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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 11: Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz…oops, Team Franklin
Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which began taping in January 2010 and premiered on air on March 31, featured a blend of the proven and the new. In coaches Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, it had perhaps the best known rivalry in the sport, front and center, even if Ortiz would be replaced by Rich Franklin at the very end of the season. The season itself continued the trend of minor format tweaks and adjustments that had become commonplace. Season 11 featured only one weight class, middleweight, but instead of narrowing 32 fighters to 16 for the tournament, 28 were whittled down to 14, with the plan that each coach would be allowed to bring one eliminated fighter back as a “wild card.”
A look back at the previous installments in this series demonstrates that the only true constant among the original drafts from one season to the next is that all of them are hilariously bad. Thanks to coaches drafting according to team affiliations or personal friendships, flat-out poor judgement and the sheer unpredictability of the sport—especially when evaluating a pool of young prospects with four or five fights under their belts—most of the drafts have been no better than drawing names from a hat. For that reason, it was somewhat humorous that the show’s host, UFC President Dana White, saw fit to take Liddell aside after the Season 11 draft for an on-camera conversation in which he voiced his concern over what he saw as an especially poor job Liddell had done in choosing his fighters.
Liddell, in typical “Iceman” fashion, shrugged it off, saying that he and Ortiz apparently judged fighters by different criteria. Whatever gods oversee the drunken exploits of a dozen or so UFC hopefuls locked in a house together for two months, however, heard White’s criticism and must have said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if Liddell ended up having the far better team?” Yes, yes it would, and with that out of the way, let us redraft the 14 fighters from “TUF 11,” a season memorable for frequent injuries—even by the show’s lofty standards—some awful nicknames and not much else.
1. Brad TavaresOriginal Draft Position: 10 (Team Liddell)
Pre-TUF Record: 5-0
Post-TUF Record: 12-6
Literally as well as figuratively, Tavares is one of the quieter success stories to come out of “TUF.” Coming into the house just a few weeks after his 22nd birthday, the 5-0 Hawaiian was drafted late and settled into a role as one of the less talkative members of the Season 11 cast, though he was still more than happy to take part in the practical jokes.
Tavares’ path through the Season 11 tournament was a rocky one, winning a narrow decision in his preliminary round match against James Hammortree, needing a sudden victory round to do so. He then won his quarterfinal by disqualification, when Seth Baczynski knocked him out with an illegal soccer kick at the first-round buzzer. Having advanced to the semifinals without a clear, uncontroversial victory, Tavares faced McGee and the two teammates combined to put on the best scrap of the season, with McGee choking Tavares out cold with a rear-naked choke with seconds remaining in the fight.
At the finale, Tavares rematched Baczynski, winning a close, competitive decision and launching the strongest career of any Season 11 alumnus. His 12-6 UFC mark includes wins over Lorenz Larkin, Elias Theodorou and Nate Marquardt, and for the most part he has only lost to the best of the best. He has hovered around the fringes of the middleweight Top 15 for years, and at just 32 years of age, may continue to put distance between himself and the “TUF 11” pack.
2. Court McGeeOriginal Draft Position: 12 (Team Liddell)
Pre-TUF Record: 11-1
Post-TUF Record: 8-8
Notable Achievements: "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 11 winner
Considering that White’s criticism of Liddell’s draft included the specific observation that his team looked undersized, it is especially ironic that a future welterweight won the whole thing. It is also difficult to reconcile McGee’s late selection with his credentials and demeanor. His lone loss before the show had been in his seventh professional fight, against 100-fight veteran and two-time UFC title challenger Jeremy Horn, and as a self-admitted recovering addict, he exuded a level of reserve and maturity that stood out from most of his castmates.
McGee’s run on the show was a bit of a roller-coaster. He was bounced by No. 1 pick Ring in the elimination round, in a controversial fight that should probably have gone to a sudden victory round. When injuries to Ring and Attonito opened the door for two eliminated fighters to return—by the way, MMA tournaments generally need injury alternates, not “wild cards”—McGee tapped out his fellow beneficiary Hammortree with a vicious-looking standing guillotine early in the second round. After his barnburner with Tavares in the semis, McGee faced Team Ortiz’s McCray at the finale. There, he dominated on the ground on his way to a second-round rear-naked choke submission and the title of “The Ultimate Fighter” for Season 11. It made for a feel-good moment in light of the 25-year-old’s documented history and some of the humorous and harrowing stories he had shared on the show.
Since then, McGee has carved out a respectable 10-year UFC career, first at middleweight and later at welterweight, that is ongoing as of this redraft. His high points are impressive—handing Robert Whittaker his first UFC loss is a serious feather in the cap even if it took place in McGee’s better weight class and Whittaker’s worse one—and even in his losses he has been a tough out for almost everyone.
Pre-TUF Record: 12-3
Post-TUF Record: 13-11 (9-10 UFC)
Camozzi’s run on Season 11 ended before it truly began, as he went home with a broken jaw after being drafted but before his eliminator fight and was replaced by Baczynski, who had been eliminated by McGee in his fight-in match. (Incidentally, Baczynski’s 10-10 post-“TUF” record, which includes a 5-6 mark in the UFC and wins over Neil Magny and Matt Brown, would likely have earned him the exact same spot here if he had replaced Camozzi before the draft.)
Sufficiently recovered to appear at the season finale, Camozzi defeated Hammortree to earn a UFC roster spot. His post-show record, which comprises two separate stints in the UFC, looks unremarkable but does reflect some tough matchups, including two fights with Ronaldo Souza—once on short notice, which is about as close to a free pass as a middleweight can get. Along with some decent wins in the UFC, he added notable scalps like Joey Villasenor and Jeremy Kimball outside the Octagon. Ultimately, Camozzi falls behind McGee in this redraft because of their polar opposite performances on the show itself: While the UFC sees “TUF” as the breeding ground for future talent for years to come, the coaches are just drafting teams to beat each other for the next two months. McGee did that for Liddell, while Camozzi could not for Ortiz.
4. Kyle NokeOriginal Draft Position: 2 (Team Liddell)
Pre-TUF Record: 16-4-1
Post-TUF Record: 6-6
In fairness to coaches Liddell and Ortiz, Noke and Ring were the sensible, perhaps even the obvious choices to go No. 1 and No. 2 overall. In Noke’s case, it was due to his extensive professional experience, which included a two-fight split with Aussie countryman George Sotiropoulos, who was 4-0 in the UFC and rocketing up the ranks by the time Noke appeared on "TUF," and a draw with Hector Lombard that looked quite a bit like a win.
Noke was bumped from the Season 11 bracket by eventual finalist McCray in their quarterfinal, but returned and smashed castmate Josh Bryant at the finale. That kicked off a 6-6 run in the Octagon that stood out for how average it was, if that’s even possible. None of his losses were especially egregious or especially forgivable, and his best win in the UFC was probably over Camozzi.
5. Nick RingOriginal Draft Position: 1 (Team Ortiz)
Pre-TUF Record: 10-0
Post-TUF Record: 4-4 (3-3 UFC)
“The Promise” Ring was chosen first, despite the handicap of having the worst nickname of any Season 11 cast member. This was probably due in part to his record, which, while it wasn’t quite as extensive or high-level as Noke’s, featured some eye-popping finishes and was clean enough to eat off of. However, there were several other undefeated prospects on the cast, including Bryant, who was similarly 10-0 but drafted eighth. The real reason Ring was taken first is because he delivered the most impressive performance in the elimination round, absolutely taking the wood to poor Woody Weatherby in a first-round TKO win.
Ring squeaked by McGee in the first round, then dropped out of the season tournament with a knee injury. That injury proved severe enough that the Canadian did not return to action for over a year, at which point he picked up the UFC contract that was waiting for him. He went 3-3 in the Octagon and, like Noke and Camozzi, simply never strung together enough wins to break into the next level of competition. As such, his best UFC win was in a rematch with McGee and, like their first fight, the second was not an outright robbery but was far from a conclusive win. Post-UFC, Ring fought twice more in his native country before hanging up the gloves for good.
Pre-TUF Record: 7-3
Post-TUF Record: 3-2
A product of the same Hofstra University wrestling program that indirectly gave us Phil Baroni and would later produce Chris Weidman, Attonito came to “TUF 11” with a 7-3 record against decent northeast competition and was accordingly chosen fourth. Attonito advanced in his preliminary round match via disqualification after being knocked out by a pair of illegal knees from Kyacey Uscola, but suffered a broken hand in the fight. Attonito’s withdrawal opened the door for McGee to return, though, so all in all it may have been the best outcome for Team Liddell.
Attonito returned at the season finale, where he engaged Jamie Yager for most of two back-and-forth rounds before pounding him out late in the second. The win launched a 3-2 UFC run with its share of high points—Rafael Natal is a very respectable scalp—as well as some low points. Notably, Attonito was one-half of one of the most dreadful UFC bouts ever, even if most of the blame probably rested with David Branch, and was cut after his apparent unwillingness to take a short-notice, catchweight bout with Gunnar Nelson. After his release by the UFC, Attonito never fought again.
7. Kris McCrayOriginal Draft Position: 5 (Team Ortiz)
Pre-TUF Record: 5-0
Post-TUF Record: 4-5 (0-3 UFC)
McCray may still hold the record for the busiest “TUF” tenure. Thanks to being competitive and healthy in a house full of mediocre, chronically injured fighters—and a cast that had been left intentionally short-handed, to boot—the “Savage” ended up fighting five times in five weeks. Notably, after being eliminated by Josh Bryant in the first tournament round, he returned as one of the wild cards, won his way to the semifinals and defeated Bryant in a rematch to earn a berth in the final against McGee.
At the finale, McCray was mauled by the “Crusher,” but perhaps in acknowledgement of the fact that it had gotten a whole lot of free labor out of him on the show, the UFC gave him two more chances to earn a win in the Octagon. Unfortunately, his UFC run ended up including 11-1 McGee, 8-0 Carlos Eduardo Rocha and 14-1 John Hathaway, essentially a murderer’s row of 2010 UFC prospects. After his release, he went 4-2 against very solid competition in a variety of promotions including Bellator MMA and World Series of Fighting.
8. Joseph HenleOriginal Draft Position: 14 (Team Liddell)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-0
Post-TUF Record: 8-4 (0-0 UFC)
For a man picked last in a not-very-good season of “TUF,” Henle made quite a good showing for himself. Before the real season even started, he ousted Costas Philippou, who would have gone no lower than third in this redraft had Henle not armbarred him in the elimination round. Henle was then eliminated by Baczynski in the round of 16, but the competitive decision loss does not seem particularly embarrassing in light of Baczynski’s future achievements.
“Leonidas” did not receive an invitation to participate in the season finale. However, he went on to compile a respectable record including a couple of solid wins—future UFC light heavyweight and Professional Fighters League millionaire Sean O’Connell stands out. In a bit of historical closure, Henle’s final fight was in the first postlim at Golden Boy MMA 3, immediately after “TUF 11” coaches Liddell and Ortiz finally concluded their long-delayed trilogy. Cue Elton John singing “Circle of Life.”
9. Jamie YagerOriginal Draft Position: 7 (Team Ortiz)
Pre-TUF Record: 2-1
Post-TUF Record: 7-3 (0-1 UFC)
As Season 11 unfolded, it felt as though Yager was being put forward as the villain, but it’s hard to fathom exactly why. In the house, he was far from the only fighter engaged in increasingly mean-spirited practical jokes, and in the cage, he wasn’t part of any of the multiple fights that ended in disqualification for real or feigned fouls. He did lose his quarterfinal to Bryant when he refused to come out for the sudden victory round, claiming he could not see, but that was late in the season and frankly came off more goofy than diabolical.
After losing to Attonito at the finale, Yager fought on for several more years, compiling a glossy record but losing to the two good fighters he faced. He made a brief comeback in 2016, winning three fights in impressive fashion, before disappearing for good.
10. Josh BryantOriginal Draft Position: 8 (Team Liddell)
Pre-TUF Record: 10-0
Post-TUF Record: 5-4 (0-1 UFC)
Bryant was chosen fairly late despite his impressive-looking record due in part to his first nine wins having come in the same low-level Oklahoma promotion, and due in part to barely squeaking past Greg Rebello in the elimination round. (That Rebello would be a heavyweight, knocking on the UFC’s door through Dana White's Contender Series a decade later, is something that nobody could have foreseen at the time.)
Bryant had the twin misfortunes of having to fight McCray twice in the span of weeks, then facing Noke—perhaps the most talented fighter on the cast when healthy—at the finale. After a one-sided drubbing by Noke, Bryant returned to the regionals—in fact, he went straight back to where it all started, Freestyle Cage Fighting—and fought for several more years.
Pre-TUF Record: 8-2
Post-TUF Record: 2-1 (0-0 UFC)
When Liddell’s boss criticized him for drafting a team full of undersized middleweights, it is very likely he had in mind Blanchard, who at 5 feet 8 inches, resembled nothing so much as an out-of-camp Joe Stevenson. Despite his short stature, “Bam Bam” came into the season with some solid wins on his résumé; while Douglas Lima was still a few years away from being the Top 10 welterweight he is today, he and “Judo” Jim Wallhead were both quality prospects in their own right. Blanchard was leveled by Yager in his preliminary fight, putting a definitive end to his “TUF” dreams. After the show wrapped, Blanchard returned to Florida where he fought a few more times, but was out of the sport by 2013.
12. James HammortreeOriginal Draft Position: 9 (Team Ortiz)
Pre-TUF Record: 5-1
Post-TUF Record: 1-2 (0-1 UFC)
Like Ring, Hammortree had a nickname that was just a pun on his own last name, but at least “Sledge” did not evoke late-90s emo bands or people who spin fear of commitment as a virtue. While Hammortree’s nickname was less painful than Ring’s, his “TUF” run was more so. He drew Tavares, eventually the best fighter “TUF 11” produced, in the preliminary round, and was defeated. When Ring was forced to withdraw, Hammortree got another chance, but had to take on McGee, who was the best fighter on the cast at the time.
Hammortree lost a competitive decision to Camozzi at the finale, a fight that looked better in hindsight once Camozzi turned out to be a pretty good fighter. That was it for Hammortree’s UFC aspirations, though; like seemingly half the cast of Season 11, he returned to Florida, where he fought locally a couple more times, and was out of the sport by 2013.
13. Clayton McKinneyOriginal Draft Position: 11 (Team Ortiz)
Pre-TUF Record: 4-2
Post-TUF Record: 1-2 (0-0 UFC)
It seems that almost every season of “The Ultimate Fighter” features at least one fighter who simply cannot catch a break. On Season 11, that fighter was “Money Shot,” who was cursed with the worst luck and the worst nickname of any of the three “Mc”-surnamed fighters on the cast, though the latter is presumably his own fault. McKinney had the misfortune to get Noke as his preliminary round matchup, where Noke made quick work of him with a triangle choke. He had the further misfortune to have Ortiz as a coach: McKinney’s complaint of pain in his shoulder from a possible rotator cuff injury was dismissed by Ortiz, who responded by working him harder and in fact made him drill triangle escapes immediately after the loss.
McKinney’s injury turned out to be more severe than he had suspected, not less, but by then it was too late. McKinney went on to surgical reattachment of a torn ligament, and Season 11 went on without him. Nonetheless, the entire narrative of Ortiz—he of the self-diagnosed “cracked skull” and fractured “C-47 vertebrae”—treating one of his charges with such disregard is a low point in “TUF” coaching, which is saying something. McKinney fought a few more times against middling opposition before leaving the sport for good.
14. Kyacey UscolaOriginal Draft Position: 3 (Team Ortiz)
Pre-TUF Record: 20-16
Post-TUF Record: 3-9 (0-0 UFC)
Even at the time, “Ice Cold” was an iffy choice to go third overall. While he had tons of experience, he was barely over .500 and although that record included an impressive roll call of world-class fighters, he had lost to all of them. However, Ortiz chose Uscola with his second pick, and Uscola appeared sincerely to believe he was going to run roughshod through the season. That illusion was shattered quickly when he lost his preliminary round bout to Attonito by disqualification. Uscola became the beneficiary of one of the wild cards, but in his return bout the 35-fight veteran was forced to tap to a second-round keylock by five-fight veteran McCray. He also got bitten on the penis by a dog, which would make us feel bad for him if he were a better person.
After the show, Uscola embarked on the most dismal run of any alumnus of the season, and one of the worst in the history of the show. His first post-“TUF” fight, a win over former World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight champ Doug Marshall, seemed to promise good things, but that was the last time Uscola would defeat a fighter with a winning record.
Incredibly, Uscola turned out to be an even worse human being than fighter, as he racked up multiple convictions for domestic violence, culminating in 2014 with a 10-year prison sentence for a horrific beating of his then-wife.