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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 14: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller
For its final season on Spike TV, “The Ultimate Fighter” delivered a fantastic farewell gift. The fourteenth season of the venerable series, which filmed during summer of 2011 and debuted in September, featured middleweight contenders Michael Bisping and Jason Miller as coaches. For the first time since Season 9, the show featured two weight classes: featherweight and bantamweight, and unlike recent seasons that employed a “wild card,” a full 16 fighters were brought in for each weight class, who then fought an elimination fight to winnow the number down to eight apiece.
Simply by choosing to focus on weight classes that had never before been featured on the show—and which had only existed in the UFC for less than a year—Season 14 was a breath of fresh air, as it mined a relatively untapped deposit of talent. For the first time in series history, there was not a single fighter over 30 in the house. More than once in the first episode, Bisping, Miller and UFC President Dana White marveled at how good the fights were, and how skilled the fighters; it was surprising even to Bisping, who had already been through one season as a fighter and another as a coach, and White, who had hosted every season. Every member of the cast fought at least once in the UFC and five would tally at least 10 Octagon appearances, two things that had not occurred since Season 8.
While the original draft was separated by weight class, we will treat them as a single pool for purposes of this redraft. The weight divisions were almost meaningless, as there had been multiple pre-“TUF” meetings between Season 14 featherweights and bantamweights, and after the show, the three best featherweights dropped to bantamweight and several of the bantamweights moved down to flyweight once the UFC instituted a division. Let’s sort out the little guys, shall we?
Pre-TUF Record: 4-0
Post-TUF Record: 12-4
Notable Achievements: UFC bantamweight champion (twice)
Dillashaw was the third bantamweight taken despite being the least experienced of the bunch. That’s what being touted as the next big thing from noted small man factory Team Alpha Male will get you, especially after an eye-popping thrashing of the much more experienced Matt Jaggers in the elimination round. Dillashaw used his vastly superior wrestling and grappling to blow through Roland Delorme and Dustin Pague on his way to the bantamweight final. There, he met pure stylistic poison in the form of Dodson, owner of some of the best takedown defense and hardest pound-for-pound punching in the sport. Takedowns didn’t even come into it, as Dodson took advantage of Dillashaw’s still-raw striking, lighting him up on the feet in under two minutes.
However, Dillashaw bounced back from the finale loss to win five of his next six, earning a shot at Renan Barao’s bantamweight title. In one of the biggest championship upsets in UFC history, Dillashaw stunned the 10-to-1 favorite, snapping Barao’s 30-fight unbeaten streak in the process. (As a trivia note, Dillashaw is the first veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter” to win a UFC title without winning his season, a feat that has since been duplicated by Rose Namajunas.) He defended the strap twice before losing it to Dominick Cruz, then won it back by knocking out Cody Garbrandt.
As 2019 dawned, Dillashaw was one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, making his play at becoming perhaps the top pound-for-pound fighter, when everything came crashing down. An attempt to drop to flyweight and become a two-division champ by defeating Henry Cejudo ended in a 32-second knockout loss, followed in March by the revelation that he had tested positive for erythropoietin, a banned performance enhancer. He relinquished the bantamweight title and accepted a two-year suspension, which expires in January 2021. Still just 34, Dillashaw will return to a division without Cejudo, Garbrandt and possibly Cruz. He may add further achievements and accolades as he embarks on the next phase of his career, but as it stands he is already the most accomplished alum of Season 14 by far.
2. John DodsonOriginal Draft Position: 2 (bantamweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 11-5
Post-TUF Record: 10-7
Notable Achievements: “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner (bantamweight)
One half of Jackson-Wink MMA's clean sweep of the season tournament, “The Magician” was frankly a delight on the show: an endlessly cheerful ball of energy who authored some dazzling highlights in the cage. He folded the 11-0 Brandon Merkt with a body shot to get into the house, earning himself the second overall draft pick despite being one of the smallest fighters there. He then outwrestled Albert and knocked Bedford into next week to punch his ticket to the final. There, he put Dillashaw on his heels immediately, knocking the future bantamweight champion out while barely being touched.
That win seemed to portend great things for Dodson—if not immediately, then certainly once the UFC instituted a flyweight division—but his career has been alternately promising and frustrating. On one hand, his 10-7 record since the show reflects nine years of fighting the best fighters in the world in two divisions and includes several wins over Top 5 fighters and future champions. However, the shocking speed and power that once allowed him to perform the impossible in the Octagon has been on display less and less, replaced by crushingly dull fights in which Dodson simply has not pulled the trigger. Now 36 and apparently back at bantamweight to stay, he appears locked in at No. 2, as the gulf in accomplishment between himself and Dillashaw is enormous, while almost everyone behind him in this draft is out of the UFC, if not the sport—including Bermudez, who is neck-and-neck with Dodson.
Pre-TUF Record: 7-2
Post-TUF Record: 10-7
Bermudez was the first featherweight taken by Coach Miller despite coming to the show off the first two losses of his career and despite having fought exclusively at lightweight up to that point. (As a side note, Bermudez won his way into the house by knocking out Jimmie Rivera, who would be the second overall pick in this redraft if it were expanded to include all 32 fighters.) Bermudez made it all the way to the final, where he went the way of everyone else who ran into Diego Brandao that season, though it is worth noting that unlike the rest, Bermudez was doing well in a wild first round until Brandao pulled off a sensational straight armbar from the bottom with seconds left.
Bermudez’s UFC run is defined by two streaks. After the “TUF 14” finale, he won his next six fights in a row, rising as high as No. 6 in Sherdog’s featherweight rankings and knocking on the door of a title shot before being turned back by Ricardo Lamas in November 2014. A few years later, he lost four straight, and was certainly at risk of a pink slip when he faced off with Te Edwards in January 2019. However, Bermudez snapped the streak in front of an appreciative hometown crowd and then announced his retirement, leaving his gloves in the Octagon at the age of 32.
Pre-TUF Record: 14-7
Post-TUF Record: 11-8 (6-4 UFC)
Notable Achievements: “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner (featherweight)
Brandao, a Brazilian by way of Jackson-Wink MMA, put together one of the most dominant runs in the history of “The Ultimate Fighter.” From the elimination round to the featherweight final, he won four fights via first-round finish—two of them in under a minute—knocking off three of the best fighters on the show in Siler, Caraway and future Top 10 contender Bermudez. (It is an interesting trivia aside, as well as a testament to how bad “TUF” coaches are at picking fighters, that it took until Season 14 for a fighter picked first overall to win the tournament.)
While “Ceara” never quite made the jump to title contention himself, his 6-4 Octagon record is deceptively solid; all of his wins were at least decent, while the losses were to Darren Elkins, Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor and Brian Ortega. The UFC cut Brandao in 2016 after a suspension for cannabis, followed in short order by an arrest and felony charges stemming from a brawl outside a nightclub. Brandao has spent his time since then fighting in high-level overseas promotions including Absolute Championship Akhmat and Rizin FF, winning more than he loses and teetering on the edge of divisional relevance.
Pre-TUF Record: 15-5
Post-TUF Record: 7-4 (6-4 UFC)
Caraway came in to Season 14 as a 20-fight veteran, a slick grappler who had already made appearances in Strikeforce and World Extreme Cagefighting. He had a solid run, at least until he ran into the Brandao buzzsaw in his semifinal, and at the season finale, he made short work of Team Miller compatriot Dustin Neace to earn a UFC contract.
Like Brandao, Caraway’s UFC record is stronger than it looks. His wins over Aljamain Sterling and Erik Perez look fantastic in hindsight, while his losses were all to Top 10 fighters. Caraway quietly departed the UFC after his first back-to-back losses and has fought just once since then, a decision win in Korean startup Battlefield FC in 2019.
6. Steven SilerOriginal Draft Position: 8 (featherweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 18-9
Post-TUF Record: 14-11-1 (5-4 UFC)
“Super Steve” had already had two careers by the time he showed up in the “TUF” house. Debuting as a pro at age 18 with no amateur experience, he went a less-than-super 5-7 in his first dozen fights, a number that actually looks pretty good in light of the fact that he didn’t train at a gym during that time. Once the lanky kid from Utah hooked up with The Pit Elevated—home of Season 11 winner Court McGee and Season 13 runner-up Ramsey Nijem—and discovered the wondrous benefits of coaches and sparring partners, he went on a 13-2 run with 12 finishes, culminating in a spot on the show. Nonetheless, Siler was lightly regarded to say the least, as Dana White was seen to pre-mark his bout card to show Micah Miller defeating Siler in the elimination round, and even after beating Miller, he was the last featherweight chosen.
Siler had the misfortune of running into Brandao in his quarterfinal, and was knocked out in under a minute. However, he defeated late replacement Josh Clopton at the finale to earn a UFC contract, kicking off a decent nine-fight run that included solid wins over Cole Miller and former WEC champ Mike Thomas Brown. After his UFC release, Siler landed in World Series of Fighting shortly before its transition to Professional Fighters League, making the featherweight final in 2018.
Pre-TUF Record: 3-1
Post-TUF Record: 4-6 (4-4 UFC)
Brimage was drafted fifth out of eight featherweights despite being the smallest and least experienced, probably because of the horrific beating he put on Bryson Hansen in the elimination round. He put up a spirited fight in his quarterfinal but was badly outclassed on the ground by Caraway. Brimage managed to hold on late against Stephen Bass at the finale to earn a roster spot, embarking on a 4-4 run in the Octagon that featured some brutal matchmaking. “The Bama Beast” dropped to bantamweight after getting splattered by Conor McGregor, only to draw another future champ in Garbrandt, followed by Rivera at the apex of a 20-fight winning streak. Ouch. Brimage fought twice more after his UFC ouster, losing both times, and has not fought since 2016.
Pre-TUF Record: 9-3
Post-TUF Record: 3-3
There is no official stat kept in this category, but unofficially, Corassani was probably the scariest guy on “TUF 14.” The oldest and one of the more serious fighters in a house full of giggly guys in their mid-20s, the Swede of Iranian descent was the third featherweight selected. In his quarterfinal, Corassani beat Dustin Neace by majority decision in a fight in which he appeared to tap out to a leglock in the first round. Even if he advanced by garbage means—thank you, Herb Dean, whom we still lauded as “the best in the business” at this time—Corassani acted as though he belonged in the sems, as he pranked his next foe, Bermudez around the house and confidently sang songs about his upcoming victory. (In fairness, he did give Bermudez a hell of a fight before getting caught in a guillotine.)
Corassani’s UFC debut was twice delayed by injury, first forcing his withdrawal from a finale matchup with Siler, then from a match in his native Sweden against Jason Young. He finally made his Octagon bow a year later, kicking off a UFC run that went like an inning of baseball: three up followed by three down. None of the wins were against especially notable opposition—and one was via disqualification against Maximo Blanco, who never appeared to learn the rules of MMA—while two of the three losses were to future greats in Poirier and Max Holloway.
Pre-TUF Record: 6-1
Post-TUF Record: 3-4, 1 NC (3-3, 1 NC UFC)
Season 14’s lone Canadian was the last bantamweight drafted despite an impressive submission of B.J. Ferguson in his elimination fight. He was bounced in his quarterfinal by Dillashaw, who was able to take him down with relative ease and too savvy to bumble into a submission. At the finale, he was matched with the other Ferguson brother, Josh Ferguson, and while there was certainly a storyline there, no revenge was forthcoming, as Delorme capped off a fun back-and-forth fight with a lightning-quick back take and choke in the third round. Like that of Corassani, Delorme’s UFC tenure was an inning of baseball: three up, three down. (For purposes of this metaphor, think of his no-contest against Francisco Rivera as giving up a grand slam, followed by the discovery that there was too much pine tar on Rivera’s bat.) After the three-fight skid that occasioned his release from the UFC, Delorme fought once more in his native Canada, losing badly. He has not fought since 2015.
10. Johnny BedfordOriginal Draft Position: 4 (bantamweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 17-9-1
Post-TUF Record: 6-5-1, 1 NC (2-3, 1 NC UFC)
Bedford’s extensive résumé included two losses at featherweight to Season 14 castmate Neace, but at bantamweight, he was actually drafted earlier, relatively speaking. He coasted to a relatively easy win over Ferguson in his quarterfinal, only to run into eventual winner Dodson in the semis, where Dodson knocked him out so badly that we were treated to the rare sight of a cageside doctor asking a losing fighter where he is and getting an incorrect answer in return.
With one of the most lopsided beatdowns of the year at the expense of Louis Gaudinot at the season finale, Bedford earned a UFC contract, but it was mostly downhill from there. Losses to Caraway and Cody Gibson aren’t too bad, but he couldn’t even lose properly to Rani Yahya on his first try. After his UFC run, he went 4-2 against decent opposition before hanging up the gloves in 2017.
11. Louis GaudinotOriginal Draft Position: 1 (bantamweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 5-1
Post-TUF Record: 3-4, 1 NC (1-3, 1 NC UFC)
Plenty of “TUF” No. 1 draft picks look ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight; after all, this is the first season to feature a first overall pick actually coming in first. However, in some cases it’s possible to point out the reasons for the errant pick: Nick Ring was undefeated and built like a Greek god. Bobby Southworth had fought in Pride Fighting Championships. Joe Scarola was the best man at Matt Serra’s wedding.
There doesn’t seem to be any such justification of “Goodnight” as the most promising fighter from Season 14, even at the time. He was visibly undersized, even compared to Dodson. His pre-“TUF” résumé, conducted entirely in Atlantic City mainstay Ring of Combat, featured exactly one win over a fighter with a winning record. Nonetheless, he went to Team Bisping with the first pick and got absolutely bullied by Dustin Pague, who looked about twice his size, in his quarterfinal.
Gaudinot, the same as everyone else from Season 14, got an invitation to the finale. There, he was again mauled by a visibly larger fighter, this time Bedford, for two and a half rounds before being pounded out at the base of the fence. He received a UFC contract anyway, and put together a body of work in the Octagon that is, frankly, bizarre. His lone UFC win, choking John Lineker completely unconscious, is a major feather in the cap, but in light of the rest of his performances, it’s tempting to chalk it up to Lineker being one of the flakiest high-level fighters ever. The rest of Gaudinot’s Octagon tenure consists of losses to bigger and better fighters, along with one win overturned after Gaudinot tested positive for diuretics. After the UFC released him, Gaudinot fought in CFFC twice, then came back for one last fight where it all began, losing to up-and-comer Phil Caracappa in ROC in 2018.
12. Josh FergusonOriginal Draft Position: 7 (bantamweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 8-3
Post-TUF Record: 3-2 (0-2 UFC)
The Ferguson brothers should have been the signature gag of “TUF 14”: the first family duo to make it into the house, with all the attendant hijinks, as well as whatever drama might have ensued if they were the two who made it to the bantamweight final.
It wasn’t to be, as older brother B.J. was knocked out in the elimination round, but Josh carried the family flag into the “TUF” house. He was eliminated by Bedford in the quarterfinals, then fell short in his chance to restore Clan Ferguson’s honor when he was blitzed by Delorme at the season finale. He got one more shot in the Octagon, losing a decision to future flyweight title challenger Chris Cariaso, before getting the boot. Ferguson returned to Kentucky, where he won two more fights and then, after a seven-year layoff, coming out of presumed retirement in 2020 to win one last fight.
13. John AlbertOriginal Draft Position: 5 (bantamweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 6-1
Post-TUF Record: 1-4
Albert’s nickname becomes the best of the season once you realize that it isn’t “Prince John” Albert, but John “Prince Albert.” Armed with that piercing nom de guerre and a solid pre-show record, Albert demolished Orville Smith to win his way onto the show, only to draw eventual bantamweight winner Dodson in his quarterfinal. Their fight was prosaic in a way that predicted Dodson’s future UFC run—which is not a bad thing, considering how Dodson destroyed some other fighters on the show—but nonetheless a clear loss. He appeared at the final, where he knocked out Dustin Pague in about 60 seconds to earn a UFC berth.
From there, Albert was frankly the beneficiary of how desperately the UFC needed bantamweights, as he was allowed to lose four straight fights before getting the boot. After his last Octagon appearance, a one-sided loss to Yaotzin Meza, “Prince Albert” never fought professionally again.
14. Dustin PagueOriginal Draft Position: 6 (bantamweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 10-4
Post-TUF Record: 2-7 (1-5 UFC)
Pague was the second youngest fighter to make it into the house after Ferguson, and it felt like it. “The Disciple” was notable as one of the most visibly devout Christians in the house, but moreover, seemed alternately awed and intimidated that he was even there. He manhandled Gaudinot in his quarterfinal, then was similarly handled by Dillashaw in their semifinal. He got blasted in barely a minute by Albert at the finale, but received a UFC contract anyway. At that point, much like Albert, he lost four in a row before finally getting his walking papers. After three more fights in regional shows, Pague was done with professional MMA.
15. Dustin NeaceOriginal Draft Position: 6 (featherweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 23-17-1
Post-TUF Record: 2-4, 1 NC (0-1 UFC)
“The Beast” was the most experienced fighter at the elimination round by a mile, a 40-fight veteran in a room where nobody else had more than 30. However, he was a journeyman through and through, with losses to every next-level fighter he had faced. (His best pre-“TUF” win, ironically, was over a relatively green Bedford.)
Neace lost his quarterfinal to Corassani in what appeared to be a robbery, but given a chance at redemption at the finale, he ended up facing Caraway and getting thrashed. After his lone shot in the Octagon, Neace fought a few more times, losing to the good fighters while beating the not-good.
16. Stephen BassOriginal Draft Position: 7 (featherweight)
Pre-TUF Record: 10-0
Post-TUF Record: 1-3 (0-1 UFC)
Season 14 does not stand out for great and terrible nicknames in the way that some other seasons do, but “Bigfish” is easily the worst of the bunch as an otherwise meaningless pun on Bass’ surname. Bass came to the show with a squeaky-clean record compiled almost entirely in his native Georgia, but was chosen next to last, which seems like a solid value pick until you realize that Siler was last.
Bass was brutalized by Bermudez in their quarterfinal, eliminating him from the Season 14 tournament. He was invited back to compete at the finale, where he was beaten up badly by Brimage for two rounds before coming back for a lopsided third round as his foe gassed out. It wasn’t enough to win the fight, however, and he was tossed back to the small pond, where he went 1-2 before calling it a career.