With season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter well and truly underway, and looking to be one of the most talent stacked in years, this is the perfect time to pay homage to some of the most talented fighters of TUF past, and this time its season 14.
Coached by Michael Bisping and Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller, 14 was a season that had everything from coach pranks, cowboy hat thefts and hair shaving, to staredown takedowns and one minute knockouts. Although this season had all the antics of a reality TV show, the absolute highlight has to be the fighters and fights the show produced.
The eventual featherweight season winner Diego Brandao looked like of the best TUF prospects we had ever seen while he was on the show. Brandao dispatched all three of his opponents on the show by first round KO, with two of those coming in under one minute. While we let that sink in, Brandao also went on to win the finale by first round armbar after both fighters were nearly knocked out earlier in the round, winning both fight of the night and submission of the night bonuses. Now you understand the hype that was around this man when he first entered the UFC.
While on the show Brandao was feared by every 145lber on the show for his speed and aggressive fighting style, even opening his fight against Steven Siler with a running flying knee! Diego also had his own share of drama on the show, arguing with Siler, punching holes in walls and nearly snapping the arm of current UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in a training session.
Brandao was truly a great TUF contestant giving fans a nugget of Brazilian entertainment in every episode, but sadly his subsequent UFC career has not lived up to the hype. Going 3-3 since winning the show, and being stopped in his last two fights, Brandao is on rocky ground at the moment, but he can always be relied on to put on an interesting performance on fight night. With a great mix of intensity, aggressiveness, KO power and a blackbelt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Diego is a tough out for anyone in the featherweight division, and if he can just get his wildness in check, he has all the potential for a top contender in his division.
The season’s featherweight runner-up Dennis Bermudez may have been one of the more subtle members on the season cast, but since leaving the show he has just gone from strength to strength.
Bermudez made his way to the finals with two KO’s and one submission, generally outclassing all his opponents on the show. The wrestling based fighter then fought Brandao in the final and almost KO’d him before succumbing to a late first round armbar.
Since losing the ultimate fighter title, Bermudez has gone on an incredible seven fight win streak in one of the most talent stacked divisions in the UFC. The once one dimensional wrestler has improved dramatically in his striking to become an extremely well rounded fighter, with his most impressive performance coming at UFC on Fox 12 when he submitted veteran Clay Guida rocketing him into the UFC top 10.
If Dennis is able to string together two or three more wins against top 10 opponents he will put himself in line for a shot at the title, and if he keeps fighting like he has done lately he will be a huge challenge for whoever is the champion at that time.
Probably one of the most potential rich fighters in the UFC, bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw took his TUF 14 loss and turned it around to become the king of the hill at 135lbs.
Dillashaw went into TUF as one of the favourites, being incredibly athletic, undefeated and coming from a highly regarded camp in Team Alpha Male. TJ made his stake for the TUF title clear, by running through all his opponents showing he has KO power, submission skills and able to go all three rounds. Dillashaw had his own share of problems on the show with his teammates not liking his supposed cockiness leading to them going hard on him in training almost ending in a fight breaking out between him and Marcus Brimage.
In the finals, Dillashaw met up with John Dodson where he was caught with a well-placed right hand and some follow up punches leading to a referee stoppage loss. Although some saw the stoppage as premature, TJ went back to the drawing board and completely decimated his next four opponents with complete ease, finishing two by KO and one by submission.
TJ was then paired up with contender Raphael Assuncao who was also on a four fight win streak. Dillashaw would go on to lose a split decision that many people again thought was the wrong decision.
After winning one more time, Dillashaw would get the opportunity of a lifetime when Assuncao dropped out of a bantamweight title match against Renan Barao, giving TJ the chance to fill the slot.
In what was possibly the greatest performance in UFC history, TJ dismantled the 32-1 Barao and finished him with a spectacular head kick in the fifth round to become the new champion. Since then a rematch between the two fell out and unknown Joe Soto took Renan’s place, but this was no match for Dillashaw who again finished the fight with a fifth round head kick KO.
Dillashaw has all the makings of a UFC great with unmatched footwork and speed, unorthodox striking, a strong wrestling and cardio for days, TJ could truly beat any bantamweight in the world, and many see him staying atop the 135lb throne for many fights to come.
The human cartoon John Dodson is very much a you love him or hate him fighter, but whatever you feel about his personality, you cannot deny the serious talent he has portrayed in his UFC career.
The 5’3” fighter used his insane speed and unique one punch KO power to knockout two of his TUF opponents winning himself KO of the season. In the finals he was bagged himself another KO over TJ Dillashaw and also knockout of the night honours.
Dodson was very entertaining on the show with his childlike personality and an episode of snitching to the rival team about his teammates training habits, but all this was shadowed by the skills he displayed during his time on TUF.
Since winning TUF 14, Dodson dropped to flyweight where he made his way to a title shot with back to back wins. Unfortunately for him he was bested by Demetrious Johnson in his title attempt but not before knocking down the champion a number of times in the fight. Since that loss, John Dodson has been on an absolute tear, knocking out Darrell Montague and former title challenger John Moraga with relative ease. In many people’s minds, Dodson has earned himself another title shot, but injuries have side-lined him for some time, and with a crop of new contenders coming up, Dodson may have to win another fight to get his title match, but one things for sure, John Dodson is a handful for anyone in the world at 125 or 135 lbs.