When looking back over the bouts available for considering it’s interesting to note how few were actually closely-contested. There are some forgettable decisions out there, some fast finishes, and a few solid-but-spectacular showdowns. At the top of the heap where the latter is concerned lies Herman-Grove. Both were clearly the cream of the crop in their respective division and had endeared themselves to separate sets of fans by showing a lot of personality on the show. The fight wasn’t necessarily a classic, but it was competitive and involved a little of everything. Grove got the win, but each man emerged as an athlete to watch after the collision’s conclusion. Gamburyan wasn’t given a lot of credit going into TUF 5. Though he was an experienced fighter, his 5’5” frame gave fans doubt about his ability to compete against larger foes. However, “The Anvil” made it clear size counts but not as much as technique and marched his way to the final by beating Matt Wiman and Joe Lauzon (both of whom are still on the UFC roster). He also looked like he had the final in hand too before he injured his shoulder mid-match, giving Diaz – a killer in his own right – an easy opening to earn a submission victory. Dodson is one of the top 125ers out there these days but for the sake of getting on TUF 14 he was willing to fight as a bantamweight. In a lot of ways, Dillashaw was seen as a favorite based on his size advantage, seasoning at Team Alpha Male, and hype as an unbeaten up-and-comer. Still, fights play out in the Octagon rather than on paper, and “The Magician” pulled off an impressive trick in stopping Dillashaw with strikes less than two minutes into their meeting. This clash is arguably the least competitive of the bunch but highly entertaining nonetheless. In addition to capping off a good season featuring the likes of Kimbo Slice as a contestant and two heated rivals in Quinton Jackson-Rashad Evans as opposing coaches, the bout pitted a seasoned veteran in Nelson against a heavy-handed prospect in Schaub. Experience won out in the end, with “Big Country” blasting Schaub in the opening round. Both men remain on the roster to this day and have picked up some high-profile wins along the way, something rarely said about both members of a TUF final. Was there ever any doubt Griffin-Bonnar would be at the top of this list? Fittingly, the first season delivered the biggest TUF final in history thanks to the incredible heart shown by both Griffin and Bonnar. The bout was sloppy at best, as much of MMA still was nearly a decade ago, but the affable fighters gave it their all to the delight of fans everywhere. Their tilt is credited with launching the UFC’s popularity and saving a company Zuffa was ready to sell after losing tens of millions of dollars building up the brand. Bonnar and Griffin will forever be linked due to their bout and were even inducted into the Hall of Fame together.
In less than a week the
UFC will crown two new Ultimate Fighter winners with the historic footnote of one becoming the first ever female TUF champ. How memorable the match-ups are remains to be seen, as the male bracket was a mess due to byes stemming from two separate fighters failing to make weight. Regardless, the reality franchise has delivered plenty of entertainment over the years while awarding a crystal trophy and six-figure contract to some hungry competitor looking for a shot at stardom. Here are the five best… (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale