Top 10 List — Best TUF Fighters Ever

Posted: November 4, 2011 in Commentary/Opinion, The Ultimate Fighter, Top 10
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We are hot and heavy into the 14th season of Ultimate Fighter. That’s a pretty big sample size. The reality show that began in 2005 has given us numerous UFC fighters, including stars, also-rans, and even 3 world champions. I’ve seen lists like this before, but really, it changes all the time. We have taken a crack at the top 10 TUF veterans of all time. We based our rankings on the fighters’ career since they appeared on TUF. Considerations were made for current status in the UFC, historical significance, star power, big fights (both wins and losses) and other factors that may or may not even be relevant (is Gray Maynard better looking than Chris Leben?).

1. Rashad Evans (TUF 2). Since winning TUF 2 as an undersized heavyweight, Rashad has gone on to a 10-1-1 record in the octagon. He’s a former—and possibly future—champion at LHW. Key wins over Tito, Liddell, Griffin and Rampage make this guy one of the best in the world. He’s been waiting patiently for his next shot at the title, but everything you can think of has gotten in the way. A drop to Middleweight isn’t out of the question. Either way, he is on a mission to become the first TUF alum with 2 title reigns. For my money, he’s an obvious number 1 on this list.

2. Forrest Griffin (TUF 1). Known as one-half of perhaps the most recognized UFC fight ever, Griffin is also a former champ at LHW. He has defeated a long list of superstars—Rua, Rampage, Ortiz, Franklin—and is on an even more impressive run as we speak. Griffin’s last seven fights have all been against fighters who have all been UFC champ. He’s moved from Ultimate Fighter to one of the most respected guys in the business.

3. Gray Maynard (TUF 5). While he hasn’t captured a world title (yet), he has just a single loss in his career. He’s 1-1-1 against the current champ Frankie Edgar and remains near the top of the rankings on everyone’s list. He is as strong as any fighter in the division and has completely transitioned from a guy tagged as just a wrestler to having two Fight of the Year candidates in 2011. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Maynard.

4. Josh Koscheck (TUF 1). He’s 13-5 since Ultimate Fighter 1 and continues to morph into a well-rounded mixed martial artist. One of the division’s best fighters, he is campaigning for another shot at the belt. He most recently followed up his loss to champ GSP with a resounding win over MMA legend Matt Hughes. Despite his loss, he remains a consensus top 5 guy in the UFC.

5. Michael Bisping (TUF 3). He may not be the most likeable coach in TUF’s history, but he’s one of the most successful fighters. At 10-3 since the show, his only losses are to some pretty big names—Evans, Henderson, Wanderlei. He’s one signature win away from moving up this list, but until I see it, he remains right here.

6. Kenny Florian (TUF 1). It’s hard to fathom, but Florian fought at Middleweight on TUF and even finished Chris Leben. The knock of KenFlo has been that he doesn’t win big fights; but you can’t ignore a guy who’s fought for 3 world titles and another #1 contender fight. Although a title run may prove to be elusive, Florian has put together a great career at 4 different weight classes. I expect him to get a few more “name” fights before he winds down his career.

7. Diego Sanchez (TUF 1). Diego worked his way up to being the #1 contender in the LW division and is now hoping to do the same at welterweight. Wins over contenders Martin Kampmann and Paulo Thiago show that he may in fact get there someday. He has no fewer than four Fight of the Night awards and calling out BJ Penn is either a statement on Sanchez’s sanity or his gameness.

8. Matt Serra (TUF 4). I’ll catch flak for this ranking from all angles. As a former UFC champ, some fans will think 8 is too low, while others will look at his meager 2-3 record since TUF and say he doesn’t belong on the list at all. I’ll say this…he beat GSP. Until you show me someone else who can do that, Serra stays in the top 10.

9. Chris Leben (TUF 1). Leben went from the troubled bad boy of TUF to a solid and respected fighter in the past few years. With a record of 11-6 since the show, he’s had his share of losses, but no one can refute his star power and relevance in the middleweight division. Fighters call him out every day it seems. If he is able to upset Mark Munoz Saturday—along with his recent win over Wanderlei Silva—he could in fact find his name bandied about as a possible contender to the belt.

10. Roy Nelson (TUF 10). Again, you have to consider Nelson’s relevance within his weight class, and he is in fact relevant. He has nice wins over Schaub, Struve and Cro Cop, a “nice” loss to JDS and a terrible loss to Mir. All that aside, he’s a top 10 guy in the UFC, with a fan following to boot. Despite the funny haircut, big belly and clownish demeanor, Big Country can fight. That’s why he rounds out the top 10.

Guys who were in the top 10 until recently:
Ryan Bader (TUF 7). It wasn’t so much the lopsided loss to Jones as much as it was the bad loss to Tito.
George Sotiropoulos (TUF 6). One of my personal faves dropped off after losing to Siver and Dos Anjos.
Melvin Guillard (TUF 2). Losing to Lauzon not only puts Guillard off the list, but elevates J-Lau too.
Joe Stevenson (TUF 2). Has gone 3-6 since fighting for the LW title.

Guys who could wind up on this list with another win:
Joe Lauzon (TUF 5). If he beats Pettis, he deserves a big push here.
Brendan Schaub (TUF 10). Needs a bounceback win after losing to Nogueira. Still lots of upward potential.
Nate Diaz (TUF 5). Beating Cerrone would be huge for Nate.

Who did we leave off? Who shouldn’t be on this list? Let’s hear from you on this.

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