Previewing the Favorites, Dark Horses of TUF 19

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13:  Frankie Edgar, UFC lightweight champion, speaks during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen/Getty Images

The Ultimate Fighter 19 cast has been announced, and the show is ready to commence on TV in mid-April. The show will feature middleweights and light heavyweights, all of whom will be vying for a contract with the UFC.

The show is coached by competitive rivals Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn. Both men have been UFC champions in the past and have crossed paths on two occasions, with Edgar being the victor in both.

Let's take a look at the current field of fighters and pick out the favorites and dark horses of the tournament.


Matt GabelRaise the Bar Fitness8-3
Lyman GoodTeam Tiger Schulmann15-3
Eddie GordonSerra-Longo Fight Team6-1
Mike KingBuckeye MMA5-0
Dhiego LimaAmerican Top Team9-1
Adrian MilesAlan Belcher MMA Club14-5
Tyler MintonTeam Oxendine3-1
Cathal PendredSBG Ireland13-2
Ian StephensBlalock's IMB2-0
Adam StroupFactory X Muay Thai5-1
Nordine TalebTristar Gym8-2
Hector UrbinaAmerican Top Team16-8-1
Bojan Velickovicn/a8-2
Daniel VizcayaPower Martial Arts7-2
Tim WilliamsTeam Balance8-1
Roger ZapataBruno Tostes BJJ4-1


There is a very strong field of fighters occupying the middleweight bracket, which could make for a great season. In looking at the field, the three favorites have to be considered Cathal Pendred, Dhiego Lima and Eddie Gordon.

Pendred is probably the outright favorite to win the season, as the Irishman is a top prospect in any weight division. He is a combination of gritty grappling and refined striking, making him a well-rounded threat to run away with this season. He is also a guy that the UFC can market when moving into Ireland.

Lima, the brother of potential Bellator champ Douglas Lima, is another top prospect. Like Pendred, Lima is a prospect at welterweight, but the lack of cutting a ton of weight in the house will likely benefit the two. Lima is a fantastic striker with good jiu-jitsu skills, though he must beware of the wrestlers in the house.

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Gordon is a disciple of Matt Serra and Ray Longo who combines developing striking with a solid ground game. He has faced some high-level guys in the East Coast circuit and should be ready to compete in a big way in this tournament.

Dark Horses

When looking at the dark horses, two men come to mind right away: Ian Stephens and Mike King.

Stephens is likely considered a top dark horse because he has just a 2-0 record. However, Stephens and his little-known status will make him unfamiliar as opposed to more famous guys on the cast like Lima and Pendred. He has solid wrestling and developing all-around skills that could pose a threat to guys with weak takedown defense.

King is an undefeated fighter with a nasty top game that has led to stoppages in all five of his fights. He is a ferocious ground-and-pound artist who has even added a nice submission touch to his game. He could truly be THE dark horse of the tournament.

Light Heavyweights

Corey Andersonn/a2-0
Kelly AnundsonAmerican Top Team6-2
Anton Berzinn/a3-1
Josh ClarkAFS MMA Academy5-2
Chris FieldsSBG Ireland10-5
Jake HeunAmerican Top Team5-3
Tyler KingConnors MMA6-2
Todd Monaghann/a5-3
Cody MummaGrudge Training Center5-1
John Poppien/a3-1
Doug SparksTeam Hoedown7-2
Dan SpohnCambridge Martial Arts8-3
Josh StansburyTeam Impact5-2
Matt van BurenAlliance MMA6-2
Patrick WalshWai Kru MMA4-1


The light heavyweight division definitely doesn't have as recognizable of a cast as the middleweight bracket. That being said, the three men who are likely favorites in this field are Corey Anderson, Dan Spohn and Chris Fields.

Anderson is a former collegiate wrestler with explosive takedowns and good size. One might place him under the dark-horse category, but I think because of his wrestling and the exploitation of some of the participants' takedown defense.

Spohn is a Bellator veteran who has greatly improved fight to fight. His experience and well-roundedness is a great asset, something that will make him an enigma when guys are game-planning him for their fights.

Fields is another representative from Ireland that usually fights at middleweight and has good experience fighting with Cage Warriors. He is a good striker who has developed his ground game and could follow Pendred as one of the best fighters in the house.

Dark Horses

The dark horses of the bracket at this point are definitely Anton Berzin and Patrick Walsh.

Berzin is a ground fighter with a strong submission style that has seen him tap out all three of his victims. He does great work from the top position but has been known to have a solid defensive ground game as well. Anybody who goes to the ground with him must proceed with caution.

Walsh is a Wai Kru representative who has a good striking base that should make him feared by anybody who stands and bangs with him. He is a big 205-pounder who may struggle to stay on weight, but if he plans that out well, he can use his size to give other guys fits.