By Ryan Busuttil
As we prepare for the finale of the first edition of “The Ultimate Fighter Live,” I wanted to take a look back at 13 of the previous 14 seasons of the reality series that helped bring the UFC into the mainstream. I’m not counting season 4, The Comeback season, as the show deviated from the normal format of taking virtual unknown fighters and having them fight for a UFC contract. I wanted to see who, out of the almost 180 fighters that lived in the TUF house, were the most successful and least successful.
My criteria: The fighters needed to have lived in the house (made it past the elimination round) and they needed to have more than 1 official fight in the UFC. Let’s start out with the least successful. I tried to stay away from guys who are still in the UFC because still being employed in the #1 MMA organization in the world shows some level of success.
5. Corey Hill (Season 5)
Record since TUF: 4-4 (1-2 UFC record)
Hill showed a lot of promise in the TUF house. Fighting in the lightweight division with a 6’4″ frame was a sight to see. Hill was eliminated from the tournament after losing to eventual winner Nate Diaz in the quarterfinals. His UFC career ended after suffering a horrific leg injury during his fight with Dale Hartt in 2008. He’s since been in the regional circuit, last fighting in December 2011 at welterweight.
4. Kalib Starnes (Season 3)
Record since TUF: 6-7 (2-3 UFC record)
Starnes made it to the semifinals of the tournament, losing to season winner Kendall Grove. Fans will probably remember the Canadian more for his “running man” dance against Nate Quarry in his last UFC fight in 2008, as Starnes backpedalled for most of the fight to avoid Quarry. He’s since fought in regional circuits, suffering losses to Hector Lombard and Patrick Cote.
3. Phillipe Nover (Season 8)
Record since TUF: 1-4 (0-2 UFC record)
Nover fought his ways to the finals of the Season 8 tournament, losing to winner Efrain Escudero by unanimous decision. He was cut from the UFC after losing to Rob Emerson in 2010. After a year away from fighting, Nover last fought in Bellator last fall, suffering a loss to Marcin Held.
2. Josh Haynes (Season 3)
Record since TUF: 5-6 (0-3 UFC record)
The season 3 finalist suffered a second round TKO to Michael Bisping in the finale and was cut from the promotion following his third consecutive loss to Luke Cummo. Haynes hasn’t fought since an August 2010 loss to Eliot Marshall.
1. Junie Browning (Season 8)
Record since TUF: 2-5 (1-1 UFC record)
One of the most controversial figures on the show, Browning lost to Season 8 winner Efrain Escudero in the semi-finals. He was released from the UFC after a first round loss to fellow TUF alumni, Cole Miller in 2009. Browning’s last win was in November 2009 and he has suffered 4 straight losses since then.
The 5 most successful TUF alumni were a little easier to determine. With the exception of Season 4’s Comeback format, the show has produced 2 UFC champions in Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans, as well as several number one contenders.
5. Kenny Florian (Season 1)
Record since TUF: 12-5, 3-time #1 contender
The season 1 Middleweight Runner Up, Florian has fought in 4 different weight classes in the UFC, receiving 2 title shots in the lightweight division and 1 shot in the featherweight division. Florian has main evented several UFC Fight Night events and 1 PPV event and his only UFC losses have come to a current champion, 2 former champions and 2 former #1 contenders. Florian is now enjoying success as a play-by-play man for UFC’s FX and Fuel TV events as well as a co-host of UFC Tonight on Fuel TV, ensuring that theBostonnative has a future in the company past his fighting career.
4. Gray Maynard (Season 5)
Record since TUF: 8-1-1, 2 time #1 contender
Maynard made it to the semifinals of season 5, losing to Nate Diaz (whom Maynard defeated in an official UFC fight 3 years later). Maynard was undefeated in the UFC until October 2011, when former UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar ended their trilogy at 1-1-1. Maynard holds wins over Edgar, Florian and Diaz among others and has main evented 2 PPV events in his fights with Edgar. It’s not hard to imagine him getting back to a title shot with a few wins if Edgar doesn’t regain the title.
3. Josh Koscheck (Season 1)
Record since TUF: 15-6, former #1 contender
One of the most hated fighters in the UFC, Koscheck lost to eventual TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez in the semi-finals. Since then, he’s been one of the most dominant welterweights in the world, accruing the most wins out of any TUF alumni. Koscheck has suffered 2 losses to welterweight kingpin George St. Pierre, but has wins over legendary welterweight Matt Hughes and Sanchez.
2. Forrest Griffin (Season 1)
Record since TUF: 9-5, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
The season 1 light heavyweight winner, Griffin’s tournament final against Stephan Bonnar is considered to be the impetus of the UFC’s success in the last 7 years. Dana White has promised Griffin that he’ll have a job in the UFC for as long as he wants one as a result of that match. Griffin translated his success on the show into high profile matches with Tito Ortiz (who he’s 1-1 against heading into their UFC 148 tiebreaker) and an upset victory against Mauricio Shogun Rua. Griffin got a coaching gig on Season 7 of TUF, which led him to a championship match victory against opposing coach, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. While his title reign was short-lived, he was the first TUF fighter to reach this level of success and he is forever in the hearts of UFC fans everywhere for his contribution to the sport.
1. Rashad Evans (Season 2)
Record since TUF: 12-2-1, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion & #1 Contender
Evans was the Season 2 heavyweight winner who dropped down to light heavyweight. His headkick knockout of Sean Salmon is still in the UFC’s highlight reel. Evans continued his success, gaining a knockout victory against Chuck Liddell en route to winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship from Forrest Griffin. Following his first career loss to Machida, Evans coached heavyweights on Season 10 of the Ultimate Fighter and gained victories against Rampage, Tito Ortiz and Phil Davis before dropping a decision to current champion Jon Jones. Evans is the most successful TUF fighter not just because of who he’s beat, but because of the fact that he is a main event fighter (his last 9 fights have been main event contests) and his fights draw interest (his fight against Rampage got over 1 million PPV buys). When TUF fighters start their career, they can only wish to attain what Evans has in his career.
Give your opinions of the most and least successful Ultimate Fighter alumni below!
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