infamous rampage where he flipped off the crowd, said he would drink Coors Light and then bone his wife.
This matchup does so much for the fans of the UFC and the new format of TUF. First, during Lesnar's first coaching run against Junior Dos Santos, fans were let down as there wasn't any real animosity between the coaches who were there as a way to work towards a title shot. Lesnar was also very toned down in comparison to what fans remembered from the UFC 100 incident. From admitting that Cain Velasquez kicked his ass in their fight to his "chicken salad" catchphrase, Lesnar seemed like a completely different person.
Yet if he was going against Frank Mir as a coach, that would go completely out the window as both men would try their damnedest to get under each others skin. Then with the the new format of following the coaches as they prepare for their fight along with following the TUF fighters, the UFC would build immense hype for the rubber match between the top heavyweights.