Power Ranking Every The Ultimate Fighter Coach

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

Power Ranking Every The Ultimate Fighter Coach

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    With the historic Season 18 now a thing of the past, it's time to take a look back on The Ultimate Fighter history. What better way to do that than evaluating every coach from all 21 seasons of the show?

    The strategies, roles and mindsets of each coach varied radically, and that translated to different levels of success on the show. However, who had the best approach? Who made the biggest impacts and had the greatest success on his or her season?

    Who, quite simply, was the best?

    Find out right here!

No. 34: Quinton Jackson

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    Season(s): TUF 7, TUF 10
    Notable Proteges: None
    Season Winners: None

    The legacy of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, in many ways, is forever tarnished by his time as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. The odd thing is that his stint on the seventh season and the 10th season was the Tale of Two Rampages.

    Two very, very different Rampages.

    On The Ultimate Fighter 7, we saw what was basically the best of Quinton Jackson. He was fun-loving, accessible and likable. Successful coach? Not on paper by any stretch, given that his team owned a 2-6 record in the opening round. Still, he was a quirky yet still down-to-earth human being.

    His rival coach that season was Forrest Griffin, and few will disagree that something seriously changed in Jackson after they fought. 

    When he returned for the 10th season, The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights, he was a different person. He was self-absorbed, introverted and arrogant. He emotionally checked out early into the tournament on and contributed nothing to any of the fighters beyond incessant bullying of Darrill Schoonover, a specialist in the Army who returned to active duty shortly after the season's conclusion.

    Rampage was even less successful overall. He went 1-7 in the opening round, and none of his fighters moved past the quarterfinals.

    It was just a sample of what was to come from the rest of Jackson's tenure with the UFC, which was defined by ceaseless complaining. The worst thing? The UFC actually asked him back for a third season.

No. 33: Frank Mir

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    Season(s): TUF 8
    Notable Proteges: None
    Season Winners: None

    Frank Mir knows a lot about MMA, and he's capable of articulating it. That fact made it crystal clear that the former heavyweight champ didn't care at all about being a coach on The Ultimate Fighter.

    Basically every interaction he had on the season can be summarized as "Yeah, whatever."

    One of your fighters lost? Rival coach Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira wants you to talk to your team about dialing back the prank war? Junie Browning is freaking out again?

    Nothing, no matter how dire, seemed to pique Mir's interest.

    By the end of the season, he literally threw up his hands and stopped trying, famously sitting cageside, hand-on-chin, watching Junie Browning get submitted by Efrain Escudero.

    To say it was a poor effort by Mir is giving him too much credit. It was a non-effort.

No. 32: Ken Shamrock

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    Season(s): TUF 3
    Notable Proteges: None
    Season Winners: None

    "Little bitch-monkey."

    That phrase is the most memorable part of Ken Shamrock's stint on The Ultimate Fighter.

    While the MMA legend deserves credit for his role in revolutionizing the MMA gym concept, where multiple high-level athletes in varying combat sports would congregate together to cross-train, his stint on The Ultimate Fighter is widely regarded as terrible. Like really terrible.

    Shamrock came off as awkward. His fighters picked up on that and, on more than one occasion, aired grievances over missing the opportunity to train with his rival coach, Tito Ortiz.

    Shamrock went 2-6 in the preliminary rounds but found himself somewhat competitive after injuries to Noah Inhofer and Matt Hamill evened things out in the semifinals. Despite that gift from God, his team was only able to get one fighter into the finals. That was Ed Herman, who lamented being on Team Shamrock earlier in the season.

    While Shamrock is widely pointed to as one of the worst coaches in TUF history, we'll give him credit for actually trying. Still, the results speak for themselves.

No. 31: Wanderlei Silva

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    Season(s): TUF: Brazil
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Rony Jason

    What Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was to TUF in America, Wanderlei Silva was to TUF in Brazil.

    He is the only coach to match Jackson's lack of success in a season (he went 1-7 in the preliminary rounds) and was so generally unsuccessful that Dana White shuffled the teams for the semifinals. Silva then returned as a guest coach on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 as part of Team Werdum and embarrassed himself to the point that he had to apologize to his team and the fighters he insulted.

    Silva is undeniably an MMA legend, and his performances in Pride will forever live on in MMA mythology. That, however, does not a good coach make.

    True to being the Jackson of TUF: Brazil, he has been invited back for a third go on TUF. Unlike "Rampage," however, he took White up on his offer and will face off with Chael Sonnen on TUF: Brazil 3.

No. 30: Matt Hughes

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    Season(s): TUF 2, TUF 6
    Notable Proteges: Joe Stevenson, Marcus Davis
    Season Winners: Joe Stevenson, Mac Danzig

    When a coach brags about being emotionally unattached to his team, it usually spells doom. That makes it remarkable that Matt Hughes actually won the majority of tournaments he participated in.

    The Ultimate Fighter has featured many "me-first" personalities: Tito Ortiz, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Ken Shamrock...but none of them matched Hughes in terms of actively luring the cameramen around. Basically nothing he did was positive.

    Openly jeering Rashad Evans, disrespecting Jason von Flue after he won a fight for him and repeatedly throwing tantrums over his team's lack of success in Season 6 are an accurate cross-section his time as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. That doesn't even get into his immature, thuggish behavior on Season 4, which included taking jabs at Matt Serra and making stupid-at-best comments about the "big lips" of African-American fighter Din Thomas.

    His teams succeeded despite his attitude, with Joe Stevenson taking Season 2's welterweight tournament and Mac Danzig coming out on top of Season 6.

    Hilariously, Hughes was appointed the VP of Athletic Development of the UFC earlier this year. On paper, the job says he will be working as mentor to the sorts of fighters he brushed off and disrespected just a few years ago.

No. 29: Fabricio Werdum

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    Season(s): TUF: Brazil 2
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    TUF: Brazil 1 was incredibly lopsided, as Team Belfort dominated Team Silva. TUF: Brazil 2 wasn't quite as thorough a drubbing, but Fabricio Werdum still found himself bested by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

    Werdum and Nogueira were not featured as prominently in their season, as the fighters were given the spotlight more than the relatively cordial rivalry between the coaches. Still, the less-than-wise decision to bring along Wanderlei Silva bit him when "The Axe Murderer" began feuding with some of his charges, leading to an awkward shouting match and half-hearted apology.

    That was the low point, but the high points for Team Werdum weren't all that much better. Injuries, weight cutting troubles and losses defined Werdum's time as a coach. That, however, is just a footnote for Werdum.

    What most will remember is Werdum demolishing Nogueira in the coaches' fight to knot up the top contender spot in the heavyweight division.

No. 28: Josh Koscheck

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    Season(s): TUF 12
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    Josh Koscheck was brought in to be a foil to the clean-cut, lovable Georges St-Pierre. He lived up to that billing. 

    He constantly took swipes at GSP and his coaching staff. He played pranks. He, quite literally, was a big bully.

    His handling of his fighters was a one-size-fits-all program that almost exclusively drilled cardio and wrestling, which produced the mixed results one would expect. When his fighters lost, he used the opportunity to jeer GSP. When his fighters won, he used the opportunity to jeer GSP.

    Everything was about him, which would be a deadly sin if there were commandments for coaching.

    To his credit, he brought in the top-flight coaching staff of the American Kickboxing Academy, which included Javier Mendez, Daniel Cormier, Dave Camarillo and Bob Cook. That is a damn good group for any kind of program.

    Still, Koscheck looked every bit the thug he was supposed to be, and, one by one, he saw his fighters eliminated from the competition. That nets him one of the worst TUF performances to date.

No. 27: Roy Nelson

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    Season(s): TUF 16
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Colton Smith

    TUF 16 was a unique season. After TUF 15 put forward championship-level coaches and loads of young talent only to be a ratings flop, the UFC did a complete about-face for TUF 16.

    Championship-level coaches? Nope. Instead of a titleholder and a strong top contender, two middling heavyweights were chosen in Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin.

    Loads of young talent? Hell no. Fighters were almost openly chosen based on their ability to manufacture drama rather than actual cage savvy.

    The season was edited to reflect this, and Roy Nelson was made to look lazy, disinterested and stupid. Was he really? Only the fighters, coaches and filming crew know the answer to that. Regardless, why the UFC even put Nelson in that position and why it was so willing to turn around and discredit one of the few fighters who can generate pay-per-view buys are genuine mysteries. 

    Ultimately, most of what we saw of "Big Country" during the season was bad. Occasional displays of humanity and actual coaching were flashed in between Julian Lane freakouts, but we can't judge what isn't on film.

    Because of that, Nelson finds himself near the bottom of the list. 

No. 26: BJ Penn

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    Season(s)- TUF 5
    Notable Proteges: Gray Maynard, Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon
    Season Winners: None

    BJ Penn is a legendary fighter, but his stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter was the most tumultuous in the history of the show.

    Like Matt Hughes, Penn couldn't seem to take his actual fight savvy and apply it to his fighters, as they consistently lacked discipline in the gym, in the house and in the Octagon. This produced nonstop drama and constant strife, bogging down the development and performance of his entire team.

    Gabe Ruediger missed weight and was punted from the show, while three more of Penn's fighters were ejected following extracurricular fighting in the house. He also tried to instill some discipline in his team by booting Andy Wang, an unfair move that only unfairly passed the buck for his sloppy coaching throughout the season.

    This left his team with few wins, and the fighters who remained had limited training partners. While he had two of the best fighters entering the show in Joe Lauzon and Gray Maynardwho kept him relevant until the semifinalsthey too would lose (to Manny Gamburyan and Nate Diaz, respectively), which left Penn out of the finals.

    Despite that lack of success, Penn is once again lined up to coach on The Ultimate Fighter—this time opposite Frankie Edgar.

No. 25: Dan Henderson

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    Season(s): TUF 9
    Notable Proteges: None
    Season Winners: None

    Dan Henderson helms one of the best MMA gyms in existence, Team Quest. It really didn't look like it on The Ultimate Fighter, though.

    He was quiet and seemed somewhat disinterested when it came to The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom, and nothing went well with him in charge of Team USA. The team was fractured, feuding ceaselessly in the gym and in the house, and Henderson did little to unify or motivate them.

    Granted, he had very little to work with. None of the fighters from Team USA have had a noteworthy run in the UFC. The only one that lasted longer than two fights was DaMarques Johnson, who was cut with a 4-6 record. Meanwhile, Team UK had a few members earn wins over solid fighters following the show.

    That isn't a unique position for TUF coaches, however, and Henderson ultimately failed to back up his reputation.

No. 24: Randy Couture

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    Season(s): TUF 1
    Notable Proteges: Chris Leben, Mike Swick, Stephan Bonnar
    Season Winners: None

    Randy Couture owns one of MMA's top gyms, Xtreme Couture, which is home to numerous elite-level fighters. That said, he wasn't brought on The Ultimate Fighter to coach. 

    Couture and Chuck Liddell were essentially included to promote their bout at UFC 52. The season was basically 12 episodes' worth of product placement snuggled between Chris Leben peeing on things and Diego Sanchez being eccentric.

    The formula worked, as UFC 52 blew away live-gate records and saw Zuffa-record buyrates. 

    Still, fans didn't get to see Couture ply his trade in any significant way. The UFC would put more control and emphasis on the coaching selections in future seasons, and if Couture had appeared a couple of years later, he would almost certainly be ranked near the top of this list.

    Alas, that isn't what happened. The fact is Couture's limited role kept him from shining.

No. 23: Forrest Griffin

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    Season(s): TUF 7
    Notable Proteges: Matt Brown
    Season Winners: Amir Sadollah

    Similar to Jens Pulver, Forrest Griffin was a great coach by comparison.

    He isn't known for being technically good at anything (except for his occasional display of Brazilian jiu-jitsu). He's a big, strong guy who can punch people in the head sometimes.

    That made him a popular fighter, but it was not the ideal framework for a mentor of young fighters. Still, almost any coach looks great by comparison when he's up against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.

    He brought in a solid but not remarkable coaching staff and did a solid but not remarkable job of developing his fighters. The results broke in his favor, going 2-6 in the first round and taking both spots in the finals before Jesse Taylor was kicked off the finals by being a jackass on the last episode of the season (he was replaced by CB Dollaway).

    Ultimately, the season wasn't about developing young talent. It was about bringing together two of the UFC's most popular figures at the time and watching them get in shenanigans. For that, Griffin was a perfect choice.

No. 22: Brock Lesnar

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    Season(s): TUF 13
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Tony Ferguson

    Ask Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter who the toughest interview of his career has been so far, and he'll tell you it's Brock Lesnar.

    Lesnar's aura matched his appearance: big and livid. Part of it was a front to discourage short, paunchy journalists like me from chatting it up. The other part is because he was about 300 pounds of grump-fueled muscle.

    That made his completely forgettable time as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter an honest-to-goodness surprise. 

    Week in and week out, everyone wondered when we would see the Lesnar we were all hoping for: the one that would lift rival coach Junior dos Santos over his head and tear him in half or eat an insubordinate fighter whole.

    Alas, that time never came.

    All we got was a stoic, somewhat disinterested Lesnar who functioned in a support role. After falling behind early, his fighters rallied and took over the season by the finale.

    Still, it was a surprisingly bland run for ol' Brock.

No. 21: Shane Carwin

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    Season(s): TUF 16
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    As stated, TUF 16 was designed to pander to the lowest common denominator among MMA fans. The word "bro" was thrown around everywhere, and much like The Walking Dead, the "good" guy and "bad" guy were made as plain as possible.

    Roy Nelson, as stated, was the slovenly, boorish foil to the calculating yet cordial Shane Carwin. Because of that, despite being matched win for win by Nelson, Carwin at least seemed to be a radically better coach.

    At the very least, he did right by his fighters and displayed a good combination of savvy and personality. He absolutely deserves credit for that.

    His fighters, though? They were not so great.

    Still, Carwin gets an A for effort and deserves praise for what wound up being his final contribution to the UFC. He withdrew from his bout with Nelson after the season finished taping and retired shortly thereafter. 

No. 20: George Sotiropoulos

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    Season(s): TUF: The Smashes
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Robert Whittaker

    What Josh Koscheck was to Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter, Georges Sotiropoulos was to TUF: The Smashes

    His time on the season, at least stateside, will forever be remembered for the reports of his off-camera sucker punch of Team UK boxing coach Erin Beach. On camera, he was more than willing to get into it with rival coach Ross Pearson, as well as the rest of his crew. Pearson discussed after the season that there was more to it than what was aired, and Sotiropoulos was "crazy," but whether or not that is true will remain a mystery.

    That said, "G-Sot" didn't look too bad on the show. His team did well enough to avoid being labeled bad, but it was by no means a well-oiled machine. His fighters took three out of eight semifinal spots (but wound up with four after an injury forced out Team UK's Mike Wilkinson). With the exception of some coach-on-coach arguing, his stint as coach was generally decent.

    It's tough to tell how potentially bad things may have gotten on TUF: The Smashes, but we'll give Sotiropoulos the benefit of the doubt here. He finds himself ranked on the lower end of the middle of the pack.

No. 19: Jon Jones

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    Season(s): TUF 17
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    It seems like forever ago, but TUF 17 was the first step on the PR comeback trail for Jon Jones following UFC 151's cancellation.

    For those who don't remember, Jones turned down a fight with Chael Sonnen that could have salvaged the event and was criticized heavily for it by UFC president Dana White. To move past some of that bad publicity, he took a coaching spot opposite Sonnen on The Ultimate Fighter and wanted to come off as a down-to-earth, average guy.

    He succeeded in that, but as a result, he ended up as a very average coach. 

    In fairness, he was unable to bring along many Jackson's MMA coaches or fighters due to the team's busy 2012. While Georges St-Pierre was able to bring along Greg Jackson as well as Freddie Roach and Firas Zahabi, Jones had to settle on a good-but-not-legendary coaching staff made up of Frank Mir, Ricky Lundell, Bubba Jenkins and Syndicate MMA head coach John Woods.

    His team performed reasonably well, going 4-3 in the first round, taking the wild card and moving two fighters to the semifinals. Unfortunately for Jones, it would be an all-Sonnen final with Uriah Hall facing off with Kelvin Gastelum.

    While TUF 17 was a memorable season, it was not boosted in a serious way by Jones' presence. This relegates him to the middle of the pack despite his downright scary in-cage success.

No. 18: Rich Franklin

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    Season(s): TUF 2, TUF 11
    Notable Proteges: Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine
    Season Winners: Rashad Evans

    Rich Franklin is perhaps the most unremarkable coach in The Ultimate Fighter history.

    He was unsurprisingly a solid teacher. After all, he put down the chalk to put on gloves and was able to break things down well for his crew.

    However, Season 2 was defined by Matt Hughes being less-than-good at coaching and how that related to the fighters in the house. Franklin's presence—never mind the details of his coachinggot lost in the shuffle. Similarly, his time on Season 11 was an honest-to-goodness afterthought, as he was brought in to replace Tito Ortiz on the final episode following his withdrawal from his fight with Chuck Liddell. 

    What we saw of Franklin was generally positive. The only bad mark on his record was the kooky, infamous advice he gave to Matt Serra about approaching opponents on one knee.

    Because of his perfectly average approach and fair success, he finds himself in a perfectly average spot on this list.

No. 17: Junior Dos Santos

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    Season(s): TUF 13
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    Junior dos Santos has been among the nicest, sweetest characters in MMA (with the exception of his modest heel turn following his lost to Cain Velasquez).

    He loves Jesus, fights for his mommy and is a hero to the poor children of Brazil.

    When he was matched opposite Brock Lesnar, it seemed like it would be one of the ultimate hero vs. heel matchups in TUF history. While Lesnar didn't quite live up to his heel status, that didn't detract from Junior dos Santos' solid coaching. 

    His likable, friendly approach was easy for his team to get behind, and when one of his coaches started to undercut him in practice and began making extracurricular visits to the house, he actually cared enough to send him back to Brazil.

    What all that ultimately translated to was that Dos Santos cared about his fighters and put them in a position to develop.

    Unfortunately, his team did not (or perhaps could not) take him up on that offer. By the semi-inals, only one of them remained, and all were gone by the finals. Only two fighters remain in the UFC from his team, and Justin Edwards and Ramsey Nijem are facing off in a probable loser-goes-to-the-regional-circuit fight.

No. 16: Chuck Liddell

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    Season(s): TUF 1, TUF 11
    Notable Proteges: Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian
    Season Winners: Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Court McGee

    As stated, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell were not major players when it came to coaching on the original season of The Ultimate Fighter. TUF 11, however, opened a window into Liddell's coaching methods.

    His coaching method, though, was to sit back and provide support for The Pit's head coach, John Hackleman, who handled most of the training, strategizing, conditioning, motivating and, well, coaching. Liddell was used strictly in a support role. 

    That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Hackleman has trained some great fighters over the years, and not relying on him likely would have been a disservice to his fighters. Liddell, however, seemed to be only a token figure in the gym and not at all integral to the development of his team. Still, he was an advocate for his apprentices, and his presence was essentially controversy free.

    It is also telling that Court McGee followed him back to The Pit after winning the season.

No. 15: Ross Pearson

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    Season(s): TUF: The Smashes
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Norman Parke

    TUF: The Smashes was one of the weirdest seasons of all time. It involved ridiculous characters and saw Dana White give free passes on missing weight. He even look the other way when one team brought a cell phone into the house to text fight results.

    Think about that!

    Still, Ross Pearson demonstrated himself to be the better coach of the season. Even in addition to the extracurricular wackiness involving rival coach George Sotiropoulos, Pearson did a great job of rounding out the rough products on his team. 

    This was most obvious with eventual winner Norman Parke, who came in as something of a sloppy brawler and exited an accurate, methodical striker.

    It was a solid effort that continued the tradition of success by TUF winners who return to the show as coaches.

No. 14: Ronda Rousey

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    Season(s): TUF 18
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    Ronda Rousey loved her team to a fault. Literally.

    From her grumpiness over Team Tate celebrating Julianna Pena's win over Shayna Baszler to cutting down to 135 pounds on a whim to inspire her team after Anthony Gutierrez's weight-cutting fiasco, every success and failure of her team evoked a strong reaction from her. Those strong reactions lowered her overall popularity but got her placed fairly high on this list.

    While her interactions with Miesha Tate gave her something of a bad look, her interactions with her fighters were nothing short of endearing. She took on the role of a partner and big sister, hugging out the sad feelings after losses and bringing the liquor after wins.

    The only knock on her is that, as a relative work-in-progress herself, she relied heavily on her assistant coaches (particularly Edmond Tarverdyan) for matchmaking, strategy and training.

    Still, that is a small knock, and Rousey ultimately demonstrated herself to be possibly the most passionate coach in the show's history. Unfortunately, that passion did not translate to success in the finale.

    Now we get to look forward to the explosive rematch between Rousey and Tate in December that has been built up in a way not seen since TUF 10's Jackson vs. Evans matchup.

No. 13: Vitor Belfort

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    Season(s): TUF: Brazil
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Cezar Ferreira

    Vitor Belfort, at least in part, ended up looking great in comparison to rival coach Wanderlei Silva. Still, there is only one example of a coach winning the season in such lopsided fashion, and he deserves praise for that.

    Belfort proved to be a solid diplomat over the course of his season, doing great work in managing his fighters and keeping them mentally focused. He also worked the matchups to favor his fighters time after time.

    The only Team Wanderlei fighter who won was Rony "Jason" Bezerra, who won the featherweight tournament. That, however, was literally the only good thing to come from Wanderlei during the season. Everything else was all Belfort, all the time.

    Only having one winner does hurt his spot on this list. Still, it's impossible to knock the overwhelming degree of success that he had during the season. He finds himself quite high up on this list as a result.

No. 12: Dominick Cruz

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    Season(s): TUF 15
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: None

    The biggest news regarding Dominick Cruz's time on TUF: Live was the knee injury that has kept him out of the cage to this day. Still, his coaching abilities are worth discussing.

    He brought in a good portion of Alliance MMA and Team Lloyd Irvin to tutor his team, which is a top-level crew (though Cruz and Alliance would later cut ties with Irvin's crew following following allegations of a gang rape by his gym members). Still, that wasn't enough to keep up with Team Faber.

    Things looked to be out of hand for his rival early on, as Team Cruz took the first two matches. Faber and company were caught with their pants down when Cruz asked them if any were ready and willing to fight, which drew nothing but awkward glances around the gym. By the end, though, Team Faber rallied all the way through the finals.

    It was an "A" for effort for Cruz. Unfortunately, it was a "C-" for results.

No. 11: Miesha Tate

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    Season(s): TUF 18
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Chris Holdsworth, Julianna Pena

    The rivalry between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey was a major part of this season, but the two of them displayed two distinctive coaching styles. The thing is that Tate didn't play to her own strengths quite as well as Rousey did.

    Tate was the clear-cut leader of her team. Unfortunately, that put her most prominent shortcoming on full display: her sloppy work as a cornerman. While she famously encouraged Bryan Caraway to "coast" to a decision between rounds in his eventual loss to Takeya Mizugaki, her time on TUF made it seem that she doesn't know how to give particularly good instructions during fights. 

    Look back to Raquel Pennington vs. Jessica Rakoczy. As Pennington was danced around and outlanded with one hand, Tate couldn't come up with any advice past "get after it." Pennington was flustered to the point where she didn't even realize she was landing hard leg kicks at will.

    Neither did Tate. 

    To her credit, Tate's extensive grappling skills made her a great fit for most of her team. She also brought together a remarkably solid group of coaches on a few days' notice, most notably Team Alpha Male striking coach Thonglor Armatsena and grappling wizard Ricky Lundell. She also did a good job of holding her team together after controversies and in-fighting.

    Ultimately, she got the last laugh over Rousey as her two favorite fighters, Chris Holdsworth and Julianna Pena, both scored stoppage wins in the finale.

No. 10: Michael Bisping

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    Season(s): TUF 9, TUF 14
    Notable Proteges: Ross Pearson
    Season Winners: Ross Pearson, James Wilks, Diego Brandao

    Michael Bisping ranks among MMA's greatest heels, but his two appearances on TUF were by no means "Rampage"-like. That said, like Jackson, we saw two different versions of the ever-entrenched middleweight contender.

    On TUF: United States vs. United Kingdom, he displayed the sort of self-absorption and brashness that made him a heel in the first place. He became the first coach on The Ultimate Fighter history to sleep through one of his fighters' bouts (which would lead to a first-round submission loss), stirred up conflict when he sprayed water at DaMarques Johnson because he thought he bad-mouthed him (he didn't) and feuded with his eventual opponent,Dan Henderson on a few occasions over relatively trivial things.

    Those events, however, didn't undermine an otherwise successful effort that saw his fighters win both the lightweight and welterweight tournaments.

    The Bisping that appeared on TUF 14 seemed to be a more mature person.

    He proved to be an excellent motivator and a solid diplomat when his team feuded. His team wasn't as successful as on the USA vs. UK season, racking up a 4-0 deficit at the start of the season. His fighters did rally, however, and wound up with a fighter in the final fight of both divisions.

    Both efforts put forward by Bisping were solid, and he is one of the better coaches to have appeared on the show.

No. 9: Jens Pulver

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    Season(s): TUF 5
    Notable Proteges: Nate Diaz, Manny Gamburyan
    Season Winners: Nate Diaz

    At the beginning of TUF 5, BJ Penn famously polled all the fighters in the house, publicly asking which of them would prefer to be on his team. The former welterweight champ got the first laugh when 10 of 16 fighters raised their hands.

    Jens Pulver, the former lightweight champion who beat Penn five years earlier, would get the last laugh. Throughout the season, he demonstrated himself to be the superior coach and maintained the more disciplined team, which directly led to in-cage success. His team took five out eight spots in the quarterfinals and both spots in the finals.

    To be fair, Pulver's time as coach was far from perfect. He struggled at times to keep his team together and butted heads with Dana White on a couple of occasions. Still, things could have been much worse.

    He finds himself at the back end of the top 10 due to the conflicts in his team. A case can be made, though, that he should be ranked higher.

No. 8: Matt Serra

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    Credit: Mark La Monica
    Credit: Mark La Monica

    Season(s): TUF 6
    Notable Proteges: George Sotiropoulos, War Machine, Ben Saunders
    Season Winners: None

    Analyzing Matt Serra's time on The Ultimate Fighter is quite difficult. 

    On one hand, his team dominated the opening round, amassing a 6-2 record. On the other hand, in a genuinely strange turn of events, none of his fighters made it to the finals.

    On one hand, just one of his fighters from the season remains with the UFC. On the other hand, Ben Saunders and Jon Koppenhaver (now known as War Machine) are both stars in Bellator. Meanwhile, George Sotiropoulos, at least for now, remains with the UFC, and, as you know, he coached The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.

    We know Serra is an amazing coach. He is the "Serra" in the Serra-Longo Fight Team, which is home to UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, as well as Al Iaquinta and (previously) Costa Philippou. His passionate shouting has made him one of the most identifiable cornermen in modern MMA. 

    Taking everything into account, Serra finds himself near the top of the pack based on the fact he's great at mentoring and developing fighters. However, he is away from the top spot due to his limited success on the series. TUF 6 was a relatively odd season, and "The Terror" could have found himself higher up if things had played out differently.

No. 7: Georges St-Pierre

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Season(s): TUF 12
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Jonathan Brookins

    Georges St-Pierre had a unique approach to The Ultimate Fighter.

    His coaching staff included the pick of the litter from both the Greg Jackson camp and the Tristar gym. Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi, Freddie Roach and Phil Nurse were all involved in tutoring GSP's team, and because of that, he took a step back, let them do the coaching and took on the role of a confidant and training partner. 

    This makes it relatively difficult to rank GSP as a coach. His team, for the most part, was excellent, taking five of eight quarterfinal spots and both spots in the finals. Still, the season was essentially Team Koscheck vs. Team Jackson-Roach.

    As a results, he finds himself fairly high on the list but not quite at the top. 

No. 6: Urijah Faber

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Season(s): TUF 15
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Michael Chiesa

    TUF: Live was quite possibly the greatest season of TUF in terms of coaching. Faber and Cruz both come from elite gyms (Team Alpha Male and Alliance MMA, respectively) and brought with them many of the trainers and coaches who made them great. 

    Faber, though, did a much better job of translating talent into success, as his team overcame an early deficit and ran away with the lead by the end of the season. 

    He did a great job of compartmentalizing his rivalry with Cruz with his work of coaching. He also delivered one of the most heartwarming moments in TUF history when he openly refused to exploit an injury to Team Cruz's Mike Rio.

    It was a great look for Faber, which showed him as a compassionate, savvy leader.  

    As a result, "The California Kid" can easily be ranked among the greatest coaches in TUF history. Unfortunately, the coaches' fight hasn't happened yet. Hopefully we get to see Cruz vs. Faber 3 at some point in 2014.

No. 5: Rashad Evans

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Season(s): TUF 10
    Notable Proteges: Roy Nelson
    Season Winners: Roy Nelson

    Rashad Evans may have earned the reputation of a heel by dancing over the unconscious bodies of Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin. Make no mistake, though. Evans is one of the classiest, smartest and nicest human beings in the MMA business.

    That was on full display as he coached opposite the classless, boorish Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and wound up being the primary confidant for both teams. While most people remember Evans and Jackson constantly getting in each other's face, few remember that what Evans took issue with more than anything was Rampage's lack of effort as a coach.

    Partly because he did great work and partly because he was up against such weak competition, Evans was one of the most successful coaches in The Ultimate Fighter history. Only one fighter from Team Jackson made it past the first round, and none of them would fight again past the season's finale (save Kimbo Slice).

    Season runner-up Brendan Schaub followed Evans back to Jackson's MMA, and Matt Mitrione joined him in Florida with the Blackzilians.

No. 4: Jason Miller

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Season(s): TUF 14
    Notable Proteges: John Dodson
    Season Winners: John Dodson

    In the grand scheme of things, the TUF 14 coaching stint of Jason "Mayhem" Miller is the smallest of footnotes in the inevitable biography of MMA's self-declared "clown prince." That said, many need to remember that before Miller became a sort of Frances Farmer-style tragic figure, he was a legitimate MMA talent and, perhaps even more so, a very good coach.

    He traveled the world and eventually settled back down stateside, partnering with Mark Munoz and joining his newly founded Reign Training Center. As noteworthy fighters like Jake Ellenberger and Brett Cooper started emerging from the camp, so too did stories of Miller's importance in the day-to-day operation of the gym, as well as his role in coaching Munoz.

    Because of that, few knew what to expect from Mayhem. Ultimately, despite some standard TUF-style wackiness, he demonstrated himself to be what all of his at-the-time teammates said he was: smart, invested and an all-around great coach. His assistant coaches were all strong, including light middleweight and welterweight boxing champion Danny Perez Ramirez, Olympic wrestler Kamarudeen Usman and Muay Thai world champion Melchor Menor.

    Miller's team as a whole went 5-3, and Team Miller's John Dodson won the season's bantamweight tournament.

    Right now, all the positives surrounding Miller feel like a distant memory given his nonstop trouble with the law over the last year. Still, there was (and hopefully still is) plenty of good in him, both as a coach and as a person, and that was on full display during The Ultimate Fighter.

No. 3: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

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    Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

    Season(s): TUF 8, TUF: Brazil 2
    Notable Proteges: Ryan Bader
    Season Winners: Ryan Bader, Efrain Escudero, Leonardo Santos

    Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the first coach to appear on The Ultimate Fighter and have success on the show.

    Throughout the season, "Big Nog" was a steady presence in the house and the gym. On top of that, he took a far more active role in advocating for his fighters, calling for order and pushing for the ejection of problem child Junie Browning.

    Something that didn't get fully appreciated was his strong coaching staff. While many fighters tend to bring their own coaches and training partners, Nogueira brought along three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Amaury Bitetti and trainers from the Brazilian and American Olympic Wrestling teams, among others. The staff made Team Nogueira look far more refined in their striking and grappling and much stronger in their cardio.

    As a result, his team dominated the season and won both tournaments. 

    TUF: Brazil 2 had similar results, as Nogueira put together a strong group of coaches by using his extensive celebrity. From there, he outcoached Fabricio Werdum and led his team to broad success.

No. 2: Tito Ortiz

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Season(s): TUF 3, TUF 11
    Notable Proteges: Michael Bisping, Matt Hamill
    Season Winners: Michael Bisping, Kendall Grove

    Tito Ortiz has always seemed like one of MMA's most self-absorbed characters. The feud with Dana White. The constantly in-the-news relationship with Jenna Jameson. The out-of-nowhere attachment to Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino.

    Every action, it seemed, was a calculated move to get attention.

    The Ultimate Fighter is a great way to get attention, and both his appearances saw him coach opposite the two greatest rivals of his career: Ken Shamrock in Season 3 and Chuck Liddell in Season 11. While Ortiz is one of the greatest self-promoters in UFC history, his time on The Ultimate Fighter is mostly defined by his out-of-character niceness.

    Maybe that was another well-planned move to strengthen his brand. Maybe not. Regardless, he was one of the greatest coaches in TUF history, brought in strong assistant coaches during both of his seasons including Dean Lister, Cleber Luciano and Rob McCullough and came off as caring, supportive and emotionally invested in his fighters' success.

    TUF 11 is the brightest spot in the latter part of his UFC career, and he deserves credit for it.

No. 1: Chael Sonnen

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Season(s): TUF 17 
    Notable Proteges: TBD
    Season Winners: Kelvin Gastelum

    Say what you will about Chael P. Sonnen, but the man is good with words. 

    While one would expect him to use a massive platform like The Ultimate Fighter to promote himself and his bout with light heavyweight champion (and at-the-time rival) Jon Jones, he didn't. He took on the role of coach and used every ounce of his talent as a wordsmith to deliver inspirational speech after inspirational speech. 

    He brought in members of his own coaching staff (most notably striking coach Clayton Hires and nutritionist Mike Dolce) and filled in the gaps well by adding folks like Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz and at-the-time UFC fighter Vinny Magalhaes. This provided his pupils with a wide-reaching set of experts to aid their development in all areas of MMA.

    While the initial results were mixed, by the end of the season, it was clear that Sonnen's methods had yielded something special. Team Darkside took over the finals, with Kelvin Gastelum taking home the trophy following a close decision victory over Uriah Hall. Dana White and Joe Silva were impressed enough with the fighters' development during the season that they sent a contract to all 14 fighters who fought during the season.

    Regardless, Sonnen's "take a knee," almost fatherly approach to coaching made TUF 17 one of the most memorable seasons ever. He was one of the true fighters to take on TUF and function as an honest-to-goodness mentor for his fighters. For that, he more than deserves this top spot on the list.


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