As we continue to inch toward Saturday’s UFC 165 Pay-Per-View event, live from Toronto, that features not one but two highly-anticipated championship main events, I’m continuing my own little crash course (and daily viewing homework) on all things The Ultimate Fighter with a brief look back at each of the reality fighting series’ 18 seasons, the champions and how they’ve fared in their UFC careers.
Some have come and gone while others are still going strong, but they’ve all been responsible for either some incredible, exciting highlights or some forgettable lowlights. And it's safe to say that the current crop of fighters on The Ultimate Fighter 18 (Wednesday nights at 10 PM ET on Fox Sports 1) could learn from all of them. So let's celebrate and then compare them all some more, shall we?
Light Heavyweights Champion: Forrest Griffin
TUF Tournament Win: A unanimous decision over Stephan Bonnar, which is widely regarded as the best fight in UFC history, as it earned both fighters UFC contracts.
Record: 19-7 overall, 10-5 in the UFC; One-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
Where Is He Now? Sitting back, relaxing, enjoying retirement and his status as a UFC Hall of Famer.
Middleweights Champion: Diego Sanchez
TUF Tournament Win: First round TKO over Kenny Florian
Record: 24-5 overall, 13-5 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Still going strong in the UFC, Sanchez will face the No. 2 ranked Lightweight contender, Gilbert Melendez, at UFC 166 in October with the hopes of climbing back into the title picture.
Heavyweights Champion: Rashad Evans
TUF Tournament Win: A split decision over the much, much bigger Brad Imes
Record: 18-3-1 overall, 13-3-1 in the UFC; One-time Light Heavyweight Champion
Where Is He Now? After losing consecutive fights against Jon Jones and Antônio Rogério Nogueira, a lot of people thought that Evans had reached the downside of his storied career. But he bounced back with a win over Dan Henderson at UFC 161 in June and he’ll face Chael Sonnen next at UFC 167, the UFC’s 20th anniversary PPV.
Welterweights Champion: Joe Stevenson
TUF Tournament Win: A pretty convincing unanimous decision over Lake Cummo
Record: 31-15 overall, 8-9 in the UFC; Lost to BJ Penn via submission in a Lightweight Championship fight at UFC 80
Where Is He Now? After his fourth straight loss at UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry, Stevenson was released by the UFC, and he went on to lose his debut in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance.
Light Heavyweights Champion: Michael Bisping
TUF Tournament Win: A second round TKO over Josh Haynes
Record: 24-5 overall, 14-5 in the UFC; Has lost three title eliminator fights
Where Is He Now? Bisping has had a strong, consistent career in the UFC, and while he’s never been able to make it to a championship match, he remains in the Middleweight title hunt and will look to build on his victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 159 with a win against Mark Muñoz at UFC Fight Night on October 26.
Middleweights Champion: Kendall Grove
TUF Tournament Win: A unanimous decision over Ed Herman that earned both fighters UFC contracts
Record: 18-13 overall, 7-6 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? After back-to-back losses at The Ultimate Fighter: GSP vs. Koscheck Finale and UFC 130, Grove was released from the UFC. He had some success in ProElite before bouncing around and earning his most recent victory at GWC’s British Invasion in June.
Welterweights Champion: Matt Serra
TUF Tournament Win: Split decision over Chris Lytle
Record: 11-7 overall, 7-7 in the UFC; Defeated Georges St-Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Title at UFC 69 by first round TKO, lost it back to him at UFC 83
Where Is He Now? After losing his TUF Finale rematch to Lytle at UFC 119, Serra announced his retirement but implied that the door is always open for a return.
Middleweights Champion: Travis Lutter
TUF Tournament Win: First round submission over Patrick Côté
Record: 10-6 overall, 2-4 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Lutter’s UFC career was about as lackluster and disappointing as they come, as his price for winning TUF 4: The Comeback was a Middleweight Title fight against Anderson Silva, but he couldn’t even make weight. He was cut from the UFC after his loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 83.
Lightweight Champion: Nate Diaz
TUF Tournament Win: Diaz defeated Manvel Gamburyan in the second round after the latter’s shoulder was dislocated
Record: 16-9 overall, 11-7 in the UFC; Lost his UFC Lightweight Title fight against Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox in December 2012
Where Is He Now? The younger Diaz brother is still fighting in the UFC, having lost his last two matches, including the aforementioned title shot against Henderson. He’ll have a rematch against Gray Maynard at this season’s TUF Finale in November.
Welterweights Champion: Mac Danzig
TUF Tournament Win: A first round submission of Tom Speer
Record: 21-11-1 overall, 5-7 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Danzig has lost his last two fights in the UFC and five of his last seven. And after that last loss to Melvin Guillard, a nasty second round KO, Danzig should probably consider taking a little time off to regroup.
Middleweights Champion: Amir Sadollah
TUF Tournament Win: First round submission of CB Dollaway
Record: 6-4 overall and in the UFC
Where Is He Now? A bit injury-plagued of late, Sadollah still fights in the UFC, with his most recent fight yielding a loss to Dan Hardy at UFC on Fuel TV in September 2012. After his latest injury, his immediate future is unknown.
Light Heavyweights Champion: Ryan Bader
TUF Tournament Win: First round TKO over Vinicius Magalhães
Record: 15-4 overall, 8-4 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Bader’s most recent UFC loss came at the hands of Glover Teixeira earlier this month, but it’s hard to see anyone defeating Teixeira right now. Still, Bader held his own and seemed to have the early advantage, but he made the big, big mistake of allowing Teixeira to recover.
Lightweight Champion: Efrain Escudero
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Phillipe Nover
Record: 19-7 overall, 3-4 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? After two disappointing and unimpressive runs in the UFC, Escudero is making his debut elsewhere this weekend.
Lightweights Champion: Ross Pearson
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Andrew Winner
Record: 15-6 overall, 7-3 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? After a brief stint in the Featherweight division, Pearson has won his last two fights back in the Lightweight ranks and will have his hands full against Melvin Guillard UFC Fight Night next month.
Welterweights Champion: James Wilks
TUF Tournament Win: First round submission over DaMarques Johnson
Record: 7-4 overall, 2-2 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Wilks retired last year after a serious back injury caused him to miss his last two fights.
Heavyweight Champion: Roy Nelson
TUF Tournament Win: First round KO of Brendan Schaub
Record: 19-8 overall, 6-4 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Nelson seemed poised for a run at the UFC Heavyweight Champ Cain Velasquez before Stipe Miocic derailed the mullet train at UFC 161. Nelson will look to recover that lost ground by fighting the No. 2 ranked Heavyweight Daniel Cormier at UFC 166.
Middleweights Champion: Court McGee
TUF Tournament Win: Second round submission over Kris McCray
Record: 16-3 overall, 5-2 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? After losing his last two Middleweight fights, McGee dropped down to the Welterweight division and won back-to-back fights against Josh Neer and Robert Whittaker.
Lightweights Champion: Jonathan Brookins
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Michael Johnson
Record: 13-6 overall, 2-3 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Having lost his last two fights via submission at the last two TUF finale events, things weren’t looking so hot for Brookins and he announced his retirement shortly after The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale. He now lives in India and teaches yoga. Seriously.
Welterweights Champion: Tony Ferguson
TUF Tournament Win: First round KO over Ramsey Nijem
Record: 13-3 overall, 3-1 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Ferguson had some tough luck with his last fight at UFC on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller back in 2012, as his opponent was changed twice before Michael Johnson finally accepted the challenge. Johnson ended up winning via unanimous decision, but Ferguson will most likely bounce back just fine against Mike Rio at UFC 166.
Bantamweights Champion: John Dodson
TUF Tournament Win: First round TKO over TJ Dillashaw
Record: 14-6 overall, 3-1 in the UFC; Lost to Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Title at UFC on Fox in January
Where Is He Now? After losing his first title shot against Johnson back in January, Dodson will next face Darrell Montague at UFC 166 in October. And I say his first title shot because there will be others. Dodson is too good to stay out of the title picture for too long.
Featherweights Champion: Diego Brandao
TUF Tournament Win: First round submission over Dennis Bermudez
Record: 18-8 overall, 4-1 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Brandao’s most recent victory was a unanimous decision over Daniel Pineda at the debut of UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports 1, and while his next fight is unknown, Brandao has a very exciting future ahead of him in the UFC.
Lightweights Champion: Michael Chiesa
TUF Tournament Win: First round submission over Al Iaquinta
Record: 9-1 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Chiesa experienced his first loss at UFC on Fox back in July, as he submitted to Jorge Masvidal, but he’ll next face Colton Smith at UFC Fight Night on Nov. 6 to get back in the win column.
Featherweights Champion: Rony Jason
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Godofredo Castro
Record: 13-3 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Any time that I get the chance to talk about Rony Jason, I’m just going to keep mentioning that he’s one of my favorite new fighters and I can’t wait until he has his Featherweight Title shot against Jose Aldo.
Middleweights Champion: Cezar Ferreira
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Sérgio Moraes
Record: 6-2 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Ferreira followed up his TUF: Brazil victory with a submission of Thiago Santos at UFC 163 and he’ll next fight Daniel Sarafian at UFC Fight Night on Nov. 9.
Welterweights Champion: Colton Smith
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Mike Ricci
Record: 3-2 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Smith’s last fight was a loss to a fellow TUF winner in Robert Whittaker, so he’s hoping that his next win will be against another fellow TUF winner in Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Night on Nov. 6.
Lightweights Champion: Norman Parke
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Brad Scott
Record: 18-2 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? The 26-year old will fight Jon Tuck at UFC Fight Night on October 26, and that comes after his impressive UFC 162 unanimous decision over Kazuki Tokudome.
Welterweights Champion: Robert Whittaker
TUF Tournament Win: Unanimous decision over Colin Fletcher
Record: 11-3 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? Whittaker lost to fellow TUFer Court McGee at UFC Fight Night on August 28, but his next fight is unknown.
Middleweights Champion: Kelvin Gastelum
TUF Tournament Win: Split decision over Uriah Hall
Record: 7-0 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? As I’ve written over and over and over, Gastelum is my favorite fighter in the UFC right now, despite the fact that he dropped down into the talent-heavy Welterweight Division. But I will continue singing his praises as long as he continues being a badass.
Welterweights Champion: Leonardo Santos
TUF Tournament Win: Second round submission of William Macario
Record: 12-3 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Where Is He Now? The most recent winner of a TUF season, Santos doesn’t have his next fight scheduled yet, but it’s safe to say that there are plenty of talented Welterweights for him to prove his own talents against.