Fight Facts Flashback: ‘The Ultimate Fighter 1’ Finale

By: Jay Pettry
Apr 9, 2020

Fight Facts Flashback is a branch of the Fight Facts series that takes a look back at historic events and noteworthy moments in the sport of MMA. These jaunts down memory lane serve as snapshot reviews of what the landscape looked like when they occurred, while also analyzing what happened afterward for those involved.

The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 249 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2005 went for broke by putting on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show. The season concluded with “The Ultimate Fighter 1” Finale, which introduced a whole new generation of fans to the sport and arguably saved the company. We now celebrate the 15th anniversary of this groundbreaking event that put the UFC on the map once and for all. Congratulations to the section of the fanbase once considered “TUF Noobs,” as you have now been following the sport for 15 years.

NEW NAME, SAME GREAT TASTE: “The Ultimate Fighter 1” Finale marked the first time the promotion did not list the letters “UFC” in the event title. Two unnumbered events occurred earlier but were billed as UFC “Ultimate Ultimate 1995” and UFC “Ultimate Ultimate 1996.”

THE LAST KNOWN SURVIVOR STALKS HIS PREY IN THE NIGHT: Every fighter on the card besides the two headliners competed on Season 1 of the reality show, and of those 16, only one is actively competing in MMA as of April 2020: Diego Sanchez. Of note, Chris Leben currently fights in bare knuckle boxing.

THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF UFC FIGHT NIGHT: The 16 fighters who made their organizational debuts at this event went on appear inside the Octagon a combined 148 more times. The only fighter of that group to win a title was Forrest Griffin.

SOME STILL HAD GREAT CAREERS: None of the six fighters that lost in non-tournament final bouts ever fought under the UFC banner again.

MORE KNOCKOUTS THAN UFC 76 ‘KNOCKOUT’: “The Ultimate 1” Finale set the record for the most knockouts at a UFC event with seven. This total was not matched until UFC Fight Night 13 in 2008 and not passed until UFC 92 later in 2008.

A 10-YEAR STREAK: The first five fights of the night all ended by knockout. The five-fight knockout streak joined similar stretches from UFC 9 and UFC 36. No event featured six consecutive knockouts until UFC Fight Night 68 in 2015.

WE AVERAGE ALMOST 11 NOW: Since the modern era began at UFC 28 in 2001—when the promotion adopted the Unified Rules of MMA—only two events other than “The Ultimate Fighter 1” Finale held nine bouts: UFC 44 and UFC 51.

‘THE ICEMAN’ COMETH: The coaches of the two teams faced off one week later at UFC 52, where Randy Couture attempted to defend his light heavyweight throne in a rematch against Chuck Liddell. “The Iceman” won by first-round knockout and later won the trilogy match at UFC 57, also by knockout.

TALK ABOUT OWNED: Liddell served as the coach for both Griffin and Sanchez and went on to knock out Couture in “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 coaches’ fight. Several other fighters later achieved this same feat of running the table and defeating their opposing coach, including Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes and Frankie Edgar.

FRANKLIN PLAYS THE GAME: In arguably his biggest win to date, Rich Franklin knocked out Shamrock in the first round to improve his record to 19-1 with one no contest. The only bout Franklin had lost at the time was a heavyweight contest against Lyoto Machida.

NOT JUST A MATH TEACHER: All 19 of Franklin’s victories had come by stoppage, including 15 in the opening frame.

FRANKLINWEIGHT CHAMP: Franklin officially made his 185-pound debut at UFC 50, but his match with Shamrock was contested at 205 pounds. Despite this victory, Franklin’s next bout was for the middleweight title, which he won in a rematch against the legendary but often-overlooked Evan Tanner.

A REGULAR CHIN-CRACKER: Although Shamrock had twice suffered defeat by technical knockout, both came by corner stoppage. A 36-fight veteran at the time, Shamrock had never been stopped by strikes until Franklin finished him in the opening round. Shamrock later went on to lose eight of his next 10 bouts by knockout.

THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS HEAVYWEIGHT: Shamrock made a name for himself, not only for his lengthy Pancrase tenure but also for his early UFC success. Despite the success, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” never won a bout contested below heavyweight inside the Octagon.

A TOP OF THE MORNING TO BOTH OF YOU!: The titanic battle between Griffin and Stephan Bonnar was so thrilling that UFC President Dana White awarded both men six-figure contracts. Both fighters competed 14 more times with the promotion, and each later suffered knockouts from Anderson Silva.

NOT BLESSED WITH A FOURTH ROUND: While considered by some outlets to be the “Fight of the Year” in 2005, Griffin-Bonnar trailed Mauricio Rua-Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by a single vote in the debate.

WHAT A NIGHTMARE: Sanchez improved his unbeaten record to 12-0 by knocking out Kenny Florian in the opening frame. Eleven of those 12 wins came by finish, with nine taking place within the first round.

MULTIPLE WEIGHT CUTS IN SIX WEEKS IS NO BUENO: Sanchez and Florian squared off for the middleweight tournament final at this event, and neither man would ever compete at middleweight again. Later, both briefly fought all the way down to featherweight, 40 pounds lower than their UFC debuts.

NOT PREPARED FOR MIDDLEWEIGHT POWER: The knockout Florian suffered at the hands of Sanchez marked the first and only time that “KenFlo” ever lost via strikes.

AT LEAST HE HAD BATTLEBOTS: Florian never won a tournament, nor did he take home a championship in his career. Although he went down to welterweight briefly, the majority of his time came in the lightweight division. The Massachusetts native fought three times for a title, losing to Sean Sherk, B.J. Penn and Jose Aldo in those three championship affairs.

THE ORIGINAL REDHEAD: Leben dispatched Jason Thacker via knockout in 95 seconds, earning his ninth stoppage in his 11 wins. Thacker, meanwhile, never competed again.

BIRTH OF ‘QUICK’: Mike Swick scored the eighth-fastest knockout in promotional history when he clobbered Alex Schoenauer in 20 seconds. It was also the third-quickest in UFC middleweight history at the time, trailing only Mark Weir’s 10-second knockout of Eugene Jackson and Phil Baroni’s 18-second demolition of Dave Menne.

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN: Coming into “The Ultimate Fighter” 1 Finale, Bonnar (eight fights) and Bobby Southworth (nine fights) had never dropped decisions, Chris Sanford (four fights), Lodune Sincaid (six fights) and Schoenauer (seven fights) had never lost and Sam Hoger had never fought out of the first round (four fights).

EVERYTHING IS UP TO HIM: Griffin made his walk to the cage accompanied by “Take It!” by the Insane Clown Posse, making his use the first in UFC history from this unique hip hop duo. Griffin later walked out to it two more times, and he remains the only recorded UFC fighter to ever use a track from ICP.

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