Mailbag: Best of Spike-era ‘TUF’
The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale on Saturday at the Palms in Las Vegas will mark the end of an era: It will be the final live UFC event to air on Spike TV.
In many ways, Spike made the UFC and the UFC made Spike.
The sport of mixed martial arts grew up on Spike. The UFC has outgrown Spike and will move next year to the Fox networks, providing it with more in-depth coverage and a wider audience than Spike ever could.
So, on the eve of the final show ever on Spike, it’s an appropriate time to choose the “Best of TUF” from the Spike era.
Best fighter: Three men went on to win UFC titles after appearing on TUF and numerous others became UFC mainstays. Judging them by the careers they have had post-TUF and the potential they maintain for greatness, the Top 10 fighters in TUF history looks like this: 1, Rashad Evans, Season 2; 2, Josh Koscheck, Season 1; 3, Forrest Griffin, Season 1; 4, Matt Serra, Season 4; 5, Kenny Florian, Season 1; 6, Diego Sanchez, Season 1; 7, Michael Bisping, Season 3; 8, Gray Maynard, Season 5; 9, Nate Diaz, Season 5; 10, Stephan Bonnar, Season 1.
Best coach: Tito Ortiz. Ortiz coached on Season 3 and Season 11 and actually helped his fighters improve. He was patient when he needed to be, forceful when it was called for and always caring. Other top coaches include Evans, Georges St. Pierre, Jens Pulver, Serra and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Best fight: The Griffin-Bonnar fight from the Season 1 finale was so good, it not only saved the UFC, but it should force the UFC to rename its Fight of the Night award to the Griffin-Bonnar Fight of the Night. So the top three non-Griffin-Bonnar matches in TUF history (including all bouts on Ultimate Fighter Finale cards, not just TUF tourney fights) go to Scott Smith-Pete Sell of Season 4; Jon Koppenhaver-Jared Rollins of Season 6 and Joe Stevenson-Luke Cummo of Season 2.
Best coaches’ fight: The coaches traditionally fight at the end of each season, but the most memorable bout by far came in Season 9 when Dan Henderson knocked out Bisping with one of the greatest one-punch KOs in UFC history. Bisping, who had become the UFC’s greatest villain by that point, was out cold at UFC 100 after taking that perfect right hand from Henderson.
Best season: This depends upon how you define it. In this case, I’m doing so by the number of quality fighters who came off the show and into the UFC. It’s a no-brainer for Season 1, which produced Griffin, Bonnar, Koscheck, Sanchez, Florian, Mike Swick, Chris Leben and Nate Quarry. Honorable mentions go to Season 5 (Maynard, Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Matt Wiman, Manny Gamburyan) and Season 2 (Evans, Keith Jardine, Stevenson, Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard and Jorge Gurgel).
Worst season: It’s still early, but Season 13 only produced Tony Ferguson and Ramsey Nijem. None of the other fighters seem to have much hope of becoming UFC regulars. Other less-than-star-studded seasons include Season 11, Season 9, Season 6 and Season 7.
Most annoying: There are many choices here, but in the end, it comes down to a battle of two guys who seemed more interested in partying than fighting, Junie Browning of Season 8 and Jesse Taylor of Season 7. In a close call, Browning’s nonsense was more annoying and he gets the nod.
Worst prediction: This one goes to UFC president Dana White, who during Season 8 told reporters he had found the next Anderson Silva. He was referring to lightweight Phillipe Nover, who never came close to living up to the hype. Nover lost to Efrain Escudero in the finale, then lost his next two UFC fights and was ignominiously cut. He’s 1-4 since the Season 8 finale, including two fights outside of the UFC.
• The first UFC on Fox show was a ratings hit, but the broadcast can be improved. The first thing Fox should do is remove White from the broadcast. He’s the newsmaker and decision maker and shouldn’t be in a co-host role.
• The UFC has a number of terrific potential analysts among its staff of fighters. Heavyweight Frank Mir would be perfect to work in the booth for Fox. He talks a bit too much during the fights to serve as an analyst, often drowning out the play-by-play broadcaster, but he’s a very insightful guy who is aware of the big picture and would do a good job taking on the role White held in the first broadcast. The UFC needs to keep Bonnar and Florian involved on the shows, as well.
• It’s amazing to think that perhaps three of the five finalists for Fight of the Year, including arguably the top two, came in consecutive weeks in November, but that’s what happened. Benson Henderson and Clay Guida put on a memorable battle at UFC on Fox 1. The following week, Henderson defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a mind-blowing battle at UFC 139, while Michael Chandler won the Bellator lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez in a sensational match at Bellator 58.
• It’s hard to imagine Leben ever fighting in the UFC again after he was suspended for a year for the use of banned pain medications at his fight against Mark Munoz at UFC 138 on Nov. 5. Leben previously was suspended for using anabolic steroids. With a year off, it might be time for Leben to forget about a fight career and fix what is wrong in his life.
Regarding the Mauricio “Shogun” Rua-Dan Henderson fight at UFC 139, I guess I’m the only one who didn’t enjoy Rounds 4 and 5 of what was up to that point a strong candidate for Fight of the Year. Bell to bell, and including the post-fight interview, was one big argument for three-round matches, not five. Nothing is proven after five rounds that isn’t proven after three. The fighters go in with different game plans; their bodies take needless punishment, which will affect them in their future fights; endurance suddenly plays a ridiculously large and unfair role all of a sudden; and if five instead of three, then why not seven, etc.? The decision to make all main events five-rounders was a bad move all around.
Lutek, I’m opposed to five-round non-title fights because I think it takes something special away from championship fights. You somehow have to make title fights distinctive and by making them two rounds longer, you’re forcing the fighters to prove their superiority in all aspects. But for non-title fights, I agree with you that three rounds are enough. You always want them wanting more. And if a fight is so great after three rounds that fans want to see more, a rematch can always be made.
I was like you and I expected Cain Velasquez to handle Junior dos Santos and keep the heavyweight title. I have to admit I was shocked at Cain’s game plan and that Junior knocked him out. I never saw that coming. The question is, is there anyone out there now who can defeat Junior? If Brock Lesnar is the No. 1 contender, I think we ought to get ready for a long reign by JDS.
I was shocked that Velasquez lost, frankly, but I wouldn’t be so quick to call dos Santos a dynasty just yet. The UFC’s championship history would suggest the belt is more likely to turn over quickly than not. Dos Santos is an excellent fighter, but there are plenty of good challenges to him. I wouldn’t count out Velasquez in a rematch down the road, either.
Why does Jason “Mayhem” Miller, who is coaching opposite Michael Bisping on TUF 14, get so little respect as a fighter? He is a great and exciting fighter. He almost submitted Jake Shields and has a pretty impressive resume. What are your thoughts?
Fort Worth, Texas
He’s a popular fighter, but he has yet to have what could be called a career-defining victory. He’s 23-7 going into his fight Saturday with Bisping, but who would count as his biggest win? Tim Kennedy? Robbie Lawler? Fighters become big as they defeat highly regarded opponents. Miller is 0-1 in the UFC, having lost to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 52, and he’s lost to Shields, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Frank Trigg, Chael Sonnen and Kennedy. He needs to get that big victory to gain the public attention.
“Let’s face facts: I’m not the most popular guy out there. So I think sometimes people let that swerve their judgment. They don’t like me, therefore [they think] I’m not really good. The important thing is after the fight, they know the deal.” – Michael Bisping, speaking to MMAWeekly Radio about his public perception.
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