The Ultimate Fighter began in 2005 with a breakout season. What came to follow were additional successful seasons, filling the UFC roster with talent.
There have also been the seasons that have fallen very flat and produced little to no UFC caliber talent. It is seasons like these that make people question if the TUF format is still relevant.
For arguments sake, I decided to break down each season of TUF by analyzing how each fighter performed in the UFC after TUF. The results give a good indication at which seasons produced superstars and which seasons are best forgotten.
There are lot of numbers there, so let’s break down the categories. We have the seasons ordered by number, not including seasons that had their finale less than a year ago or spin offs of the original TUF. The next category is the most important, and that’s 5+ Fights/Fighter, which is the number of TUF fighters from that season that went on to have five or more UFC fights.
The next is UFC Fights, which is a total of how many UFC fights the entire TUF cast has accumulated. Active represents the number of fighters from the season that are currently in the UFC. Wins, Losses and Win % are pretty self explanatory. The last category show how many Title Shots the fighters from that seasoned earned, and in brackets are the amount of champions from the season.
So with all that said, what constitutes a good and bad season, and separates the good from the best. For the best, we’ll look at the seasons that have totaled more than 50 fights in the UFC. That cuts things down to 12 seasons.
The top 4 seasons on this list stand out the most from any other. They all have 100 plus fights, have all had multiple contestants earn title shots and all have a positive winning percentage
TUF 2 had fighters like Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard, Keith Jardine, Josh Burkman, Joe Stevenson and most notably Rashad Evans. TUF 5 had title contenders Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz, as well as Joe Lauzon, Cole Miller, Matt Wiman and Manny Gamburyan.
These seasons were great, but not the best. The two seasons that stand above the rest are TUF 14 and TUF 1. TUF 14 is the only season of TUF from the past eight years to produce a title contender.
The season featured Bryan Caraway, Marcus Brimage, Diego Brandao, Dennis Bermudez, John Dodson and current UFC champion T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw remains the only TUF fighter in history to successfully defend a UFC championship. Also, 12 fighters from that season went on to have five or more UFC fights.
Of course, there isn’t a season that can compete with TUF 1. I don’t even have to name the fighters that came from that season. All you need to know is that they have the highest winning percentage out of any season by far, the most combined fights and the most title shots. They also had 7 cast members who fought at least 15 times in the UFC.
So it’s pretty easy to tell which seasons were the best, but which seasons were the worst? For this one, I decided to sort the seasons by winning percentage, and left out any season with more than 90 total fights or with a 52% winning percentage.
Right away it’s obvious that TUF 11 and TUF 18 shouldn’t be included. TUF 11 had seven fighters with more than five UFC fights, and TUF 18 still has seven active fighters.
TUF 10 still has two active fighters, the most fights of the ones left and produced very well known fighters like Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione. This leaves us with 6 terrible seasons out of the 19.
Although TUF 6 sucked, it still produced three fighters with 10+ fights with Mac Danzig, George Sotiropoulos and Ben Saunders, who is the only fighter left from the season.
TUF 9 also sucked, but produced 10+ fight guys in Ross Pearson and DaMarques Johnson. It’s the seasons that produce one or no quality fighters that should be seen as the worst of the worst. Although Season 19 is the most recent on the list, the season is down to three active fighters, with Cathal Pendred and Corey Anderson being the season’s breakout stars.
TUF 12, 13 and 16 share the bottom of the barrel for having only one stand out fighter with the rest of the cast doing terrible. Each season has only one or two active fighters left even though their seasons aired 5 years ago. For comparison’s sake, TUF 5 aired eight years ago and they still have six active fighters.
Although TUF 12 has the worst winning percentage of any season, it did produce the lone stand out of Michael Johnson, who is both active in the UFC and a Top 10 Lightweight. The actual season was entertaining with GSP and Koscheck, but the fighters failed to live up to the season’s hype.
Season 13’s lone standout is Tony Ferguson with only 3 fighters from the season getting more than 3 UFC fights. That’s pretty bad, but it doesn’t compare to the worst season of all time.
Season 16, a season that aired just three years ago, only has two fighters left, Neil Magny and Sam Alvey. Out of the 16 combined UFC wins for the season, Magny has nine of those, while Alvey has three.
The season had a cast of 16 yet only 7 fighters got fights in the UFC, and finalist Mike Ricci and winner Colton Smith were released after fewer than five fights. If Magny goes for a title run then this season would be saved from being called the worst, but as of right now, it should be considered the worst season in the history of TUF.
(Individual season statistics can be found by clicking this link)
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