Ever since the first season of the Ultimate Fighter hit the scene eight years ago, there have been many fighters to come through that looked like they could become great, but for various reasons, never made it to the top. It is for this reason that I am compiling this list of ten fighters whom I believe would have made it but didn’t.
Just to clarify, the criteria for this list include their natural talent during the show as compared to what happened in after the show. Also the reason this isn’t the top TUF talents is so that the Fight Master inaugural participants can qualify. Another stipulation I’m making is that only one fighter per season can make this on the list and while winners aren’t excluded, they aren’t the focus of this list. Enough talk, here we go:
10. Andy Ulrich
Ulrich was the only winner in the preliminary round of the inaugural season of Fight Master: Bellator MMA who’s cut injury stopped him from making a pick of his team. As a result, the Shamrock MMA camp was left without a fourth fighter. Frank Shamrock chose to pickup Joe Williams who lost in the preliminary round but went on to upset twelfth seed Ismael Gonzalez who picked him as his opponent.
He apparently thought Williams would be an easy fight. While Williams certainly benefited from the cut, Ulrich definitely showed potential in his preliminary fight and one can only hope that maybe Bellator will give him another chance in the future.
9. Andy Wang
Wang appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 5 and was initially picked by Team Penn. However, after he disobeyed the game plan and of taking down opponent Brandon Melendez in his fight, he stood and brawled with the superior striker. In a first for the Ultimate Fighter, Penn ejected Wang from Team Penn, but Dana White allowed him to stay in the house.
Pulver however took pity on him and accepted him into his team. Wang ultimately went onto fight in the TUF 5 Finale against Cole Miller and fell to Miller at 1:10 in the first round. After his match with Miller, Wang took a few years off before returning to MMA and is now fighting in the rising Asian promotion ONE FC. Wang definitely had potential on the show and we can only hope that he fulfills that potential at his new fighting home.
8. Kendall Grove
The winner of The Ultimate Fighter 3, Kendall Grove is the only TUF winner to make this list. Grove was considered the upset winner of the middleweight division in TUF 3 but he went onto prove critics wrong with two wins right out of the gate in his contract with wins over Chris Price and Alan Belcher.
However, the rest of his tenure in the UFC was very up and down, putting together wins and losses almost in a pattern. Though he was able to keep things interesting by often producing bonus worthy performances, his second ‘two loss skid’ is what became his undoing as he was finally released from his contract after his loss at UFC 130 against Tim Boetsch, a full five years after he won TUF 3.
His first fights out of the UFC were for the resurgent ProElite but since then has competed in the regional circuit and for smaller international promotions, winning the ShoFight Middleweight Championship and having competed for the K-Oz and KSW Middleweight Championships against Jesse Taylor and Michal Materia respectively. We can only hope that Grove fulfills his potential and can maybe make his way back to the UFC.
7. Bobby Southworth
A contestant on the original Ultimate Fighter, Southworth was one of the more troublesome fighters in the house who also had problems making weight for his first fight. It was only through the efforts of his coach Chuck Liddell and his teammate Josh Koscheck (who basically resorted to dragging him into the sauna and keeping him in there), that he was able to make weight and win his first fight against Lodune Sincaid.
However, he lost his next fight in the house (which back in those days sent him home) to eventual finalist and UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar. He got a fight in the Finale against teammate Sam Hoger dealt him his fourth career loss at the time.
Southworth went onto have a successful career in Strikeforce, back when it was a regional promotion as their first Light Heavyweight Champion. However, he eventually lost the title to Renato Sobral at which time he took a few years off and fought a fight in Australia in 2010, gaining a win but hasn’t fought since.
6. Marcus Jones/Justin Wren
The only tie on this list, both fighters competed on The Ultimate Fighters: Heavyweights season on opposing teams. Both men stand out because Jones was the only member of Team Jackson to make it out of the preliminary round and Wren upset UFC vet Wes Sims in the preliminary round and was probably the youngest member in the house.
Wren had the most potential being the younger man whereas Jones had already had a successful career in the NFL but still had a good game plan that made him successful. Marcus would go into make it as far as the semi finals before loosing to finalist and still UFC standout Brendan Schaub (also a former NFL) player, and Wren would be fed to Roy Nelson in the second round on his way to winning the show.
Both men got to fight in the Finale but Jones retired from MMA competition after his loss to Matt Mitrione. Wren lost to Jon Madsen and would proceed to fight on the regional circuit, not having fought since 2010.
5. Tommy Speer
The first (but not the last) finalist on this list, Tommy Speer appeared on The Ultimate Figher: Team Hughes vs. Team Serra fighting on Hughes team. He had a very farm boy like persona and while he had to cut large amounts of weight for his fights, he also enjoyed eating as at one point he ate some BBQ ribs to the disgust of teammate Mac Danzig.
He along with Danzig were the only two fighters from Team Hughes to make it out of the first round, but they also proved to be the two best fighters in the house as they made it all the way to the finals. Speer beat future Bellator standouts War Machine and Ben Saunders and UFC standout George Sotiropoulos in the process.
However, his tenure in the UFC proved to be short after his loss to Danzig in the finals was followed by a loss to Anthony Johnson, sending him to the regional circuit. Since his UFC days he’s fought for international fight promotions like Cage Warriors and The Fight Night but all of his wins have come from regional promotions, begging the question of whether he can duplicate his TUF House performance against or not.
4. Rob Browning
The younger brother of troublemaker Junie Browning, Rob Browning was brought into the TUF house when various complications left other fighters from participating in the elimination round and was allowed in the house until he fought. During the time he wrecked havoc on the cast members who initially agreed not to pull any nasty pranks like the previous season where teams urinated and ejaculated into their own food when the other team was found to be eating it.
Browning went on to lose his elimination fight against Jason Dent but being undersized from the start proclaimed to Dana White he would drop down to bantamweight which at the time was still in the WEC sister promotion to the UFC. We never saw him in a Zuffa promotion again and his last fight was in 2011. Sadly he did have a lot of potential and if he seriously trained he could be a monster in the lighter weight classes.
3. Phillipe Nover
Going into The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir, Phillipe Nover was undefeated in his MMA career with high hopes of winning the lightweight division of the season. However, he gave everyone a scare when Dana White was announcing the coaches while Nover proceeded to faint.
Fortunately, he was alright and proceeded to win his preliminary round against Joe Duarte, and then beat Dave Kaplan and now UFC bantamweight standout George Roop, making it to the finals. Yet he fell short of winning the show when he lost to teammate Efrain Escudero and then lost to Kyle Bradley and Rob Emerson, going a total of 0-3 in the UFC and finding himself looking for work once again. Since then he’s had a spotty record in and out of Bellator but in his most recent fight became the Ring of Combat Lightweight Champion.
2. Jesse Taylor
Arguably the most controversial fighter on this list, Jesse Taylor’s reason for not living up to his potential, especially in the UFC has everything to do with his behavior. There is no doubt he is very talented as was proved on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage vs. Team Forrest, when he blazed through Nick Rossborough, Mike Dolce (yes the dieting guru), Dante Rivera, and Tim Credeur setting up a finals match between him and Amir Sadollah.
In undoubtedly the biggest mistake in his career, while celebrating in downtown Vegas, Taylor wrecked such havoc that Dana White could not ignore the situation and thus Taylor became the only fighter in TUF history to be removed from the finals because of his behavior. Taylor would go onto fight against the man who went onto replace him (and former college wrestling rival) C.B. Dollaway, but lost to him in at 3:58 of the first round due to a Peruvian necktie.
It can be argued that it wasn’t this loss that got him released from the UFC permanently but Taylor’s comments about how White held a double standard when Quinton “Rampage” Jackson basically had a mental breakdown after his loss to Forrest Griffin but was still supported by White, when Taylor was dealt with more severely for his actions on the show.
Since then, Taylor has fought for a variety of promotions, capturing middleweight titles in the Total Combat, King of Champions, K-Oz Entertainment, and Cage Warriors promotions. He is now set to compete in the World Series of Fighting Middleweight Tournament with the winner becoming champion.
1. Uriah Hall
If there is one man I can think of that defines “Unrealized Talent” it’s Uriah Hall. Hall burst onto the scene when he competed in this last season of the Ultimate Fighter, competing for Team Sonnen and proceeded to maul opponents Andy Enz, Adam Cella (earning him Knockout of the Season and giving viewers a scary moment as Cella had problems breathing), Bubba McDaniel and Dylan Andrews into the finals.
However, he has since gone 0-2 in the UFC loosing the finale to underdog Kevin Gastelum and John Howard in dismal performances compared to his TUF matches. As of right now there is no official word of whether Hall has been released from the UFC or whether he will get one more opportunity to fight in the Octagon.
If he does get a third shot he has a chance to realize Chael Sonnen‘s statement that he could beat anyone in the middleweight class including former champion Anderson Silva. Unfortunately Dana White’s comments that Hall,”Is not a fighter” maybe an indication that Hall should start looking at other options including returning to the Ring of Combat to defend his middleweight title.
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