The Bottom Line: The All-‘Ultimate Fighter’ Team

By Todd Martin Jun 1, 2021

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the return of “The Ultimate Fighter” live on your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

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Lord knows we were all due a break from “The Ultimate Fighter.” The groundbreaking series was pivotal to the growth in popularity of MMA across the globe. It had also more than overstayed its welcome by the time we reached the mind boggling 28th season 13 years into the series. That the Ultimate Fighting Championship decided to give the show a rest for two and a half years was a pleasant development, and it gives the new season, which debuts on Tuesday, more of a sense of freshness than it has had in quite some time.

It will still be an uphill climb to reinvest fans in the reality show. There are only so many house arguments and coaches’ challenges one wants to digest. However, the show has more of a chance to reinterest fans because of that break. It also offers an opportunity to look back at “The Ultimate Fighter” with a bit of a perspective, as we have had some time to evaluate the UFC careers of all the fighters who appeared on the show. The list of the UFC’s most accomplished “Ultimate Fighter” alumni looks significantly different now than when the first season towered over everything else. Many great fighters who came from the series are not even thought of as TUF fighters at this point.

Putting together an All-“Ultimate Fighter” Team using each division that has been featured on the show is a trickier task than one might think. There are some weight classes with fierce competitions while others are surprisingly weak. Many fighters have also left their “Ultimate Fighter” weight classes, leaving competitions between fighters from different divisions. Here are the best fighters to have competed at each weight class in the history of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series:

Heavyweight: Rashad Evans

Evans started his UFC career as an undersized heavyweight before quickly moving to light heavyweight and then eventually dropping down to middleweight. Evans thrived despite his size disadvantage because of superior skill, using his wrestling background and adding a dangerous striking game. Evans won the UFC light heavyweight title and was involved in a marquee grudge match for the championship against former training partner Jon Jones. Evans’ time on the show came before it had a formal tournament bracket. As a result, he beat Tom Murphy, Mike Whitehead, Keith Jardine and Brad Imes to win the competition.

Light Heavyweight: Michael Bisping

Light heavyweight features one of the toughest battles for all-time TUF supremacy. No “Ultimate Fighter” alumnus has won as many UFC fights as Bisping, giving the former middleweight champion the slight nod over onetime UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin and current Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Ryan Bader. Bisping came from a different era of the show, when a highly regarded regional champion would go through the series rather than being invited directly to the UFC. Bisping backed up the hype with a noteworthy and colorful career that culminated with a magical 2016 campaign in which he beat Anderson Silva, won the title and avenged his most devastating loss to Dan Henderson to retain it.

Middleweight: Diego Sanchez

Strangely, few elite UFC middleweights started on “The Ultimate Fighter,” leaving this wide open for Sanchez to win based on his longstanding success at 155 pounds. The closest competition is probably Kelvin Gastelum, ironically considered a light middleweight in his own right but not compared to a fighter who has competed in the featherweight division. Robert Whittaker would take the crown, except he competed on the show at welterweight, 15 pounds above Sanchez. There does not figure to be many fighters like Sanchez who are still fighting in the UFC 15 years after their time on “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Welterweight: Kamaru Usman

There would be no shame to have the welterweight division represented by Whittaker or Tony Ferguson, but Usman has moved into rarified air with his performances in recent fights. Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport right now, Usman is a ferocious competitor who has distanced himself from the competition in a deep and talented weight class. That status did not come to Usman quickly, as he was largely anonymous, even after winning a season built around the American Top Team-Blackzilians rivalry. It was not until later that the public became aware of just what a special fighter the UFC had in Usman.

Lightweight: Nate Diaz

One would expect a who’s-who of UFC greats to have fought at lightweight on “The Ultimate Fighter.” It has probably been the sport’s best division over time, and the UFC has featured it 11 times on the show. Surprisingly, the list of alumni is not that strong, allowing Diaz to take the crown. Diaz’s run on the show was impressive, as he took out top two picks Gray Maynard and Corey Hill, as well as Robert Emerson and Manny Gamburyan, to win the tournament.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the return of “The Ultimate Fighter” live on your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

Featherweight: Yair Rodriguez

“The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” was not widely expected to be a strong edition of the show. At the time, MMA was not particularly popular in the region and the idea was to use the show to encourage more Latin Americans to get into the sport, like with “The Ultimate Fighter China.” In fact, there were some excellent fighters on the show, and the headliner was Rodriguez. The Mexican star is 8-1 with one no contest in the UFC, including a classic victory over Chan Sung Jung. He has a massive challenge next against Max Holloway in July.

Bantamweight: T.J. Dillashaw

Some of the best seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” have come when the UFC opened new weight classes, and that was the case for the Bisping-Jason Miller season, which featured bantamweights and featherweights for the first time. Dillashaw was a top prospect when he was brought onto the show but was upset in the final by John Dodson. While Dodson went onto a solid UFC career in his own right, it was Dillashaw who separated himself from the pack. He scored one of the biggest upsets in UFC history when he knocked out Renan Barao to win the bantamweight title and continued to thrive until a loss to Henry Cejudo and a drug test failure that has kept him out of action since.

Flyweight: Brandon Moreno

Moreno takes this one over Tim Elliott, who won “The Ultimate Fighter” flyweight tournament in which they both competed. Moreno was the No. 16 seed in that tournament but quickly showed that he was underestimated, turning in spirited performances time after time. Most recently, he took reigning flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo to the limit and will get a rematch for the title. The edge for Moreno over Elliott? He is 6-2-2 in the UFC, while Elliott is 6-9.

Women’s Featherweight: Macy Chiasson

The women’s 145-pound division has only been represented once on the show, and Chiasson gets the nod among those eight fighters. She won the tournament and has gone 5-1 in the UFC. Her length and reach causes problems for her opponents, and she is coming off of her highest-profile win to date over Marion Reneau.

Women’s Bantamweight: Julianna Pena

After much trash talking, “The Venezuelan Vixen” will finally get her shot against Amanda Nunes in a fight that has a good chance to define Pena’s career. Since winning “The Ultimate Fighter” tournament, Pena has picked up a number of key victories while also falling short by submission to Germaine de Randamie and Valentina Shevchenko. Of the women’s bantamweight fighters on the show, she has the highest chance of reaching the championship level.

Women’s Flyweight: Lauren Murphy

Nicco Montano was crowned the first UFC women’s flyweight champion by winning a tournament on “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2017, but she has not won a fight since. Murphy may have lost to Montano in that tournament, but she has gone on an improbable run since, winning four straight and six of eight. She is angling for a title fight against Shevchenko in a classic case of be careful what you wish for.

Women’s Strawweight: Rose Namajunas

This one was another tough call. Carla Esparza submitted Namajunas to win “The Ultimate Fighter” and the UFC women’s strawweight title. She has not exactly faded since then, either, as she has accumulated nine wins inside the Octagon. Still, it feels like Namajunas has the stronger overall resume, with two title reigns and victories over the likes of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Weili Zhang and Jessica Andrade. Advertisement
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