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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 2: Team Hughes vs. Team Franklin
Season 2 is similar to the landmark first season in that the talent level remained remarkably high; of the 16 fighters in the cast, six would end up fighting in the UFC at least 10 times. One would go on to win a UFC title, another would challenge for one and several more would spend time in the Top 10.
While Season 2 once again featured two weight classes, there was a much clearer divide this time. Where Season 1 brought in light heavyweights and middleweights that were designated in sometimes arbitrary fashion—“light heavyweight” Mike Swick and “middleweight” Chris Leben had fought one another at middleweight just months before the show—the second season consisted of heavyweights and welterweights and had essentially no crossover, even when several of the heavyweights dropped to 205 pounds after the show. Season 2 also expressly did not build towards a coaches’ fight, owing in part to Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin’s friendship and probably in part due to the size disparity between them.
1. Rashad EvansOriginal Draft Position: 9 (Team Franklin)
Pre-TUF Record: 5-0
Post-TUF Record: 14-8-1
Notable Achievements: "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 2 winner (heavyweight), UFC Light Heavyweight champion, member of UFC Hall of Fame
Hot on the heels of the first overall pick in our Season 1 redraft, Forrest Griffin, Evans completed the same hat trick: He was the Season 2 heavyweight winner, the second “TUF” alum to win a UFC title and is now a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. After defeating the gigantic Imes at the “TUF 2” finale, Evans promptly dropped to light heavyweight and went on a 6-0-1 tear that ended up with him wrapping a belt around his waist. It is a bit of historical irony that Evans won his light heavyweight belt by knocking out Griffin, his immediate predecessor.
In another parallel with Griffin, Evans was also the ninth fighter picked on his season, and it is similarly mystifying why he dropped so far. He had been a good collegiate wrestler—a junior college national champ before going on to be a solid two-year starter for a Big Ten school—and came to the show with a 5-0 record against respectable regional competition. Certainly, the 5-foot-10 Evans looked tiny next to Brad Imes and Dan Christison, two of the biggest heavyweights ever to compete in the UFC, but then again so did No. 1 overall pick and fellow future middleweight Keith Jardine.
While Evans did not manage to hang on to the strap, getting posterized by Lyoto Machida in his first defense, he remained among the elite of the elite and fought his way back to another title shot, where he was turned away by his onetime teammate, Jon Jones. Evans’ 14-8-1 UFC record is not indicative of how good he was or for how long, marred as it is by having stuck around long enough to lose his last five straight, including that brief foray at middleweight. Even considering its ugly final chapter, however, Evans’ career places him as far and away the No. 1 pick in the Season 2 “TUF” redraft.
Pre-TUF Record: 23-6
Post-TUF Record: 10-10 (6-6 UFC)
Notable Achievements: "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 2 winner (welterweight)
In hindsight, it wasn’t at all crazy to pick “Joe Daddy” second overall, as evidenced by him being selected in the exact same position in this redraft. What are crazy are the reasons why it made sense at the time. Stevenson was the most experienced competitor in the show’s brief history—at age 22, he already had a ridiculous 29 professional fights under his belt—thanks to a very prolific career that had started when he was just 16 years old.
After winning the welterweight tournament by turning away last-picked Luke Cummo at the finale, the stocky 5-foot-7 Stevenson dropped to lightweight in short order, where he strung together four straight wins over solid competition, including perennial standout Yves Edwards and “TUF 2” castmate Melvin Guillard. The win streak paved his way to a shot at the recently resurrected, then promptly vacated UFC title, opposite B.J. Penn. That title shot, of course, did not go as he would have liked, ending up as one of the iconic moments of Penn’s career and the start of his long-delayed lightweight reign.
While Stevenson would never again make it to a title fight, his 6-6 final tally with the promotion suffered for having exited on four straight losses. More importantly, the .500 record belies his status as a fighter who fought very tough competition every time out and usually put on a show, as evidenced by his four “Fight of the Night” and two “Submission of the Night” bonuses in 12 bouts.
Pre-TUF Record: 9-1-1
Post-TUF Record: 8-10-1 (5-7 UFC)
“The Dean of Mean” is every bit as hard to place in this draft order as he was to fit in the light heavyweight rankings during his heyday. Drafted first overall for his impressive pre-“TUF” record as well as for a fairly athletic frame that was still in the process of slimming down from his days as a small-college defensive lineman, Jardine acquitted himself well, losing a close decision on the show to eventual winner Evans, then redeeming himself at the finale by sawing one leg off of Kerry Schall, who had been in the original cast but had been replaced due to injury.
Once in the UFC, Jardine embarked on perhaps the most maddeningly inconsistent run of any Top 10 fighter of the post-“TUF” era, capable of beating champions or losing to UFC washouts on any given night. In four consecutive fights, Jardine knocked out future champ Griffin in both men’s primes; got flattened in under a minute by all-time flash in the pan Houston Alexander, who was making his UFC debut; outstruck Chuck Liddell, who had only lost his title in his previous fight, for a clear two rounds out of three; and then got flattened in under a minute by Wanderlei Silva, who was coming off of three straight losses and already in severe decline. And that was 2007, the best year of Jardine’s career.
In a career of baffling ups and downs, Jardine’s ups were impressive enough that he cracked the light heavyweight Top 5 in Sherdog’s rankings as well as those of Fightmatrix, and would likely have earned a title shot if he could just have strung together two wins in a row at any point after the Griffin fight. For that reason, he goes third in the redraft: warts, ultra-90s goatee and all.
Pre-TUF Record: 18-4-2, 1 NC
Post-TUF Record: 18-18, 2 NC (12-9, 1 NC UFC)
Same as in the Season 1 redraft, this season features a logjam where several fighters are very difficult to place in order. In this case, they are Guillard, Joshua Burkman and Marcus Davis, so if you would have picked them in a different order, just know you won’t get much argument here. “The Young Assassin” was, in late 2005, still quite young and still assassinating people. Much like Stevenson, Guillard was just 23 but already a veteran of over two dozen fights, thanks to an early start and a “fight anyone, anytime, in any weight class” attitude. Despite that, he wasn’t chosen until the No. 13 pick, making him the seventh out of eight welterweights taken.
After losing his quarterfinal to Burkman—a miserable style matchup, as Burkman was the only other cast member who could match Guillard’s athleticism, and a superior wrestler to boot—the Louisiana native returned at the finale and authored one of the more eye-opening performances of the evening. Matched up against Marcus Davis, a former professional boxer, Guillard outclassed him everywhere, giving Davis more than he could handle on the feet in between striking for practically uncontested takedowns. After the last such takedown, a hip toss, Guillard split Davis’ eye open with an elbow strike, prompting a doctor stoppage.
Guillard’s post-“TUF” career arc is equal parts high drama and low comedy. After dropping to lightweight, a wild initial run in the UFC ended with Guillard being briefly cut, but when he was re-signed in 2008, he went on an 8-1 tear. That was good enough to get him a spot in the lightweight Top 10—and some dates with fellow contenders. When Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller showed that Guillard’s submission defense remained a liability, he was done as a contender at the highest level. He then embarked on an increasingly depressing campaign marked by chronic weight failures, substance problems—Guillard may not be the only notable fighter to have multiple wins overturned due to recreational drugs, but he’s probably the first—and a dizzying series of fight camp changes. However, none of those things, nor even his current, miserable 10-fight winless streak that may not even be over yet, change the fact that for at least a brief moment, “The Young Assassin” fought his way into the Top 10 of the deepest division in the sport.
Pre-TUF Record: 13-3
Post-TUF Record: 15-15, 1 NC (6-12, 1 NC UFC)
One factor working against Burkman is that his performance on the show was mediocre. That counts for something, since “TUF” coaches aren’t drafting the future of the sport, or even of the UFC; they’re drafting to try and beat the other coach’s fighters on the show. For that reason, Burkman breaking his arm in his first fight on the show and being replaced with Jason Von Flue does hurt his case. However, it helps that his one fight was a head-to-head victory over Guillard.
At the finale, Burkman came back and announced himself by slamming castmate Sam Morgan through the Octagon floor in 21 seconds. From there, he embarked on a good early run in the UFC welterweight division, beating some solid fighters and losing only to contenders Jon Fitch and Karo Parisyan in the early going. He bounced out of the UFC after a run of losses, had a nice run in World Series of Fighting—avenging his loss to Fitch in resounding fashion on the way—and earned another call from the UFC.
Burkman’s record, both in the UFC and overall, suffer from an unbelievably awful finishing stretch; he lost five straight before the UFC finally released him, and if a loss to Hector Lombard had not been overturned due to Lombard’s PED test failure, his final run with the promotion would have been 1-8 with five losses by finish. That tarnishes, but does not erase the fact that he was a borderline Top 10 fighter in one of the toughest divisions in the sport for a while, and still managed some quality wins well into his twilight years.
6. Marcus DavisOriginal Draft Position: 7 (Team Franklin)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-2
Post-TUF Record: 19-1, 1 NC (9-6 UFC)
“The Irish Hand Grenade” was picked seventh by Rich Franklin (fourth among welterweights) in spite of a fairly modest 3-2 professional record. Whether he impressed with his relatively mature demeanor—he was one of the older fighters on the cast and a recovering alcoholic—or his boxing credentials, the pick ended up being a pretty good one, though not for quite a while.
In his first fight on the show, Davis—by his own choice, no less—was matched with Stevenson. Why a boxer and relative MMA neophyte wanted to take on a grappling specialist with almost 30 career fights is a head-scratcher, but the result was completely unsurprising: Stevenson took Davis down, manhandled him on the floor and elbowed the bejeezus out of him, eliciting a tap due to strikes in the first round. When he came back for the finale, Davis drew Guillard, who might have been expected to oblige him with a striking match. Unfortunately, the boxing mostly went Guillard’s way, as did the wrestling, and it was an elbow from top position that ended Davis’ night once again.
At 32, with two bad losses to UFC-level fighters, that might have been it for Davis, but rather than fade out he came roaring back, racking up five wins in six months on the regional circuit to earn a return invite to the UFC. From there, the fun continued, as he won eight of his first 10 fights after coming back, establishing himself as a popular action fighter and briefly flirting with a Top 15 ranking. Though his eventual decline due to age and mileage was a sharp one, his surprisingly strong UFC run nets him the No. 6 spot in this redraft.
7. Luke CummoOriginal Draft Position: 16 (Team Hughes)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-2
Post-TUF Record: 3-4
Cummo was one of the original iterations of the “TUF house” oddball, a fighter that viewers as well as castmates seemed to find at once likable and strange. And that was before we knew that he drank his own pee. Cummo was also one of the first UFC-level fighters to emerge from Serra-Longo MMA after Matt Serra himself, and he acquitted himself well. Picked dead last, probably due in part to his unimpressive record, unimposing physique and the aforementioned weirdness, Cummo fought his way to the final, which in and of itself qualifies him as a steal at the No. 16 spot. In that final, he was largely dominated by Stevenson, unable to defend the takedown and reduced to surviving on the mat. From there, Cummo stuck in the UFC for another couple of years, finishing with a 3-4 record in the promotion and choosing to retire after his release, rather than return to smaller shows.
Pre-TUF Record: 7-3
Post-TUF Record: 13-4 (1-1 UFC)
Chosen eighth overall by Hughes, fourth among heavyweights, “The Sandman” replaced the injured Schall shortly before the teams were picked. The titanic 6-foot-8 Christison came into the show with a fairly impressive record, even if much of it was at super heavyweight; his submission of Ben Rothwell might be the most impressive win on any cast member’s record that season. The 33-year-old possessed surprisingly well-rounded skills—in particular, a subtle and clever ground game—but was saddled with a glaring deficit in speed and athleticism, even compared to most heavyweights.
After losing to Seth Petruzelli on the show, he received a call back to fight fellow towering cast member Brad Imes. He made the most of it, armbarring Imes in a shockingly entertaining affair for a three-round fight between big heavyweights, picking up “Submission of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” bonuses along the way. From there, he took on former champ Frank Mir and lost a close decision in a fight in which he nearly submitted one of the best heavyweight grapplers in MMA history. (His draft position here is buoyed slightly by my opinion that Christison should have gotten the nod and been 2-0 in the UFC, which would have changed a lot of things.) After his UFC release, Christison returned to the regionals, compiling a respectable 12-3 record in various promotions before hanging them up.
9. Jorge GurgelOriginal Draft Position: 3 (Team Franklin)
Pre-TUF Record: 9-1
Post-TUF Record: 5-9 (3-5 UFC)
It’s easy to see why Gurgel was chosen at the No. 3 spot. He was a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt whose record consisted of nine wins—all by submission—and his one loss was by heel hook to Masakazu Imanari, which is as close as MMA gets to a free space. It’s also easy to explain why he did not quite pan out at the level one would expect from that high a draft pick. After all, Gurgel is arguably the archetype of the expert grappler who preferred to stand and bang, even to his own strategic detriment. Even if that phenomenon is slightly overstated in his case, the Brazilian by way of Cincinnati put together a decent 3-5 mark in the UFC. In the “moral victories” department, he stood and banged effectively enough against Diego Saraiva at UFC 73 that his fellow BJJ black belt was reduced to trying to pull guard to escape the beating, so there’s always that.
10. Brad ImesOriginal Draft Position: 15 (Team Franklin)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-0
Post-TUF Record: 10-7 (0-3 UFC)
“The Hillbilly Heartthrob,” despite that atrocious nickname, far exceeded the expectations of the last heavyweight picked, making the final just as his counterpart Cummo did. Once there, he gave future champ and hall of famer Evans a surprisingly tough time; though Evans rightfully won the decision, he appeared to be the more fatigued man in the final round, and Imes was nailing him with punches and even took him down late. While Imes never managed a UFC win, he became briefly famous a few years later for winning back-to-back fights via gogoplata, a finish that very few fighters—let alone heavyweights—have managed even once.
11. Mike WhiteheadOriginal Draft Position: 4 (Team Hughes)
Pre-TUF Record: 9-4
Post-TUF Record: 18-4 (0-1 UFC)
All things considered, Whitehead may be the bust of the Season 2 draft. Chosen fourth overall—ahead of every other heavyweight in the cast besides Jardine, in other words—his run on the show is memorable chiefly for a dreadful loss to Evans in which he all but quit fighting in the final minute. His performance stunned UFC President Dana White and drove his coach, Hughes, to near apoplexy. Invited to fight Jardine in a light heavyweight bout at UFC 57 a few months after the show, Whitehead lost a decision and returned to the regional circuit. He would go on to put together an 18-3 record at heavyweight and light heavyweight, interrupted by a nearly four-year prison stay for sexual assault.
12. Anthony TorresOriginal Draft Position: 11 (Team Franklin)
Pre-TUF Record: 4-0
Post-TUF Record: 1-3 (1-1 UFC)
Among the Season 2 fighters whose careers fizzled out fairly quickly after the show, Torres’ body of work actually stands up better than many. Getting bounced from the tournament by the last guy picked is a bad look, but Torres’ lone UFC win was over Pat Healy, who was making his UFC debut as well, having finished Carlos Condit in his previous fight. Healy was a very good fighter, with scalps of Paul Daley and Dan Hardy on his wall alongside Condit’s—all by submission—and Torres tapped him out with ease. Even if Torres would go on to not win another fight, Healy is a better post-“TUF” win than anyone else in the bottom third of this draft can boast.
13. Seth PetruzelliOriginal Draft Position: 5 (Team Franklin)
Pre-TUF Record: 7-2
Post-TUF Record: 7-6 (0-4 UFC)
Like several other heavyweight cast members, “The Silverback” appeared better suited, physically, to light heavyweight. Unlike Whitehead and Torres, Petruzelli actually won a fight on the show, outpointing Christison for three rounds, but was beat up by Imes in a manner more severe than the split scorecards indicated. Post-“TUF,” Petruzelli went 0-4 across two stints in the UFC, and is probably best remembered today for knocking out Kevin Ferguson—and EliteXC—with “the jab heard ‘round the world.”
14. Tom MurphyOriginal Draft Position: 12 (Team Hughes)
Pre-TUF Record: 2-0
Post-TUF Record: 4-0 (1-0 UFC)
It may seem odd to draft Murphy behind several fighters who never managed a win in the UFC, but there just isn’t much to recommend him. After losing his quarterfinal to Evans in a crushingly dull fight that is only memorable today for Evans infuriating Hughes with his “showboating,” Murphy was brought back for UFC 58, which bore the tag line “USA vs. Canada.” There, he was matched up against Icho Larenas, who did in fact live in Canada but was otherwise one of the least qualified fighters ever to appear in the modern-era UFC. Murphy would fight three more times, sporadically, all three wins coming against fighters who either had losing records or fewer than four career fights.
15. Rob MacDonaldOriginal Draft Position: 14 (Team Hughes)
Pre-TUF Record: 3-0
Post-TUF Record: 2-4 (1-2 UFC)
MacDonald had a rough time of it on the show. He came off as a bit of a whiner—again, keeping in mind that editing makes the narrative and reality television is television first, reality second—and getting knocked out of the tournament by the guy picked after him obviously stings. While he did end up with a win in the UFC, Kristian Rothaermel was a fellow “TUF” casualty who ended up not being a UFC-level fighter either. If anything, MacDonald’s most impressive win is probably his knockout of Eliot Marshall, immediately before Marshall’s own turn on the show.
16. Sam MorganOriginal Draft Position: 10 (Team Hughes)
Pre-TUF Record: 15-6
Post-TUF Record: 3-6 (0-2 UFC)
“The Squeeze” squeezes into last place in the Season 2 redraft, unfortunately. While he was one of the more experienced cast members, with a submission of Aaron Riley and a blitz upset of Duane Ludwig giving him one of the best résumés of any welterweight in the cast, he was chosen 10th and then managed not even to live up to that modest draft position. In his elimination match, he was knocked out by last pick Cummo. At the finale, he was on the receiving end of one of the most brutal slam knockouts in Octagon history.
When he got a return invitation to the UFC a few fights later, he was mauled to the tune of 30-26 and 30-23 scorecards by Forrest Petz, who would finish up 2-5 in the promotion. And while the Minnesotan did end up winning three fights after his run on the show, the fact that one of them was over Shannon Ritch is less damning than the fact that Ritch was the most impressive of the three. Morgan’s post-“TUF” wins were over Ritch, the man with the most losses in MMA history; Kenneth Allen, who was 0-8 at the time and is now 1-41; and Sam Jackson, who was 3-12 at the time and retired at 10-22. It was a brutal finishing stretch to an otherwise solid career, and thus places him dead last in a draft that only takes into account what took place after the fighters were picked.