The Ultimate Fighter has had its fair share of highs and lows throughout the show’s history. If you ask many, they will tell you that the show has been in a deep lull for years.
After a disappointing sixteenth season of the Ultimate Fighter, the UFC needed a breath of fresh air for the show. Season 17 needed to be something special or else the show could have been all but done for.
Before the season aired, Dana White did his usual promoter shtick and told the media at a luncheon that, “this next season is so awesome and so badass. We have a guy on this season of The Ultimate Fighter, every fight he’s in, someone goes to the hospital.”
It all sounded promising, but fans were skeptical. The last season of the show was a dud and it’s White’s job to make anything that comes from his product sound amazing.
As fate would have it, TUF 17: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen ended up becoming one of the best Ultimate Fighter seasons in the history of the show.
While the actual season of the show was greatly entertaining, what’s been more impressive is what many of the show’s competitors have done in the UFC since leaving the house. Take a look below as we analyze the success of TUF 17’s cast.
Dylan Andrews (17-5, 1 NC)
UFC Record: 2-1
Last Fight: Loss (TKO due to injury) to Clint Hester
Analysis: Andrews was the last pick on the show but made it all the way to the tournament semi-finals before he ran into the TUF 17 buzz saw Uriah Hall. Since his time on the show Andrews has accrued a 2-1 record inside the Octagon picking up knockout wins over cast mate Jimmy Quinlan and Papy Abedi. Andrews’s only loss inside the UFC came to fellow TUF 17er Clint Hester, where Andrews dislocated his shoulder after throwing a punch. While Andrews is a bit green in the grappling department, his stand-up skills make him a significant threat in the UFC’s middleweight division.
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel (21-7)
UFC Record: 1-1
Last Fight: Loss (Unanimous Decision) to Brad Tavares
Analysis: McDaniel came into the house as one of the favorites to win the entire tournament, but fell short against eventual finalists Kelvin Gastelum and Uriah Hall. In the UFC, McDaniel defeated TUF 17 cast mate Gilbert Smith via submission and lost a close decision to top 15 middleweight Brad Tavares. McDaniel has all of the physical tools to be a force in the UFC, but has showcased more than one mental lapse in his MMA career. If McDaniel can get passed his mental mistakes he will become one of the UFC’s up and coming stars.
Clint Hester (10-3)
UFC Record: 3-0
Last Fight: Win (Unanimous Decision) over Andy Enz
Analysis: Hester has become one of the best products of the Ultimate Fighter show in recent memory. After being ousted in the quarterfinals by Jimmy Quinlan, Hester found his sweet spot in training and has reeled off three straight spectacular wins in the UFC. It all started with a brutal standing elbow knockout of Bristol Marunde at the TUF 17 finale, which was then followed up by wins over Dylan Andrews and Andy Enz. Hester has gone on record to state that 2014 is his year to grow as a fighter and 2015 will be the year he makes big strides up the UFC rankings. Should Hester continue to show rapid improvement, I don’t doubt him one bit.
Luke Barnatt (8-0)
UFC Record: 3-0
Last Fight: Win (TKO) over Mats Nilsson
Analysis: Barnatt was knocked out by Dylan Andrews during in the show’s quarterfinals but has become one of TUF 17’s best performers inside the UFC. Barnatt’s UFC debut was an all out brawl with cast mate Collin Hart, which he won by unanimous decision. Since then, Barnatt has picked up brutal stoppage wins over Andrew Craig and most recently Mats Nilsson. Barnatt’s victory over Craig was easily his best performance inside the Octagon as he destroyed a fighter who was on the verge of becoming a top UFC middleweight. It’s ]evident that Barnatt has been working on all aspects of his game since leaving the TUF house, but his striking has seen the sharpest improvement. In his win over Nilsson, Barnatt was able to work a solid jab to keep his shorter opponent at bay before knocking him out in the first round. Luke Barnatt is a name you’ll want to remember, folks.
Uriah Hall (8-4)
UFC Record: 1-2
Last Fight: Win (TKO) over Chris Leben
Analysis: Uriah Hall was TUF 17’s brightest star during the season, but failed to show the same promise once inside the UFC. Hall opened up his UFC career with back to back decision losses to Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard. After a bit of soul searching, Hall returned with a vengeance this past December, dismantling veteran Chris Leben en route to a first round TKO. Hall was easily the most feared fighter on TUF 17 and was often compared to former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. If his fight with Leben is any indication, Hall has made the proper changes to his mentality and training and could become a top middleweight contender within a year.
Kelvin Gastelum (7-0)
UFC Record: 2-0
Last Fight: Win (submission) over Brian Melancon
Analysis: Gastelum was TUF 17’s winner and most impressive fighter. After being the second to last pick on the show, Gastelum finished everyone of his opponent’s in the house with relative ease. In the show’s final, Gastelum displayed the heart and tenacity to defeat a bigger and stronger opponent in Uriah Hall. Gastelum has only competed once since defeating hall, a first round demolition of Brian Melancon in August of 2013. At the age of 22, Gastelum has the highest ceiling we’ve seen out of a TUF winner yet. With years of hard training and discipline, Gastelum could find himself contending for a title in the very near future. You can catch Gastelum headlining the UFC 171 prelims on Fox Sports 2 this weekend opposite Rick Story.
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