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4/13/16: Top seasons of The Ultimate Fighter
With The Ultimate Fighter returning next week, and speculation now regarding the state of the UFC’s plans for a flyweight season of the long running reality series, today I look at my favorite seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. It’s a subjective list, so let us know your thoughts on the show by sending in your list with your reasoning to MMATorchEditor@gmail.com!
5. Season Fourteen (Bisping vs. Miller): After years of stagnation and going deeper and deeper down the ranks in the same divisions, the 14th season brought the featherweight and bantamweight divisions into the fold, bringing in a significant group of needed talent into the lower weight classes. That’s especially true for the bantamweight division, where runner-up T.J. Dillashaw wound up capturing the UFC Bantamweight Championship. Bantamweight winner John Dodson is returning to the division after challenging for the Flyweight Title twice, and fighters like Dennis Bermudez and Bryan Caraway continue to be competitive in the top 15 of their respective fields.
4. Season Fifteen (Faber vs. Cruz): It’s unfortunate the experimental live season was the only one we got, because it brought a different feel to a show in need of something new. Of course, keeping fighters in the house in Las Vegas for 12 weeks instead of six was a much greater burden, but we got a new rash of competitive lightweight talent, including winner Michael Chiesa and current top ten fighter Al Iaquinta. It was a refreshing season, and attempting a variation of it again in the future would be welcome.
3. Season One (Liddell vs. Couture): The very first season came off as a work in progress, as they figured out during the season what the show was going to be. After several competition eliminations, they settled in on having the fighters simply fight, and it changed the show and the UFC’s future. The landmark debut season was a game changer for Zuffa, with the finale bringing one of the greatest and craziest fights in UFC history.
2. Season Three (Ortiz vs. Shamrock): The season that brought the biggest business coaches fight ever was must-see TV back in 2006. The short fuse of Ken Shamrock allowed Tito Ortiz to be the more reasonable and sympathetic figure between the two, and it was one of the more eminently watchable seasons of the program ever. That season brought Michael Bisping into the fold, and he’s kept himself a significantly relevant figure ever since.
1. Season Five (Penn vs. Pulver): From B.J. Penn punking Jens Pulver by asking who wanted to be on his team right off the bat to great fights and some of the best talent the show has produced, season five of The Ultimate Fighter was the show’s peak early on. Bringing the UFC several mainstays still going in 2016 in Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Manny Gamburyan, Cole Miller, and Gray Maynard, the show’s first lightweight season was significant, entertaining, and my favorite season overall.