We are currently three weeks deep into the taping of the upcoming tenth season of Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter. This season is set to feature nothing but the big boys as sixteen larger than life warriors will be duking it out to determine the king of the heavyweight Ultimate Fighter crop.
The Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights could already be considered the most highly anticipated show of the series largely in part of the recent announcement that none other than Kevin Ferguson, aka Kimbo Slice was expected to enter the shark tank.
The timing couldn’t be any better. I don’t think that I’m alone in saying that the most recent season of the show was the most lackluster of the series to date. Never have I been as unengaged with a season of TUF before season nine.
The most successful television show in mixed martial arts needed a drastic change, or a makeover in a sense. It needed something, and it looks like it has found its answer in the form of sixteen mammoth sized brawlers willing to put their bodies on the line in the pursuit of their dream to become a UFC heavyweight.
A full list of the men expected to appear on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter was recently released by the popular U.K. newspaper, The Sun. Among them are four former professional football players, a portly wrecking machine, a thugged out Internet sensation, UFC veterans and MMA rookies alike, The Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights is sure to have quite the variety of personalities and schools of thought.
Come along as I try to help you make some sense of who these guys are, and what they’re all about. Let’s kick things off with the Internet sensation from Miami.
*Kimbo Slice: You know his resume. Former porn star bodyguard out of Miami turned YouTube brawler superstar. 6’2″, about 230 pounds, 35 years of age, massive beard, heavy hands, glass jaw. He was told by UFC President Dana White that the only chance he had of fighting in the UFC was if he made it through a season of The Ultimate Fighter. You have to give props to Kimbo for humbling himself and manning up to the challenge. Without a doubt, all eyes will be on Kimbo during the tenth season.
*Roy Nelson: Appearances can often be deceiving, especially in the case of Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Sporting a 13-4 record and a pot belly that would make Tank Abbott jealous, Nelson is my hands down favorite to win the tenth season. The plus sized heavyweight brawler doesn’t make a habit of letting his size slow him down. He is explosive, fast, has heavy hands, and a lot of people have no idea that he is actually a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. He’s dropped his last two bouts to the likes of Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson, but the bout with “The Snowman” could have easily gone either way. Prior to those defeats Nelson was coming off of a five fight win streak in the IFL, knocking out four of his five victims.
*Marcus Jones: If it wasn’t for the over-qualified Nelson making the cast for the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, Jones would be my tentative favorite for the upcoming show. Jones has kind of been flying under the radar since making the transition to mixed martial arts from professional football back in October of 2007. A first round draft pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, Jones started and finished his professional football career as a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jones has a world of potential and has been described by many as having freakish, inhuman strength. He has been doing his fight training at Gracie Tampa with Rob Kahn so you know his submission defense should be up to par. At 6’6″ and 260 athletic pounds Jones will be a serious force to be reckoned with in the house.
*Wes Shivers: Another one of the four total former NFL football players to make the cast this season. Shivers is 6’8″ and walks around near the 300 pound mark. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans but ended up with the Atlanta Falcons where he played briefly during the 2000 season before leaving the sport to pursue a career in fighting. He is known for his knockout power and went undefeated as an amateur before recently being knocked out as a pro by Brad “Mongo” Tidwell in late 2008.
*Scott Junk: A mountain of a man. The 6’1″, 265 pound Scott Junk is yet another of the heavyweights on this season that will be testing the scales. He holds a 6-2 record with his lone two defeats coming to former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez in Junk’s MMA debut and Christian Wellisch in his last bout that took place at UFC 76. Junk lost in his octagon debut by way of heel hook in the first round. Junk has also competed in kickboxing for the K-1 promotion where he wound up going 0-2.
*Jim York: A native of Invercargill, New Zealand, it’s not difficult to assess how “Big” Jim York acquired his nickname. This 33 year old brawler stand at 6’1″ and tips the scales at the 260 pound mark. He brings a 10-2 record to the show with one of his losses coming in his professional debut and the second defeat going to Yoshihiro “Kiss” Nakao at Sengoku in May of 2008. York bounced back from that loss in his most recent outing where he stopped James “Colossus” Thompson by TKO in a brutal back and forth affair at a Sengoku event held in March of 2008.
*Wes Sims: Zero wins and three defeats in the UFC. It’s no mystery as to how Sims wound up on this season of The Ultimate Fighter and that was to stir the pot and hopefully piss Kimbo off. Kimbo is a relatively docile man by nature that prefers for his fists to do the talking. Being docile and respectful does nothing for ratings though. They’re going to need for someone to get underneath Kimbo’s skin to force a reaction and boost ratings in the process. Sims is without question that man. He made his controversial octagon debut back at UFC 43 where he was disqualified for illegally stomping on future heavyweight champion Frank Mir‘s head several times during their bout. Sims made his return at UFC 46 only to get knocked out by Mir in the rematch, and Mike Kyle sent him packing permanently with a first round knockout at UFC 47. If there’s one thing Sims is good at it’s being loud and obnoxious when need be. Just don’t say I didn’t tell you so if there ends up being some serious drama involving Sims during the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
*Matt Mitrione: Played for the New York Giants during the 2002 season and spent some time with the Minnesota Vikings just prior to leaving the NFL. It appears as though Mitrione has had some amateur experience but has yet to record his first fight as a professional. He currently trains with UFC heavyweight veteran Jake O’Brien.
*Mike Wessel: Another man with prior UFC experience, Wessell accepted his first and only prior fight with the UFC on less than one week’s notice and came up on the losing end of a second round TKO at the hands of Antoni Hardonk. Prior to his octagon debut Wessel had strung together an unblemished record of 6-0. He had signed a four-fight deal with the UFC just before his fight with Hardonk and his decision to compete on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He was a former strength & conditioning coach for the University of Arkansas‘ football program before ultimately deciding to pursue his fighting career full time.
*Justin Wren: Justin is the youngest fighter on the tenth season at just 22 years of age. This standout former wrestler entered the world of fighting after becoming injured while competing in the Olympics. He is currently 6-1 as a professional with five of his wins coming by either knockout or TKO and the left over victory coming by way of submission. Wren currently trains with UFC veteran and Jiu-Jitsu black belt Travis Lutter.
*Jon Madsen: Madsen makes his home at The HIT Squad training with former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes and UFC veteran Robbie Lawler. He has had just one professional fight up to this point in his career and it went well for him, knocking out Cody Griffen in the very first round at Crossroads Combat Challenge 3 in May of 2008.
*Brendan Schaub: Brendan was a fullback for the University of Colorado before going on to spend a brief amount of time with the Buffalo Bills. Schaub eventually played for the Arena Football League’s Utah Blaze before making the decision to train full time in mixed martial arts. He has put together an impressive record of 4-0 with four first round TKO’s in lightning quick fashion. He was the 2008 Colorado Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Absolute Advanced Grand Champion on top of becoming a Golden Gloves boxing champion. He has been a long time training partner to UFC heavyweight title contender Shane Carwin and has spent some of his time training out of Greg Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Schaub is another guy with the potential to go all the way this season.
*Zak Jensen: Known as a powerful wrestler with knockout ability, Jensen has put together a record of 7-3 during his time fighting professionally. He has suffered losses to the likes of Brad Imes and Mike Whitehead during the course of his career. Jensen’s most recent appearance saw him knocking out Matt Hirsch in the first round at Brutaal: Fight Night on February of 2008.
*Darrill Schoonover: Schoonover is one of the early favorites to win the whole thing just based on his impressive 10-0 record alone. Finishing half of his fights by knockout and the other half by submission, this imposing 23 year old Texan showed in his most recent fight that he has what it takes to get the job done in the later rounds as he stopped the highly touted Rex Richards by TKO in the fourth round of their battle that took place at Shark Fights 4 in May of 2009.
*Abe Wagner: Wagner fights out of Nebraska and currently holds a professional MMA record of 6-2. He’s currently riding a three fight win streak with his most recent victory coming in the form of a split decision over Sherman Pendergrast at VFC 25 in December of 2008.
*Tom Blackledge: Blackledge is a tougher than nails Brit that makes a serious habit of finishing his fights. Sporting a record of 8-6, Blackledge has finished four of his wins by either TKO or knockout, and the remaining four by tapout. He recently bounced back from a two fight losing skid that included a defeat at the hands of UFC veteran Stefan Struve by catching Tatsuya Mizuno in a rear-naked choke in the first round of their M-1 Challenge bout that took place in April of 2009.
Quite frankly, the possibility of Kimbo winning this season of The Ultimate Fighter is not a possibility. Roy Nelson may appear similar to some of the guys that Slice assaulted during his Internet boxing days but he’s a whole different animal. Nelson would handle Kimbo in any manner he sees fit. Knockout, submission or ground and pound, it’s not even close.
Let’s throw Nelson right out of the equation. It makes no difference for Kimbo. Marcus Jones takes his lunch money from him, Schoonover embarrasses him and Schaub turns him into a highlight reel.
On the other side of that coin there should definitely be a fight or two that Kimbo can win in the house. I’d give him a good chance against guys like Jim York, Scott Junk, Wes Sims and MMA rookie Matt Mitrione. However, I wouldn’t bet a dime on Kimbo against anyone in the house at this point.
As much as the upcoming tenth season seems like it’s all about Kimbo, it’s really not. It’s about showcasing some of the best up and coming talent the heavyweight division currently has to offer and hopefully add some credibility to the promotion’s biggest weight class.
The UFC’s heavyweight division seems exciting and fresh right now with fighters like Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos that all have the potential to take the weight class by the horns. However, it’s just a matter of about a year before the weight class sorts itself out and there will be another need for some fresh blood for the UFC to buld up. Fresh faces such as Marcus Jones, Darrill Schoonover and Brendan Schaub could very well lead that charge into the next decade.