The Top Six Ultimate Fighter Finale Fights
As we prepare to watch the 13th Ultimate Fighter Finale tonight we will be treated to what could possibly be the most exciting finale fight since Forrest Griffin battled Stephan Bonnar on The Ultimate Fighter Finale 1.
Clay Guida vs. Anthony Pettis has the chance to become the top fight ever to take place on one of the finale cards.
Over the previous 12 seasons, there have been some very exciting fights that have left an impression on the minds of fight fans everywhere.
Season 2 brought us the welterweight final between Joe Stevenson and Luke Cummo as well as the birth of Rashad Evans as he chopped Brad Imes down to size.
If those two fights weren't enough, the main event took two men who really didn't like each other as Diego Sanchez fought Nick Diaz in a three-round war that showed the talents and hearts of both men.
The next year, Kendall Grove and Ed Herman met in the middleweight finals and put on such a battle the UFC awarded Herman a contract despite the fact that he lost.
In honor of tonight's event, I decided to go back and take a look at some of my all time favorite Ultimate Fighter Finale fights. There have been many so I won't be able to name them all, but this is a good start.
I am going to pick my favorite fights from the seasons 1-7 now and then 8-13 sometime next week.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 1: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
I am not afraid to tell you that this fight is what got me interested in Mixed Martial Arts. The show itself had drawn me in mostly because the UFC did a great job promoting both Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
Fans were able to see that these guys were not just barbarians, but intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful human beings.
The quirkiness of the house is a whole story to be told on a different day! Between the craziness of Diego Sanchez and the wild antics of Chris Leben and Josh Koscheck, the athletes themselves didn't do much to promote the sport; well, that is, until they had the opportunity to fight.
Once they were in the cage, fans were able to see how determined and dedicated these guys were.
Before the actual fight, Griffin gave a backstage interview in which he said he needs to be punched in the face a few times before he gets into the fight.
That was just the beginning of Griffin's career and showed a little bit of his odd side. Now it was time to see what he and Bonnar could do inside the cage in front of a live crowd and a national television audience.
There was nothing pretty about the fight as it was basically a 15 minute backyard brawl between two guys who we would come to find out had a lot more talent than what was displayed on this particular night, but they did what they needed to do.
Because neither fighter would quit and kept reaching down for something more the sport's birth was happening before our very eyes.
Griffin walked away with the win and in reality it could have gone either way. The UFC also awarded Bonnar with a contract which was well deserved.
Griffin has gone on to become a UFC Light Heavyweight Champion while Bonnar has had a back and forth career due to injuries and a steroid suspension. The right man won and Griffin proved that when they met again at UFC 62 the next year.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 2: Diego Sanchez vs. Nate Diaz
Diego Sanchez was just seven months removed from running through Kenny Florian to win the middleweight contract on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter.
In between the Florian fight and this matchup with Diaz, Sanchez defeated Brian Gassaway at UFC 54 to run his record to 13-0. Fighting against Diaz would mark a leap in terms of the quality of his opponents. Diaz was established and was 4-1 in the UFC and had an overall record of 11-3.
Diaz was not very happy about the amount of attention that Sanchez was receiving and felt as though he took the easy road into the UFC.
There was an altercation in the locker room before fight that saw Diaz taunt Sanchez and throw a shoe at him. It was easy to see that these two would not need much to get pumped up to fight one another.
The fight was a showcase of both fighters' overall skills and had a little bit of everything, from some great back and forth exchanges on the feet to some superb grappling from both men.
This was the first time fans were able to see the gigantic heart that Sanchez has and the extreme will and determination of Diaz.
Sanchez would go on to win via unanimous decision. He would go on to win his next three fights while Diaz would lose his next two bouts to Joe Riggs and Sean Sherk.
In a fight like the one between Sanchez and Diaz, there is no doubt that each man left it all in the cage and would probably never be the same physically or mentally.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 4: Scott Smith vs. Pete Sell
Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter was dubbed The Comeback. The premise behind the show was the UFC was bringing back a bunch of fighters who had fought for them before.
There were two divisions, welterweight and middleweight, the winner of each division would be given a shot at the champion after the shows conclusion.
The welterweight champion at the time was Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva was the middleweight champion.
There were no permanent coaches like we had seen in the three previous seasons, but each week the UFC brought in guest coaches. This is where the rivalry between Matt Serra and Matt Hughes started because Hughes was acting like a dick to GSP, and Serra called him out on his behavior.
Smith was a former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion who had fought once for the UFC. In his first fight as a middleweight Smith fought and lost to David Terrell at UFC 59. He certainly wasn't one of the favorites, but because he had such power in his hands, anything was possible.
Sell was a buddy of Serra and started his MMA career by winning his first six fights, including his UFC debut against Phil Baroni at UFC 51. He would then face Nate Quarry at Ultimate Fight Night, losing by knockout. He would go on to fight for East Coast organization Ring of Combat before the start of the actual show.
Sell made it to the semi-finals by defeating Charles McCarthy and was then defeated by eventual tournament winner Travis Lutter.
Smith lost his first and only fight on the show to Lutter in the quarterfinals and the UFC decided to match the two up on the finale. A decision that they would not regret.
These guys were actually pretty close and they were intent on putting on a hell of a show. They traded punches and kicks for a round and a half before Sell caught Smith with a devastating body shot that sent Smith reeling backwards.
Sell charged in with his face unprotected looking to finish, and Smith threw a haymaker that caught Sell flush on the jaw and sent him down to the canvas. Smith would then collapse himself. It was a great moment that should live on in the minds of fans forever.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 6: Jarred Rollins vs. Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver
Season 6wasn't all that interesting, the best part of the show was the verbal barbs traded between coaches Matt Serra and Matt Hughes.
The eventual winner was Mac Danzig, who hasn't been all that exciting or successful; his opponent in the finale was farm boy Tommy Speers, who fought just one more time in the UFC against Anthony Johnson. He was knocked out cold less than a minute into the first round.
Koppenhaver from the start showed that he was a bit odd, he eventually changed his legal name to his nickname which was "The War Machine" he is now in jail serving a year sentence.
He was eliminated in the first round by Tommy Speer, but he put on a good fight and nearly choked Speers out with a rear naked choke.
Rollins went into his fight with Koppenhaver with a 8-3 record. He was also eliminated in the first round by George Sotiropulos.
Rollins and Koppenhaver put on a display of heart and beat the shit out of each other before Koppenhaver was able to keep Rollins down at 2:01 of the third round.
The UFC awarded the pair the Fight of the Night bonus. Rollins hasn't fought since while Koppenhaver bounced around before going to jail.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 6: Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida
This is one of my favorite all time fights regardless of when or where it took place. The UFC could've awarded this contest the Fight of the Night bonus instead of the Rollins-Koppenhaver bout and no one would have argued.
In actuality, all four men deserved a bonus for the performances they put on that night.
Huerta was 19-1-1 heading into this contest with Guida having won his first five UFC fights including the bout with Leonard Garcia at UFC 69 that landed them both on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Huerta was young, good looking and exciting, someone the UFC could promote for years. The sky seemed to be the limit for him, but Guida was not going to be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination.
Guida was 22-8 with a UFC record of 2-2. He had just beaten Marcus Aurellio and before that lost a really close split decision to Tyson Griffin at UFC 72. That fight was awarded the Fight of the Night bonus as well as the Fight of the Year.
He was known for his wrestling and his never-ending gas tank. He hadn't learned to rein in his talent at this time like has over the past year, but he was still very dangerous.
For the first two rounds, Guida frustrated and suffocated Huerta with his takedowns and didn't allow Huerta to get off any significant offense.
At the end of the second round, Guida cracked Huerta good with a punch that stunned the heavy favorite, but Huerta survived and the round ended. It was obvious to everyone that Huerta needed a finish in the third round if he wanted to win this fight.
The third round saw Huerta land a sick knee to the face of Guida early on in the round. After a few brief punches Huerta was able to take control of Guida's back and sink in a rear naked choke, forcing the stunned Guida to tap just 51 seconds into the first round.
It was an amazing comeback that showcased Guida's wrestling skills and Huerta's heart.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 7: Dustin Hazelett vs. Josh Burkman
Neither Josh Burkman or Dustin Hazelett were contestants on season seven of The Ultimate Fighter. Burkman was on season two while Hazelett had been signed after fighting for Extreme Challenge and some smaller Ohio promotions.
Hazelett was 10-4 overall with a UFC record of 3-2. His last fight took place at UFC 82 where he lost to Josh Koscheck via second round TKO.
Although he lost that bout, he looked very good in the first round and had stunned Koscheck with a head kick, but he was unable to capitalize. This was the type of loss that helps a fighter grow and learn.
Burkman was 18-6 overall and 5-3 in the UFC. He was coming off a lethargic, boring loss to Mike Swick at UFC Fight Night: Swick vs. Burkman.
It was Swick's debut at welterweight and he seemed to be affected by the weight cut. Burkman never got any offense in as Swick kept him up against the cage most of the fight.
Hazelett and Burkman put on a great display of striking in the first round and Hazelett was able to deal with the strength advantage Burkman had over him. Hazelett nearly ended the first round with an omoplata and an anaconda choke before Burkman escaped.
The second round would be just as active with work from the clinch and some well-timed strikes. With less than a minute left Burkman slammed Hazelett to the ground.
The two scrambled into the Whizzer position with Hazelett putting his left leg over Burkman's face and finally into an armbar. Burkman tried to free himself, but it was no use as he was forced to tap with seconds left.
The fight was awarded the Fight of the Night bonus, Hazelett was awarded another bonus for Submission of the Night and eventually was declared the winner of the Submission of the Year. If that's not a great fight, then I don't know what is!!!