The 6 Best Casts in 'The Ultimate Fighter' History
Let's face it, whether you are sick of it or not, The Ultimate Fighter is a big part of UFC history and a way that the company has spread its product to new fans.
That's true even after over 20 seasons on the air.
The show has produced UFC champions, legendary fighters and memorable fights that give it a place dear in all of our hearts. It's had its ups and downs, but has nonetheless been beneficial to both the company and fighters.
So which seasons had the best fighters?
That is what we must examine right now. Excluding international versions such as TUF Brazil, Latin America, China, Smashes and Nations, we need to take a look at the American portions of the show and see which seasons contributed the most talent.
Without further ado, here are the six best TUF casts in the show's history.
6. TUF 17: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen
Coaches: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and top contender Chael Sonnen
Heads of the Class: Kelvin Gastelum, Uriah Hall, Josh Samman
Other Notable Names: Kevin Casey, Luke Barnatt, Clint Hester, Zak Cummings, Dylan Andrews, Tor Troeng
Originally airing in 2013, TUF 17 was well-received by fans because of its change in production style and a more in-depth look at fighters.
It was also praised because the cast was absolutely stacked with talent. That's why it leads off our list here.
The show was eventually won by an unknown 21-year-old by the name of Kelvin Gastelum, who is now a contender in the middleweight division. He was previously a contender at welterweight, but weight issues forced him back to 185.
The cast also featured guys like Uriah Hall and Josh Samman, who have proved they can compete at a high level. Samman is especially noteworthy for his 2014 Knockout of the Year of Eddie Gordon, which will be replayed on highlight reels for a long time to come.
Add in solid UFC midcarders such as Kevin Casey, Clint Hester and Zak Cummings, and you have yourself a competitive, top class of fighters. It's clear that coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen had their fair pick of the litter on this show.
5. TUF 2: Team Hughes vs. Team Franklin
Coaches: UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes and UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin
Heads of the Class: Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Melvin Guillard
Other Notable Names: Joe Stevenson, Josh Burkman, Marcus Davis, Seth Petruzelli, Jorge Gurgel
The second season of TUF gave us some great fighters that had great careers in MMA. This is especially true at a high level, whether it's the UFC, Strikeforce or another major MMA organization.
Of course, the eventual winner of the show in the heavyweight division, Rashad Evans, is the crown jewel of the season. He was a UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and one of the biggest stars in the UFC at one point.
Then there are longtime UFC employees who were in a number of classic fights in Joe Stevenson and Melvin Guillard. Both spent a long time with the company, especially in important, top fights in their division.
Also consider a guy like Keith Jardine, who slowed down at the end of his career but was a fairly big star at one point.
Among the underrated guys on the cast was Seth Petruzelli, who we know as the man that derailed Kimbo Slice's MMA career in Elite XC.
Throw in Marcus Davis, Josh Burkman and Jorge Gurgel, and you have yourself a very strong cast of fighters.
4. TUF 15: Team Faber vs. Team Cruz
Coaches: UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz and top contender Urijah Faber
Heads of the Class: Al Iaquinta, Myles Jury, Michael Chiesa
Other Notable Names: Daron Cruickshank, James Krause, James Vick, Joe Proctor, Vinc Pichel, Justin Lawrence, Sam Sicilia, Drew Dober, Mike Rio, Jon Tuck, Akbarh Arreola, Cody Pfister, Andy Ogle
The UFC tried spicing things up with its 15th season when they televised each weekly show live. Well, the fights were live each week and we got a recap of the week's training.
Though it was a format that did not work out well, that didn't stop the show from having one of the strongest graduating classes in TUF history.
The cast currently has two top-20 fighters to its credit in Al Iaquinta and Myles Jury, both of whom are only getting better. Both are close to title consideration, showing how strong this class was.
Then you have guys like Michael Chiesa, Daron Cruickshank and James Vick, all of whom have been very successful in the UFC. They are joined by other solid midcarders like Joe Proctor, Vinc Pichel and Sam Sicilia.
Then you consider the fighters who didn't make it past the elimination round but still eventually got a look in the UFC. Now-UFC employees James Krause, Drew Dober, Jon Tuck, Cody Pfister and Akbarh Arreola all failed to make it into the house, but now call the Octagon their home.
It was not only one of the best classes, but one of the most underrated seasons as well.
3. TUF 5: Team Penn vs. Team Pulver
Coaches: Former UFC Champions BJ Penn and Jens Pulver
Heads of the Class: Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon
Other Notable Names: Matt Wiman, Manvel Gamburyan, Cole Miller, Rob Emerson
TUF 5 wasn't as deep as other seasons, unless you consider the fact that five or six of the best guys on the season were of very high quality. Not only was it a talented season, but also a crazy and entertaining one that was full of interesting characters and happenings.
Just look at the cast and you'll see some top fighters in the lightweight division over the last few years. You have former title challengers Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard, as well as consistent division challengers Joe Lauzon and Matt Wiman.
Then there are guys like Manvel Gamburyan and Cole Miller, who have been exciting, top-level guys for some time. They are proof that there were a number of top talents that assembled for this season and made it a worthy show.
There were definitely some bad fighters too, but they were at least entertaining in the house.
2. TUF 14: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller
Coaches: Michael Bisping and Jason Miller
Heads of the Class: T.J. Dillashaw, John Dodson, Dennis Bermudez
Other Notable Names: Bryan Caraway, Diego Brandao, Jimmie Rivera, Marcus Brimage, Marcus Brimage, Louis Gaudinot, Akira Corassani, Johnny Bedford, Steven Siler, Roland Delorme
When the UFC brought the WEC over to their roster, there were a lot of bodies that needed to fill both the featherweight and bantamweight divisions.
Boy, did TUF 14 do that in a major way.
In a season coached by rivals Michael Bisping and Jason Miller, the talent pool was absolutely stacked, making for a fun, competitive season. Little did we know that this cast would hold a current UFC champion, a former title challenger and a handful of contenders.
The biggest name to come out is current wrecking machine and UFC Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw, who looks to be one of the best fighters to come out of the show—period. His constant improvements are no surprise, as he looked to be a workhorse in the gym during the show.
Then you have top guys like John Dodson, Dennis Bermudez and Bryan Caraway. All three men are top-15 fighters, if not top-10 fighters in their respective divisions.
There are a number of solid midcarders that have also filled in the UFC nicely. Jimmie Rivera (eliminated before making it into the house), Diego Brandao and Marcus Brimage have all had solid runs in the company, while others like Akira Corassani, Louis Gaudinot and a bevy of others had runs as well.
It is one of the few times a recent season in the show's history provided so much talent.
1. TUF 1: Team Liddell vs. Team Couture
Coaches: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture and top contender Chuck Liddell
Heads of the Class: Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian, Josh Koscheck
Other Notable Names: Diego Sanchez, Stephan Bonnar, Chris Leben, Mike Swick, Nate Quarry
They oftentimes say the original is the best. In terms of talent, and long-term talent at that, TUF 1 was the best ensemble collected by the UFC.
We can all agree that if it weren't for the original , the UFC may not be what it is today. That's because the show was groundbreaking and the final fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar is beyond legendary.
But take a look at the cast and you will realize, if you didn't already know, that it was the best cast in the show's history.
Griffin became the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Kenny Florian challenged for multiple UFC titles in different weight classes, while Josh Koscheck had his shots at welterweight.
Then you have legendary fan favorites like Bonnar, Diego Sanchez and Chris Leben. Throw in wily vets like Mike Swick and Nate Quarry, and you can see why the original is still the best.
Oh, and the reality TV portion of it wasn't bad, either.
*Stay tuned with Bleacher Report Thursday as we examine the worst casts in TUF history.