Who were the best fighters to ever compete on the nine seasons of The Ultimate Fighter series? We started the countdown earlier this week with fighters 20-15. Who are the next four to make the cut as we move closer to number one?
14 - Nate Diaz – Season Five winner
Post TUF record: 6-2
With the attitude of a true fighter and good bloodlines (brother Nick is a UFC vet), Nate Diaz was going to make it to the UFC with or without The Ultimate Fighter. But the reality series jump-started the Stockton, California native’s career, and he defeated Rob Emerson, Corey Hill, Gray Maynard, and Manny Gamburyan to win the season five title. He’s continued his run of success by winning five of his seven subsequent fights in the Octagon. More importantly, he’s shown the ability to come back from some rough starts in his wins over Kurt Pellegrino and Melvin Guillard.
DEFINING FIGHT – Wsub2 Kurt Pellegrino – UFC Fight Night – 4/2/08
TUF TALK - “I talked to my brother and my manager, Cesar, and they were telling me that it would probably be the best thing for me. I was definitely not too excited about going. I wanted to, but at the same time I didn’t. I didn’t feel like I was too good on camera, and I’m not great at interviews, but I’m glad I did it the way it turned out. I thought I was gonna be one of the least experienced guys in the house fightwise, to be honest with you. “Once I was there, I realized there were people there with less fights than me, but there wasn’t any pressure. I thought I had a good chance, that’s for sure.”
13 - Nate Quarry – Season One
Post TUF record: 7-2
Nate Quarry may be the most underrated fighter in the middleweight division, and that may go back to what could be referred to as the first phase of his UFC career in 2005. That year, Quarry went from TUF to the Octagon, won three fights in a row by knockout, and was then given a shot at Rich Franklin’s middleweight title, which he lost by devastating KO himself. Following the defeat, Quarry underwent a serious spinal fusion surgery and few expected him to return to form when he came back in 2007. But come back he did, winning four of five bouts, including classic wars with Pete Sell and Tim Credeur. It’s been an amazing comeback thus far, earning Quarry – one of the game’s good guys – some well-deserved accolades.
DEFINING FIGHT – KO3 Pete Sell – UFC Fight Night – 9/19/07
TUF TALK – “To be honest with you, sitting down and watching the show could be very disturbing at times. Especially the episode where Chris Leben had the problems with (Josh) Koscheck and Bobby Southworth. After I watched that episode, I had a hard time sleeping. I was up for three, four hours after the show and I had a hard time sleeping for the next couple of days because it just seemed so personal and so emotional, and now all of a sudden someone has seen those personal sides of me. Millions of people that I don’t know are seeing parts of myself that I don’t show to just anybody – things that don’t come up in everyday life.”
12 - Marcus Davis – Season Two
Post TUF record: 8-3
One of the UFC’s most exciting fighters, pound for pound, Marcus Davis made a successful transition from the pro boxing ring to the Octagon, but it wasn’t without some serious growing pains and soul searching. But once “The Irish Hand Grenade” realized that his fists alone would only take him so far in MMA, he began winning, and winning, and winning, even throwing in four submission wins in the UFC along the way. Owner of victories over the likes of Chris Lytle, Paul Kelly, and Paul Taylor, with his only losses in the last three years coming via decision to Mike Swick and Dan Hardy, Davis, at 36, is still a force to be reckoned with.
DEFINING FIGHT – Wsub1 Paul Taylor – UFC 75 – 9/8/07
TUF TALK - “In a lot of respects, I was a boxer who was trying to fight in mixed martial arts, somebody who was trying to pick up some of the tools and just use some of them in order to use my boxing game. And after being in the UFC and seeing that I can’t do that, I realized that if I wanted to be in the UFC and be a mixed martial arts fighter, that’s what I have to be. I can’t be a boxer who uses partial mixed martial arts techniques to box. So now I don’t look at myself as a boxer – I look at myself as a mixed martial artist
11 - Josh Koscheck – Season One
Post TUF record: 11-4
A non-nonsense competitor whose ‘tell it like it is’ attitude has made him a polarizing figure from the time he was on the first season of TUF, Josh Koscheck has basically grown up in the UFC, with 15 of his 19 pro fights taking place in the Octagon. Along the way, ‘Kos’ has battled the best in the game, from Georges St-Pierre and Diego Sanchez, to Thiago Alves and recent KO victim Frank Trigg, all the while adding new wrinkles to his world-class wrestling attack. Most potent of his new weapons is a devastating right hand, one he’s used to great effect over the last couple years, and as he continues to grow as a fighter, Koscheck will certainly remain entrenched among the best 170-pounders in the world.
DEFINING FIGHT – W3 Diego Sanchez – UFC 69 – 4/7/07
TUF TALK - “I get thousands and thousands of e-mails every day and it’s amazing what it’s done for my life. Most of the time, if you’re calling my phone in the last six months, it’s been ‘voice mail filled’. So it was overwhelming at one point. Now things are starting to slow down a little bit, but you really don’t picture yourself in that position - because I grew up in a blue collar, hard working family - getting to the point to where ‘okay, now you’re on a reality show.’ So I get on TV, and after the show it’s like ‘Oh my God, it’s crazy.’ I go into the UFC and they have to move my seat because fans are coming down to get autographs and pictures. So it is a bit overwhelming, but in another sense it’s good. It’s good for our sport and the fighters.”