Sitting around and finding flaws in The Ultimate Fighter is so easy it almost becomes sad and pathetic after a few moments. We know that we can’t take a show like that seriously but we hardcore fans are kind of cornered into watching Tony Ferguson’s drunken antics and Dana White’s ridiculous, insulting hyperbole just because we want to watch tournaments of the best up and coming fighters on the planet. And we also know that deep down those tactics do grow the sport. I myself am a perfect example as I got sucked in by the trashy fun of the show and ended up sticking around to buy the PPVs and debate the intricacies of the sport. But what I think is often overlooked is just how disingenuous the show is as it is marketed as a winner take all battle royale for that all important UFC contract when in reality half the folks who make it into the house will end up with spots on the UFC roster. And one guy who always ends up with a contract, no matter what, is the runner up. Of course it makes sense, Dana White doesn’t want Ramsey Nijem showing up on Bellator, but it greatly diminishes the excitement of the series. And since we know have 13 seasons of Ultimate Fighters and 2nd Placers behind us we can look back and determine with some accuracy whether it’s better to have claimed the cheesy glass plaque or better to have just missed out.
Coming out of the gate after the season ends the difference between the two is pretty slim. Sure the winner gets the bigger push and the fatter paycheck but he also has added pressure on him, tougher match making and the annoyance of knowing that as long as you are in the company Bruce Buffer will forever remind the world that you are who you are only because of that silly little show on Spike TV which they produce. And looking back we find some real stand outs who didn’t win their season. Diego Sanchez has put together a fairly awesome career but as of now there is no way he wouldn’t trade his in for Kenny Florian’s. Also the shocking KO of Brendan Schaub that happened in Rio a few months back has taken a bit of the shine off of his star but he will continue to be a force in the heavyweight division for years to come and I don’t think it is out of the question to say that he will one day challenge for the title. That said he is still neck and neck with the man who finished him at the finale for season 10, Roy Nelson. Both will be hanging around the title picture for the next few years though both failed to cash in when it was their turn to break into the top 5. Ed Herman is another who turned out better than his opposition though being of higher quality than Kendall Grove is nothing to put on your resume.
I would also say that season 4 provided us with two examples in which the losers turned out better than the winners though that season is something of an X factor since right off the bat the winner of the season got a wholly undeserved title shot. Travis Lutter proved himself to be something of a real joker as after earning the title shot he failed to make weight (costing him the shot) and then got massacred by Anderson Silva. He would go on to lose 2 of his next three fights and he has not fought since May of last year. Patrick Cote hasn’t exactly panned out either but he has maintained a respectable level of mediocrity (8-3 since the show) and didn’t totally lose his dignity against Silva. The far more interesting question though revolves around the welterweight tournament that season. Matt Serra should be the shoe in; he eeked out a decision victory over Chris Lytle and went on to land an amazing punch and score one of the biggest upsets in MMA history thus adding a UFC title and a victory over Georges St. Pierre to his list of accomplishments. But I would still give the edge to Lytle. Post-TUF he went 9-5 (Serra was 2-3), he avenged the loss to Serra and racked up 10 bonuses (versus Serra’s 2). He also put on fights that have won the love and respect of both the fans and Dana White for all of eternity. It’s a classic case of Peaks vs. Consistency but I don’t think that one lucky punch can out duel the career that Lytle has put together.
Even if I’m wrong on the Serra vs. Lytle question it would do little to swing things in favor of the runners up. I went through and crunched the numbers and came up with a highly subjective score of 12-5-2 in favor of The Ultimate Fighters though I will admit that it is totally up for debate. Amir Sadollah/C.B. Dollaway and Roy Nelson/Brendan Schaub served as the two ties. It should also be noted that the jury is probably still out on anything post TUF 9. Sure, Vinny Magalhaes may convert his M-1 gold into UFC gold while Ryan Bader makes a career out of choking against washed up stars of yesteryear but somehow I doubt it. I gave the slight edge to Tony Ferguson over Ramsey Nijem but we all know that that should be one of the more interesting threads to watch in the coming years. The rest, at least to me, were kind of easy. . .Griffin won a title whereas Bonnar did not, Stevenson certainly sucks nowadays but he also had his day in the sun, Evans over Imes may represent the biggest disparity between finalists, Bisping would take Haynes everyday of the week, Diaz over Gamburyan but only by a hair, Danzig over Speer because he didn’t fall off the face of the earth afterwards, Escudero over his fellow Bellatorian Nover, Pearson over the always disappointing Winner, DeMarques Johnson scores one for the losers basically by default and it’s all winners in the modern era as we have McGee, Brookins and Ferguson.
But then again, who am I? And who is to say that going through The Ultimate Fighter is the best way to go. Ryan Jimmo crashed and burned on the show but is now entering the promotion as a huge free agent signing who everybody expects big things out of. Nothing that happens on Saturday will mean all that much for the short term but in the long term it does seem as though these Ultimate Finale shows do a pretty good job of predicting the future.
Tags: anderson silva, Brendan Schaub, Chris Lytle, diego sanchez, Georges St. Pierre, Kenny Florian, Matt Serra, Mixed Martial Arts, Nate Diaz, Roy Nelson, Ryan Jimmo, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC