Ever since the inception of The Ultimate Fighter reality television show there has been some question as to the validity of most of the fighters on the show. Most of the guys on the show are good fighters but I often find myself questioning whether or not they’re UFC caliber let alone UFC championship material.
Boy did Forrest Griffin ever prove me wrong. And Rashad Evans just sealed the deal.
It’s become clear now that while the fighters on the show might not immediately jump into the UFC and conquer the best guys in their weight class, they will eventually be very competitive and be able to compete and defeat some of the major names in the sport. Just ask Quinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell about that.
Forrest Griffin is the UFC light heavyweight champion and while many people thought that he was a good fighter there weren’t many people that believed that he could take on someone the caliber of Jackson and beat him in a five round fight. The same goes for Rashad Evans. Rashad is athletic, his standup has improved, and his wrestling is very good but there are very few of us who thought he stood a chance to beat Chuck Liddell. Even fewer of us thought that he could beat him at his own game.
Not only have these two fighters catapulted themselves into the world title picture in the UFC but fighters such as Kenny Florian and Josh Koscheck have put themselves in almost everyone’s top ten lists at their respective weight classes. They have developed a lot more since they’ve been on the show but the fact of the matter is that they’re still considered “TUF’ers.”
What we’re seeing is that these fighters may be very raw on the show but with a little bit of development after the show and some experience under their belt, they’re going to be great fighters. Griffin, Evans, and Florian are all great examples of this, specifically Evans. On the show he was considered the underdog fighter yet continued to impress each and every time he fought and now he’s undefeated in MMA with a win over one of the best fighters to ever enter the Octagon in Chuck Liddell. And not just any win. A devastating knockout win.
What we’re beginning to see now is that some of the guys from season five of the show are beginning to evolve into big names at lightweight. Guys like Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, and Gray Maynard are beginning to show the world that they’re not just guys from a reality show but that they’re true to life good fighters. I believe we’ll see that to a much lesser extent with season six as Mac Danzig was the only fighter who blew the rest of the competition out of the water but the verdict is still out on season seven. Amir Sadollah was the ultimate underdog going into the season but he has proven himself to be very worthy of his spot in the UFC. C.B. Dollaway could very well evolve into an elite fighter at some point down the road. Matt Brown, while not the best fighter on the show, proved himself to be vastly improved during his fight with Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 88.
In short, the show works. While we may bag on it from time to time, the show has been validated by guys like Griffin, Evans, Florian, and Koscheck. While the fighters on the show might look rudimentary in skill at the time of the show, the scouting that goes on is obviously working. It may not happen right away once they enter the UFC but that should be expected.
Sometimes I think we expect too much out of the winners of the show too soon. Is Amir Sadollah going to challenge Anderson Silva at middleweight or GSP at welterweight right now? No. Could he do so in the future? Anything’s possible. Just ask Forrest Griffin.