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Hindsight is 20/20
For a certain type of sports fan, the draft is one of the most exciting events of the season, a chance to test their own scouting chops against the so-called pros or simply see how prospects pan out once they hit the next level. Decisions are made in the presence of unknowns, risks are taken or avoided, and plenty of picks look either inspired or ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight.
Since its 2005 debut, each season of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s reality series “The Ultimate Fighter” has begun with a draft, as the two opposing coaches select fighters to represent them on the show, and much like an NFL or NBA draft, most of those drafts have had their share of steals as well as busts. Who are the Tom Bradys—or Sam Bowies—of “TUF?” Let’s find out, as we re-rank the draft picks for each season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” based on the fighters’ future achievements on the show and throughout their careers.
Season 10: The Heavyweights
The tenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which filmed in June and July 2009 and aired starting on Sept. 1, pulled out all the stops in an attempt to revive flagging interest in the UFC’s flagship reality series. In coaches Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans, it had a pair of voluble, charismatic contenders who seemed genuinely to dislike each other. It featured an all-heavyweight cast, a tried and true method for drawing the eye of casual fans. That cast included four former NFL players, three men with prior UFC experience and—most importantly—“Kimbo Slice.”
Kevin Ferguson, the reformed backyard brawler, YouTube sensation and relative MMA neophyte whose rise and fall from glory had carried the fortunes of EliteXC with it, remained one of the most recognizable names in the sport despite his disastrous loss to Seth Petruzelli the previous fall. UFC President Dana White had once made an offhanded remark that the only way Ferguson would be allowed into the Octagon was through “The Ultimate Fighter,” and now it was happening. White’s studious contempt for Ferguson was balanced by the knowledge that the former street fighter’s infamy was by far the main selling point of the season: “Kimbo” was front and center in the teaser ads, and Season 10 suspended the practice of making prospective cast members fight their way into the house, for the obvious reason that he would likely have been eliminated in the first episode.
The most glaring takeaway from Season 10 is that “Rampage” was an absolutely atrocious coach. By his own admission, he was a fighter, not a trainer, and only there because the UFC had requested it, but his apathy towards his charges was at times jaw-dropping. Incredibly, he was an even worse talent scout than coach, the worst in the history of the show. This redraft features Team Rashad being picked in its entirety before a single member of Team Rampage, and while the redraft also takes into account fighters’ accomplishments after the show, the disparity was obvious within the first few episodes, as seven of the eight quarterfinal spots were taken by the Gold Team.
Without further ado—but knowing full well that we can’t do any worse than at least one of the coaches—let’s redraft these 16 big men.
1. Roy NelsonOriginal Draft Position: 9 (Team Rashad)
Pre-TUF Record: 13-4
Post-TUF Record: 10-14 (9-10 UFC)
Notable Achievements: "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 10 winner
Full disclosure: “Big Country” is the reason this series of articles exists. While researching an unrelated piece a few months ago, the realization that Nelson had been chosen ninth, and then gone on to defeat the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5 picks on his way to winning the tournament, inspired the idea of “correcting” each season’s draft. Looking back, it is inexplicable that Nelson slipped to the bottom half of the draft. His 13-4 professional record included an International Fight League title and wins over UFC veterans Fabiano Scherner and Brad Imes. His four career losses included a split decision loss to UFC-bound Ben Rothwell and a horrible robbery against Andrei Arlovski in which the fight had been stood up while Nelson—a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt—was in side control, locking up a kimura. Nelson had the best résumé of anyone on the “TUF 10” cast by a big country mile, and the only apparent knock against him was that he had a fat belly. It boggles the mind.
It is almost poetic, then, that Nelson got to teach everyone their lesson in the way he did. In his first fight, he defeated No. 2 pick “Kimbo Slice” with embarrassing ease, punching him out from the crucifix position while posturing as if to say, “Why are you even making me fight this guy?” After a tough majority decision win over No. 5 Wren, Nelson faced first overall pick McSweeney in the semis. As one might expect against a kickboxer and future light heavyweight, Nelson dominated on the ground, finishing once again with a stream of unblocked punches from the crucifix. What was less expected was that Nelson got the better of most of the exchanges on the feet as well, leaping in to clock the taller Brit with right hooks and overhands.
At the Season 10 Finale on Dec. 7, 2009, Nelson made short work of No. 3 pick Schaub, crushing him with two more sneaky right hands and leaving him staring up at the lights just 3 minutes, 45 seconds into their fight. That same right hand carried Nelson to a very strong post-“TUF” run in the UFC. His 9-10 mark with the promotion belies the fact that he faced legitimate contenders just about every time out, and his UFC losses were all to Top 10—in many cases Top 5—heavyweights. His overall record suffers from an ongoing four-fight losing streak in Bellator MMA—one that he still might snap or extend, now that Bellator is back—but as of the time of this redraft, Nelson’s status as the most historically accomplished alumnus of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 is secure.
Pre-TUF Record: 0-0
Post-TUF Record: 13-7, 1 NC (9-5 UFC)
Of the four ex-NFL players on the “TUF 10” cast, Mitrione was a very distant second best as a football player but turned out to be the best fighter of the bunch. “Meathead” was picked late—understandably, as he had no professional MMA experience—but took to everything frighteningly quickly. Notably, Mitrione displayed the kind of effortless agility and power that people envision in “A-list athletes” crossing over to MMA, but very few of those crossovers actually deliver. That Mitrione did so despite being on the wrong side of 30 and after multiple foot surgeries is even more remarkable. Whether it was some insight on Evans’ part or sheer luck, Mitrione is one of the better value picks in “TUF” history.
Mitrione won a slugfest over Scott Junk to make the quarterfinals, where he blundered into a McSweeney guillotine while trying to stand, looking every bit the green MMA rookie he was in the process. Mitrione returned at the finale and, after a back-and-forth first round against Marcus Jones, put the big man’s lights out in the opening exchange of the second. From there, Mitrione has carved out a very respectable heavyweight career, first in the UFC and then in Bellator, knocking off the likes of Derrick Lewis, Gabriel Gonzaga and Fedor Emelianenko along the way. Mitrione comes in just behind Nelson here due to Nelson’s higher peak ranking and greater number of wins over top-level opposition and, while they are 1-1 head to head, Nelson’s win took place in their respective primes and was a definitive finish.
Pre-TUF Record: 4-0
Post-TUF Record: 6-5
Like fellow football crossover Mitrione, Schaub presented as a next-level athlete and if anything, looked the part to an even greater degree. Unlike Mitrione, Schaub actually had some professional fights under his belt and they had all been complete steamrollings. Thanks to his 4-0 record and superior eyeball test results, Schaub was chosen third where Mitrione had gone 13th. It wasn’t a bad pick, as indicated by his selection at the exact same spot in this redraft. “Big Brown” arm-triangled poor Demico Rogers—more on him later—then knocked out Madsen and Jones to win the easy side of the Season 10 bracket and reach the final, where Nelson became the first of several fighters to show us what it looks like when Schaub’s spirit leaves his mortal body for a few seconds.
Schaub received a contract nonetheless, and went on to have a very solid 11-fight stint in the UFC. He choked out Mitrione, whose résumé is otherwise the stronger of the two, beat Gabriel Gonzaga at a time when only very good fighters did that, and gave Top 10 heavyweight Arlovski all he could handle in a close loss. Schaub might be higher on this list if not for his decision to retire in 2015 at age 32. Considering that he had a budding career as a comedian and podcaster—which have continued to thrive—and that several of his losses had been horrifying knockouts, it looks like a prudent decision all around, and even a truncated career is enough to earn Schaub the No. 3 pick here.
4. Jon MadsenOriginal Draft Position: 7 (Team Rashad)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-0
Post-TUF Record: 5-2 (4-1 UFC)
Madsen went into “TUF 10” a modestly interesting prospect: a former NCAA Division II wrestling champion under the tutelage of Matt Hughes and Robbie Lawler, who was 3-0 in his young mixed martial arts career. Accordingly, he was drafted seventh, but provided good value for Team Rashad, all things considered. Madsen beat Abe Wagner to make the quarterfinals, where he ran into Schaub, or, more accurately, ran into Schaub’s right hand. Despite securing a couple of takedowns early, Madsen ended up tiring first and, once his hands dropped in the second round, Schaub splattered him with two straight rights.
Madsen returned at the finale, where he edged out Wren and won a roster spot, and that’s where things get weird. Madsen won his first four fights in the UFC against solid if unspectacular opposition, then was cut immediately after his first loss, by doctor stoppage for a badly swollen eye after two competitive rounds against Mike Russow. No particular reason was given for Madsen’s dismissal; he was 31 years old—a baby by heavyweight standards—with a 4-1 UFC record, and had no obvious attitude or behavior issues. His release is as mystifying as that of Gerald Harris, if not more so. Whatever the reasons, Madsen dropped off the map for three years before popping back up to fight twice more and then apparently hanging the gloves up for good in 2015. Madsen earns his lofty spot in our redraft by virtue of the simple fact that he has four UFC wins, while the dozen fighters below him have combined for a total of two.
Pre-TUF Record: 3-4
Post-TUF Record: 12-14 (1-2 UFC)
In almost any other season, McSweeney would have been a laughably terrible No. 1 pick, one of the worst in series history, but the fact that the cast was so talent-poor and that Jackson and Evans made so many other terrible picks makes him just sort of bad by comparison. Having said that, McSweeney was still a strange choice to go first overall, if for no other reason than he was the only cast member with a losing record. He was a trained kickboxer with some professional experience, but not exactly the second coming of Remy Bonjasky, and while he was tall and rangy, he was one of the smaller fighters in the house; against the likes of Mitrione and Nelson, he looked like the future light heavyweight he was.
“The Hammer” won an awkward-looking decision over Wes Shivers, then snared Mitrione—who was probably an actual white belt at the time—in a white-belt guillotine to make it to the semifinals and a date with Nelson. There, he ran into the bad news that the short guy with the gut was the more effective striker as well as grappler. He busted up Darrill Schoonover at the finale to earn a UFC contract, but lost his next two fights by TKO. The second loss, at light heavyweight to Fabio Maldonado, was especially demoralizing as Maldonado styled on the exhausted McSweeney, and probably prompted his ouster from the promotion. Since then, McSweeney has fought all over the world, in kickboxing and bare-knuckle boxing as well as MMA, adding some stellar highlights to his reel and racking up a decent record that looks worse today for having lost seven of his last eight.
6. Justin WrenOriginal Draft Position: 5 (Team Rashad)
Pre-TUF Record: 7-1
Post-TUF Record: 6-1 (0-1 UFC)
The 22-year-old Wren was chosen fifth, thanks to a strong pre-“TUF” record. While he was eliminated in the quarterfinals by his teammate Nelson, Wren gave him a much tougher time than any of his other three opponents, even winning one round on one of the judges’ scorecards. At the finale, he dropped a split decision to Madsen that was close enough that the crowd was booing. I’m not saying the wrong person won, as it was a very close fight, but if you disregard Adalaide Byrd—as any sensible person should—the remaining judges and media outlets were a perfect split.
With no UFC contract in hand, that might have been the last we heard of Wren, but since that night in December 2009, all he has done is alternate between winning at fighting and winning at life. Wren rattled off three victories in the year after “TUF,” then disappeared for five years, during which time he lived in Africa, ministering to pygmy tribes in the Congo region. Once he felt it was time for a break from helping secure clean drinking water for some of the poorest people in the world, he popped back up in Bellator, where he won three more fights in a row. While Wren has not fought professionally since 2017, he is still only 33 as of this redraft. If he finishes saving the world in the next few years—or if it remains unsaved, but he gets another itch to beat people up while garnering publicity for his charitable work—don’t be surprised to see “The Big Pygmy” in four-ounce gloves again.
7. Mike WesselOriginal Draft Position: 15 (Team Rashad)
Pre-TUF Record: 8-2 (0-1 UFC)
Post-TUF Record: 7-6 (0-0 UFC)
Wessel was one of three “TUF 10” cast members with previous Octagon experience, in his case a fight against Antoni Hardonk the previous December that had ended in a fairly one-sided loss. The short-notice nature of that booking and Wessel’s otherwise respectable regional record earned him a shot on the show, where he was Team Rashad’s final selection. His experience on the show was humiliating, as the stigma of being the only member of his team not to advance to the quarterfinals was compounded by the embarrassment of getting armbarred in under a minute by a 35-year-old former defensive end. Post-“TUF,” Wessel has fought all over, accumulating a respectable record—his post-show tally includes a 3-3 record in Bellator—and solid wins over the likes of Justin Frazier and Alexei Kudin. He has not fought since 2016.
Pre-TUF Record: 10-0
Post-TUF Record: 5-8 (0-1 UFC)
Schoonover was drafted 11th despite a seemingly impressive record. It was probably due in part to that record having been achieved against fairly thin competition—though Mark Holata was a better win than was apparent at the time—and in part to Schoonover, like Nelson, not looking the part of a top heavyweight. Once in the house, Schoonover got it far worse than his teammate, with opposing coach “Rampage” singling the pudgy Texan out for ridicule based on his physique.
In his quarterfinal, Schoonover was flattened in half a round by Jones, then worn down by McSweeney on the way to a third-round TKO at the season finale. Cut loose from the UFC, things got worse for “The Boss” before they got better, as he lost four more fights in a row on the regional circuit. He pulled out of the nosedive, ending his career on a decent run that included a win over Paul Buentello that is more impressive than it sounds. He has not competed since a disqualification loss to future Professional Fighters League contender Ezekiel Wily in October 2015.
9. Abe WagnerOriginal Draft Position: 4 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 7-2
Post-TUF Record: 4-6, 1 NC (0-0 UFC)
It’s difficult to pinpoint why Jackson would have taken Wagner with his second pick and fourth overall. Wagner was a solidly built, true heavyweight, but nothing like Jones. His pre-show record was anchored—relatively speaking—by a win over Sherman Pendergarst, back when “The Tank” was still above .500 as a fighter. Whatever the coach’s reasoning, it panned out just fine—again, relatively speaking—as Wagner ended up with the best career of anyone on the Silver Team. Wagner lost a competitive scrap to Madsen in the first round, ending his UFC dream.
In a bit of cosmic cruelty, his first opponent back on the regional scene was an up-and-coming Travis Browne, who knocked him out in eight seconds with a pair of huge hooks and would be in the UFC four months later. Wagner’s remaining career is highlighted by a 30-second knockout of Tim Sylvia at Titan FC 16 in January 2011; while it is tempting to think of Sylvia’s post-UFC career as one long slide into irrelevance, the loss to Wagner is situated between three- and four-fight win streaks that included some pretty good fighters. As such, it is the best post-“TUF” win of anyone in the bottom half of this list and it justifies the “Hurricane” as the No. 9 pick here.
10. Kevin FergusonOriginal Draft Position: 2 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-1
Post-TUF Record: 2-1, 1 NC (1-1 UFC)
Ironically, “Kimbo Slice” has more than a little in common with "TUF" compatriots Phillipe Nover and Uriah Hall, as the fighter dealing with hype and expectations that he hadn’t asked for. Even in his brief pre-“TUF” MMA career, he had never made any claim to being the best fighter in the world—though he was happy to show up and collect checks from those who made those claims on his behalf—and during his stint on the show, castmates and viewers alike seemed a bit taken aback by the onetime backyard boxer’s quiet humility and sense of humor. As likable as Ferguson was as a man, however, once the show began he was exposed immediately for what he was as a fighter: a 35-year-old, undersized heavyweight with pretty good MMA boxing and severe deficiencies literally everywhere else. While most of his castmates would have been terrible style matchups for him, Nelson was especially cruel, as a solid boxer himself and owner of one of the most famously durable chins in the division in addition to his top-shelf ground game.
Nelson’s predictably one-sided thrashing of Ferguson actually made a second chance at the finale more justifiable, however, as it became increasingly obvious as the season wore on that nobody else was a match for “Big Country” either. When that second chance came, it featured a piece of matchmaking just as transparently sleazy as anything EliteXC had managed: a 215-pound catchweight bout against former light heavyweight flash in the pan Houston Alexander, who had been booted from the UFC on the heels of three straight first-round losses. In one move, matchmaker Joe Silva had managed to find a man older and smaller than Ferguson, who had already proven not to be UFC material and was extremely likely to offer “Kimbo” the kind of striking battle that offered his best chances of a spectacular victory. Despite the promotion’s best-laid plans, the fight was dreadful, chiefly memorable for a fantastic suplex, of all things, by "Slice," and for the indelible image of both men at the final horn, sucking wind with their hands on their knees as referee Josh Rosenthal looked on in apparent distaste.
With that, the favorable matchmaking was over, and in Ferguson’s next Octagon appearance, it is frankly a moral victory that he made it out of the first round with Mitrione. Five years after his UFC release, Bellator was only too happy to scoop “Kimbo” up and squeeze out any remaining name value. After knocking out a 51-year-old Ken Shamrock in a rebooking of the fight that had fallen through on the night of Petruzelli’s jab heard ‘round the world seven years before, Bellator matched Ferguson up with Dhafir Harris, a fellow street fighter from Miami. Ferguson’s third-round knockout win over an exhausted “Dada 5000”—who would spend over a week in the hospital after the fight—was overturned a few weeks later when his pre-fight drug test came back positive for performance-enhancing substances.
While the drug test was bad news for whatever might have been left of his fight career, it was nothing compared to what was about to come. On June 6, 2016, Ferguson died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 42. On a sporting level, it made one of the most cynical bookings in major MMA history look even worse, as Ferguson had been medically cleared to fight just four months before. On a personal level, it was a crushing blow to his surviving family, fans and friends, including his cohorts at American Top Team, where he had clearly been a beloved figure.
11. Scott JunkOriginal Draft Position: 10 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 6-2-1 (0-1 UFC)
Post-TUF Record: 2-1, 1 NC (0-0 UFC)
“Punk Haole” had things in common with several of his castmates: Like Wren, he had a nickname that we aren’t sure is an insult or a compliment, and like Wessel, he had appeared in the UFC before joining the Season 10 cast, in his case a first-round submission loss to Christian Wellisch at UFC 76. Junk’s pre-“TUF” resume was otherwise unremarkable, though facing Ricco Rodriguez in his professional debut is a very excusable loss, if not an example of irresponsible matchmaking. On the show, Junk drew Mitrione in the opening round, where he give him a solid challenge on the way to losing a majority decision. After the season wrapped, he fought a few more times, going 2-1 against low-level competition. The one time he fought a notable opponent, fellow UFC veteran Fabiano Scherner, the fight ended in a no-contest in under a minute—ironically, due to an inadvertent strike to Junk’s junk.
12. Demico RogersOriginal Draft Position: 6 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 0-0
Post-TUF Record: 2-1 (0-0 UFC)
Despite the fact that the “TUF 10” open tryouts mandated that all candidates must have professional MMA experience, and drew hundreds of applicants, two fighters with 0-0 records made it into the house. (How bad must some of the other candidates have been?) Of the two, Mitrione panned out nicely. Rogers—who did have some amateur fights, to be fair—did not pan out so well, but it’s hard to place all the blame on him; there are some coaches with skills and temperaments well-suited for developing green fighters, and then there is the 2009 version of “Rampage.” The problems were evident immediately, as Jackson nearly no-showed Rogers’ opening round match with Schaub, leading to a scene in which Rogers wandered around, looking for someone to wrap his hands for him. After Rogers succumbed to a first-round anaconda choke, Jackson left without entering the cage to check on his fighter. (Here is where we will repeat the once-per-season caveat that storytelling happens in the editing room, and reality television is television first, reality second, but this was a truly miserable look for Team Rampage.) After the show, “Night Train” fought a few more times in and around Denver, but disappeared from MMA’s radar within a year.
13. Zak JensenOriginal Draft Position: 16 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 7-3
Post-TUF Record: 3-7 (0-0 UFC)
Jensen was chosen last, which we suppose makes him a value pick. He had a tough go of it on the show, losing badly to Team Rashad’s worst fighter in Schoonover, and with no invitation to the season finale forthcoming, he returned to the regional scene. There, his miserable run continued, with a 3-7 run to even out his career mark at 10-10. While some of his losses were to pretty good opponents, including Neil Grove and Blagoy Ivanov in Bellator, he managed only one win over a fighter with a winning record.
14. Wes SimsOriginal Draft Position: 8 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 23-12-1, 2 NC (0-3 UFC)
Post-TUF Record: 1-3 (0-0 UFC)
Sims was by far the most experienced fighter entering the “TUF 10” house, a veteran of 30-plus fights at age 29. However, he was also completely washed. Like Wessel and Junk, Sims had been in the Octagon before, but his three-fight stint had been much earlier, before “The Ultimate Fighter” was even a thing. While he had once shown real potential as an athletic, freakishly strong, 6-foot-9 walking matchup problem, by 2009 the last scion of Hammer House was at best a journeyman, fighting anyone, anywhere, anytime, beating the bad fighters and losing to the good ones. Sims’ “TUF” experience lasted all of 90 seconds thanks to Wren, and since then he has gone 1-3, with the lone win coming at the expense of the sub-.500 Ruben Villareal.
15. Marcus JonesOriginal Draft Position: 14 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 4-1 (0-3 UFC)
Post-TUF Record: 0-1
Of the four former NFL players in the cast, Jones is the only one who did more on the gridiron than become the answer to a trivia question. A legitimate star defensive end in college, an All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year at the University of North Carolina, Jones was a solid NFL roster guy for several years but did not quite live up to his first-round draft status. On Season 10 of “TUF,” he only had to live up to being picked 14th out of 16 fighters, but didn’t quite manage that either. Jones did pretty well on the show, finishing Wessel and Schoonover with ease—handing Schoonover his first loss—before getting punched out by Schaub in his semifinal.
At the finale, he went toe-to-toe with Mitrione for a wild first round and was probably ahead on the scorecards when he came out for the second round with his hands down and got lamped by Mitrione’s first two punches. Jones never fought professionally again, but remains a tantalizing what-if, considering how good he looked at times even as a 36-year-old on a bad knee.
16. Wes ShiversOriginal Draft Position: 12 (Team Rampage)
Pre-TUF Record: 7-1
Post-TUF Record: 1-0 (0-0 UFC)
To be brutally honest, Season 10 was a bad edition of “The Ultimate Fighter,” so to be the No. 16 pick is pretty much a perfect storm of badness, pun fully intended. To make things worse, Shivers wasn’t even the toughest gigantic dude named Wes in his own house, which, let’s face it, was probably not a situation he was accustomed to dealing with. “The Perfect Storm” lost a close majority decision to McSweeney in the opening round, in a fight that was slightly controversial but mostly just terrible. After the show, he fought one more time, beating the 1-3 Goldman Butler. Neither man fought professionally again.