TUF Trainer Fight Leaderboard: Which Fight Ranks No. 1? (2023)

  • Jeffrey Wagenheim and Eddie Mason

May 29, 2023 at 6:30 pm

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Throughout the reality show's intergenerational run (18 years, 30 seasons), "The Ultimate Fighter" has served a dual purpose. On the face of it, this is a talent chase, ranking the most promising fighters to refresh the UFC roster and maybe uncover a gem. But unlike the other two shows the UFC uses for the same feature, "Dana White's Contender Series" and "Dana White: Finding the Fight," TUF is also promoting a head-to-head fight this season.

Back in 2005, Season 1 largely marked the franchise. Action-packed light heavyweight final between future UFC championsforrest griffinISteven BonnardHe is often credited with saving the wrestling organization when it was struggling to find an audience and survive financially. among the talents of that seasonDiego Sanchez,Josh KoscheckIKenny Florian, both of whom are vying for the title in the Octagon.

But the headwinds at TUF 1 came after the season when coachesRandy Haute CoutureIChuck LiddellThey met to fight for Couture's UFC light heavyweight title. Both were Hall of Famer stars at the peak of their careers. The UFC couldn't book a more compelling fight at the time, and reality TV became its built-in hype extravaganza.

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When season 31 of "The Ultimate Fighter" kicks off Tuesday (ESPN/ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET), the anticipation will be immeasurable thanks to one of the coaches. it happens anytimeconor mcgregorParticipate in (and take charge of) the world of MMA. The biggest star in the UFC and the first fighter to hold two heavyweight titles at the same time, McGregor has never been underestimated. So expect a comeback commensurate with a massive comeback as the Irishman returns to the spotlight 22 months after breaking his lower leg in his last game.

No date has been announced for the rematch at the end of TUF's season, but what we do know about the match and the incredible anticipation is that McGregor will face off against his coaching mates,Michael ChandlerThe clash between Chandler's relentless attacking and McGregor's precise and damaging strikes promises fireworks.

Can their season-ending battle surpass the previous TUF trainers? That's a very high bar because there have been some great players over the years, many of whom have won titles in the game. ESPN's Jeff Wagenheim and Eddie Maisonet III look back at all 30 seasons of The Ultimate Fighter and pick the top 10 fights between the trainers.

1. Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell 2

TUF Season 1, 2005

When they fight:UFC 52, April 16, 2005, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
result:Liddell won by a first-round knockout to claim Couture's UFC light heavyweight title.
Why Combat Stands Out:The iconic pair of future Hall of Famers produced an original work that set the tone for the future coaches game and has never been surpassed. Couture is already a three-time UFC champion; he has one reign at heavyweight and a second at light heavyweight. Almost two years ago, he knocked out Liddell. But "The Iceman" had several knockout victories, mostly against his old nemesis.Tito OrtizLiddell joined Coutur in his conquest that night, interrupting him with a short counter-right right that gave Liddell the belt run.

2.Myobacteriatalkdaniel cormier

2018 TUF Season 27

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When they fight:UFC 226, July 7, 2018, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
result:Defending UFC light heavyweight champion Cormier rounded out Miocic's heavyweight title with a first-round knockout win.
Why Combat Stands Out:Cormier became the second UFC champion (after McGregor) with this stunning knockout. Miocic has completed three belt defenses, the most of any heavyweight champion in UFC history. His last defense is againstFranchon Gannu, so the champion faces a bigger and tougher challenge than the light heavyweight champion. But then, late in the first round, Miocic and Cormier got stuck in midcourt, and as they broke free, DC caught Miocic with a short right-hand counter that caught him off guard. , and changed the balance of power among the big men in the UFC. It also launched one of the great sports trilogy.

3.Cody GarbrandttalkTJ Dillashaw

2017 TUF Season 25

When they fight:UFC 217, 4. Studenog 2017., Madison Square Garden, Nueva York
result:Former UFC Men's Bantamweight Champion Dillashaw took over the belt from Garbrandt with a second-round TKO win.
Why Combat Stands Out:Some fights are played as prize fights, and some fights just spark outright animosity. There has never been a more painful pairing than this pair of ex-partners. Having Garbrandt's title at stake is no small matter, but the real story here resembles that of two estranged brothers. For Dillashaw, who was vilified all season at TUF for leaving the Alpha Male team, the knockout win brought explosive celebration to his face. She climbed straight onto the dazzled Garbrandt grill and let out a cry of surprise, letting out all her remaining nervousness and frustration. This is not a sporting event. This is a fierce confrontation.

4.Cain VelázqueztalkFabricio Windum

TUF Season: Latin America, 2015

When they fight:UFC 188, June 13, 2015, Mexico City, Mexico City Arena
result:Interim UFC heavyweight champion Werdum won via third-round submission, dethroning Velasquez and unifying the title.
Why Combat Stands Out:What an encore! Five years ago at Strikeforce, Werdum unbelievably ended a nine-year, 28-match unbeaten streak.Fyodor Emelenko. Now, he plays the current invulnerable sports avatar in Velasquez. Once again, Werdum and his multi-time world champion jiu-jitsu pedigree pull off the daunting task of earning a UFC belt submission and delivering some of the best 1-2 punches (actually tapouts) in mixed martial arts One of the legends.

5.Quinton "Alboroto" Jacksonagainst forrest griffin

TUF Season 7, 2008

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When they fight:UFC 86, September 5, 2008, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
result:Griffin takes UFC light heavyweight title from Jackson by unanimous decision
Why Combat Stands Out:Three years after saving the UFC as a fighter in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin returned to the show as a coach and, ultimately, history-maker. By repealing "Rage," Griffin became the first TUF alumnus to win the ultimate award, the UFC Championship.

6.Dominic CruztalkUriah Farber3

2016 TUF Season 15

When they fight:UFC 199, June 4, 2016, Forum, Inglewood, CA
result:Cruz wins by unanimous decision and successfully defends his UFC men's bantamweight title
Why Combat Stands Out:The rivalry between Cruz and Faber dates back nearly a decade, dating back to their time in the WEC. They have faced each other twice before (WEC 2007 and UFC 2011) and have beaten each other in each fight. This rubber match is designed for accounting. But seriously, are these two ever going to get tired of competing against each other? Decades from now, they'll be playing foosball, bag ball, checkers, you name it, every day in their retirement community.

7.Alexander VolkanovskytalkBrajan Ortega

TUF Season 29 2021

When they fight:UFC 266, September 25, 2021, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
result:Volkanovski successfully defends his UFC men's featherweight title with unanimous decision
Why Combat Stands Out:Ortega is one of the most dangerous submission aces in the UFC, so when he took the top spot midway through the third round, out of breath, it looked like the title was about to change hands. "I was waiting for the tap," Ortega said later, "but it didn't come." Volkanovski somehow got out of the corner, and then in this round he also got rid of the triangle choke and scored a victory. Onlookers and his opponents shake their heads in dismay at the triumph.

8.Ronda Rossitalkmia tate2

TUF Season 18, 2013

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When they fight:UFC 168, 28. Prosinca 2013., MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
result:Rousey successfully defends her UFC women's bantamweight title with third-round submission win
Why Combat Stands Out:Rousey is at the height of her mesmerizing dominance, but Tate isn't holding back. After an entire season of yelling at each other, they had a rematch on Strikeforce less than two years ago. "Rowdy Ronda" stripped Tate of the title that night, by first-round submission, of course. All seven of Rousey's fights have ended in first-round knockouts. The five made it through in the first minute. However, Tate went straight to his opponent, dragging the fight to the third round, and in the end,at lastGive in to the handrail. Just another Rousey win? No, this is a test for her.

9.Yo Hendersontalkmichael bisping

TUF Season 9 2009

When they fight:UFC 100, September 11, 2009, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
result:Henderson won by knockout in the second round.
Why Combat Stands Out:Frustration at hearing Bisping's tirade erupted from Hand, a right hand that froze the Englishman and silenced him. It was one of the most storied KOs in UFC history, highlighted by Henderson's unlit attack on Bisping and a follow-up punch that displayed utter malice.

10Jose BenavidestalkHenry Cejudo

2016 TUF Season 24

When they fight:The Ultimate Fighter: Championship Final, Prosinca 3. 2016., Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas
result:Benavidez wins by split decision
Why Combat Stands Out:At a time when things are looking dire at lightweight, this fight is just one piece of the lightweight division's spotlight. Benavidez, perennial No. 2, 125 pounds behind championdemetrio johnson, performing alongside future champion Sehuda in the main event of the night. The main fight is the title fight with "Mighty Mouse".Tim Elliott, he won the TUF season. Among those who also participated in that season:brandon moreno, who is now the owner of the lightweight title, IAlexander Pantoya, who would claim the gold belt on July 8 and knocked out Moreno that TUF season.

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