10 Of The Greatest Fights We’ve Ever Witnessed On The Ultimate Fighter

To say that The Ultimate Fighter has had its moments over the years would be an understatement. There have been memorable fights galore, ridiculous pranks and immature foolishness, guys that we’ve cheered for and fighters that we’ve absolutely loathed. TUF has been, in every sense, the perfect reality TV series, because when each episode is over, the people who can’t stand each other or have scores to settle never have a problem getting into the octagon and settling it the only way they know how.

Just as I spent a little time ranking my favorite champions from the show’s 18 seasons in yesterday’s power rankings, I decided to spend even more time going back through a lot (and I mean A LOT) of videos, pictures and articles to pick just 10 of my all-time favorite fights from The Ultimate Fighter. And these aren’t just championship matches, as I even went back into the early episodes of each season to make sure I wasn’t missing some classics.

So why 10? Because I’m a masochist and I want you to tell me which fights I got wrong and the classic brawls that I left out like a big, old bonehead. One thing is for sure, though – there’s no way I messed up No. 1, because there’s no other choice.

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The first season of The Ultimate Fighter was a chaotic clash of middleweights and light heavyweights that featured some of the fighters drinking into the wee hours of the mornings before they’d have to train the next day, and a bunch of pissed off guys who are trained in mixed martial arts is never a good thing when combined with too much booze. Of course, that goes for them and not us, as we enjoyed the hell out of it. So I’m not necessarily praising this fight for what it was, as much as what caused it to happen, as Leben didn’t take too kindly to Koscheck’s late night drunken pranks and ended up punching Forrest Griffin’s bedroom door to pieces. Of course, poor Leben was on the losing end of everything, from the prank to the fight.

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It was the fight that created the legend of Matt Serra, as The Ultimate Fighter 4 was the season that allowed guys who had been paying their dues in the UFC but never won a title to finally get a shot at the UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre. Some people may argue that his revenge victory over Shonie Carter was Serra’s most exciting win of the season; however, I’ll award the honor to the fight that put Serra into the octagon with GSP at UFC 69 and eventually allowed him to become the champion.

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Efrain Escudero’s career in the UFC had been hit or (mostly) miss, but leading up to his big win on The Ultimate Fighter 8 as the lightweight tournament’s champion, his record indicated that he was going to be a guy we’d be watching for years. Regardless, Escudero had a great run on that season of TUF and it culminated in an impressive decision over Phillipe Nover that was made so much better by the touching dedication to his father. I’m a sucker for the goosebump moments.

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This fight for the top honors of The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights season certainly wasn’t anything to write home about, but there were several moments in the short time that it lasted that still remind us why Roy Nelson became such a huge (figuratively and literally, I suppose) fan favorite in recent years. For starters, as Joe Rogan pointed out while calling the match, Brendan Schaub was foolishly trying to work Nelson’s body, and the few punches that he connected with Nelson’s concrete jaw had little effect either. Nelson didn’t seem to have a solid strategy other than “swing wildly and hope to connect,” but it worked, because with less than two minutes left in the first round, Nelson dropped Schaub like a bag of dirt.

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Rony Jason would eventually win the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil’s featherweight tournament, as he defeated Godofredo Pepe at UFC 147 in 2012, but it was an earlier match in the series that really stood out and showed us what kind of fighter we were dealing with. In the seventh episode of the season (that us American UFC fans had to watch online like a bunch of suckers), Rony faced off against his training partner and good friend, Anistavio Meideiros, but he didn’t seem to care who it was, because he almost broke his arm to get the submission. Afterward, the season’s coaches, Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort went at it because Silva thought it was messed up that Belfort made two friends go at it. Love and war, Wanderlei. Love and war.

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I could have probably written an entire feature solely on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter, as the lightweight hopefuls on that season provided a ton of exciting moments that I was more than happy to watch again. Hell, I could have used three spots on this list just to talk about Nate Diaz’s victories leading up to his TUF 5 tournament championship match, as he provided all the excitement that the season ever needed. Everything else was just an added bonus. But I picked Diaz’s preliminary win over Emerson because it showcased what an exciting, complete fighter that Diaz was, and also because it was much better than his eventual TUF title fight against Manny Gamburyan, as that ended with disappointment for the latter.

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While Michael Bisping’s TUF 3 light heavyweight tournament victory over Josh Haynes was very exciting in its own right, Kendall Grove and Ed Herman went the distance, providing us with a fight that a lot of UFC fans still consider to be one of the best of the early seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Like another memorable fight two seasons before it, this one may have ended in a unanimous decision for the winner, but it also convinced Dana White to buck the show’s rules and give both of the fighters a contract.

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3) TUF 17 – Uriah Hall defeats Adam Cella (HO, First round)

It was the spinning hook kick heard around the Internet, as Uriah Hall became a star before the third episode of TUF 17 had even ended. The kick was insane, leaving Cella out cold for a long time, which was pretty concerning in retrospect, but that kick will be talked about for a long, long time. But eventually people will stop talking about that kick and start wondering when Hall, the runner-up of Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen, is going to win a fight again.

Brad Imes was/is a big, bad boy and as Evans has proved for many years, he is an incredible light heavyweight fighter that just so happened to qualify for heavyweight on The Ultimate Fighter 2. That meant, of course, that Evans was seemingly out of his element against the rest of that second season’s competitors, but he beat every man that he faced, showboating and flashing that cocky grin the whole way. It culminated in his TUF 2 finale match against Imes, who towered over Evans but simply couldn’t handle the eventual TUF 2 heavyweight tournament champ and future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

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I probably should have elaborated a little more yesterday when I declared Forrest Griffin my No. 1 fighter in TUF history, because a lot of people were like, “Rabble rabble Rashad Evans defeated Griffin! You’re crazy! Rabble rabble!” But it was partially because he was the first TUF champion to win a title and even more because of this incredible classic fight from the end of season one. There’s not even a debate, as the UFC called this the No. 1 fight of all-time and there aren’t many people who would disagree. All these years later and Dana White’s post-fight announcement still gives me goosebumps.

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