(Bader beat him. K-Sos beat him. Lawlor beat him. Now he’s one of the toughest prospects in the light-heavyweight division — proving once again that shaving your head is always a good career move. Photo props to UFC.com)
Not to pee-pee on Tony Ferguson‘s parade, but winning The Ultimate Fighter is no guarantee of success in the UFC. On the other hand, getting eliminated while in the TUF house is no guarantee of failure either. In fact, some of today’s most dangerous UFC contenders are guys who entered the promotion through the reality show, but didn’t even get to fight for the glass trophy. In the wake of Saturday’s TUF 13 Finale, here’s how I’d rank the Top 10 non-finalists from The Ultimate Fighter, based on their current standing in the promotion…
#1: Gray Maynard
On TUF: Was choked out by Nate Diaz in the semi-finals of season 5.
These days: Drew with Frankie Edgar in his first lightweight title challenge in January, but will get another crack at the belt later this year. His pair of title fights against Edgar follow an eight-fight win streak in the Octagon, which included a decision win against Diaz in a rematch last year.
#2: Josh Koscheck
On TUF: Lost a split-decision to Diego Sanchez in the semi-finals of season 1.
These days: A perennial top contender in the welterweight division, Kos will be one of the front-runners for the belt if GSP ever leaves the division; until then, he’ll just have to be content with being “right up there.”
#3: George Sotiropoulos
On TUF: Was K.O.’d by Tommy Speer in the semi-finals of season 6.
These days: Even though he dropped a decision to Dennis Siver in his last fight, his previous seven-fight win streak — which included high-profile wins over Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino, and Joe Lauzon — established him as a player in the lightweight division. He’ll return to action against Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 132 next month.
#4: Melvin Guillard
On TUF: Lost a unanimous decision to Josh Burkman in the quarterfinals of season 2.
These days: Speaking of lightweight contenders, the Young Assassin has been on a tear lately. After going 3-0 in 2010, Guillard TKO’d Evan Dunham at “Fight for the Troops 2″ in January, picking up a Knockout of the Night bonus and some much-deserved respect. Next up on Melvin’s to-punch list: Shane Roller at UFC 132.
#5: Matt Mitrione
On TUF: Was submitted by James McSweeney in the quarterfinals of season 10, where he was best known as “the dude with the brain damage.”
These days: He’s done nothing but win since his time on the show, racking up a 4-0 Octagon record with victories over Big Baby, Kimbo, the Mexecutioner, and Tim Hague. Not exactly a who’s-who of heavyweight contenders, but he’s looked great so far. Mitrione’s next opponent will be Christian Morecraft at UFC on Versus 4, later this month.
#6: Matt Hamill
On TUF: Was unable to continue after his unanimous decision win over Mike Nickels in the quarterfinals of season 3.
These days: A constant presence in the light-heavyweight division, although his recent loss to Rampage Jackson doesn’t bode well for his future title prospects.
#7: Chris Leben
On TUF: Was outpointed by Josh Koscheck in the quarterfinals of season 1, then was brought back as an injury replacement, and lost to Kenny Florian by doctor’s stoppage TKO.
These days: Gearing up for a fight against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132 that could re-establish him as a contender. His last fight ended in a TKO loss to Brian Stann that stopped an impressive three-fight win streak.
#8: Kyle Kingsbury
On TUF: Like Leben, his time on the show resulted in multiple losses. Kingsbury was submitted by Ryan Bader in the elimination round of season 8, brought back as an injury replacement, and then submitted again by Krzysztof Soszynski in the quarterfinals. Kingsbury was given another shot on the finale card against Tom Lawlor, and was defeated by unanimous decision.
These days: Incredibly, the UFC decided to keep Kingsbury around. It turned out to be a wise choice, as “Kingsbu” has gone 4-0 since the TUF 8 Finale, knocking off prospects like Jared Hamman, Ricardo Romero, and (last weekend) Fabio Maldonado.
#9: Matt Wiman
On TUF: Lost a decision to Manny Gamburyan in the quarterfinals of season 5.
These days: Riding a three-fight win streak, including victories over TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig and submission wizard Cole Miller, who also competed on TUF 5. His next fight will be against Dennis Siver at UFC 132. Damn, you noticing a trend here?
#10: George Roop
On TUF: Lost to Phillipe Nover by submission in the semi-finals of season 8.
These days: After dropping from lightweight to featherweight to bantamweight, then returning to featherweight, Roop is settling in at 145 with fantastic results. He’s gone 2-1-1 in his current featherweight campaign, with devastating knockout wins over Chan Sung Jung and Josh Grispi. His draw against Leonard Garcia — which should be considered a moral victory — won WEC 47′s Fight of the Night award.
- Ben Goldstein