With Uriah Hall making his return to the Octagon following a brutal ending to his fight against Chris Weidman at UFC 261 in April, the Run It Back boys have taken this weekend as an opportunity to reflect on the top ‘TUF’ runners-up of all time.
Before we jump straight into the Top 5, we wanted to highlight the fighters who didn’t quite make it to the upper echelons of the list, but no doubt made an impact in their UFC run…
15 – Patrick Cote (TUF 4)
14 – Vinny Magalhaes (TUF 8)
13 – Roxanne Modafferi (TUF 26)
12 – Manny Gamburyan (TUF 5)
11 – Ramsey Nijem – (TUF 13)
10 – Dhiego Lima (TUF 25)
9 – Brendan Schaub (TUF 10)
8 – Chris Lytle (TUF 4)
7 – Michael Johnson (TUF 12)
6 – Al Iaquinta (TUF 15)
Now, onto our top 5…
5. Stephan Bonnar (TUF 1)
Just as the company was staring down the barrel of negative publicity and declining pay per views, two stars emerged at the TUF 1 finale to catapult the sport’s mainstream popularity.
In fact, many fight fans consider the bout between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin as being the most pertinent in the company’s history.
Despite losing the finale, Bonar displayed enormous heart and fighting spirit, which was enough to convince Dana White to give ‘The American Psycho’ a UFC contract for his troubles.
Bonnar went onto having a solid, yet unspectacular, MMA career – finishing with modest 15 wins and 9 losses. However, it’s worth noting that Bonnar shared the cage with some of the all-time greats, including; Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz.
As a badge of honour, the Indiana native can at least boast that he took all bar one of the above legends to the judge’s scorecards – even if the results didn’t go his way.
4. Kenny Florian (TUF 1)
Much alike Bonnar, Kenny Florian also competed on TUF 1 – facing off against Diego Sanchez in the middleweight finale.
However, unlike Bonnar v Griffin, the middleweight finale was somewhat of a white-wash – with Sanchez knocking Florian out 2:49 into the very first round. Nevertheless, Florian’s talent on the show was enough to warrant a UFC contract, where he went on to amass a record of 12-4 with the company.
He fought for the Lightweight Championship on two occasions (UFC 64 and UFC 101) and also competed for the Featherweight strap at UFC 136.
Unfortunately, the man dubbed “KenFlo” never claimed gold, despite coming agonisingly close on multiple occasions.
3. Uriah Hall (TUF 17)
Uriah Hall will undoubtedly go down in TUF history as having one of the most impressive runs ever seen on the show.
After some of the most vicious finishes in TUF history, “Prime Time” landed himself in the season finale – where everybody expected him to make short work of his opponent (and the last picked contested on the show) Kelvin Gastelum.
However, in a result that shocked many, Gastelum won the fight via split decision, utilysing a grappling heavy approach to neutralise the explosive striker. In the end, it mattered little, as Uriah Hall had already turned enough heads to warrant a place on the UFC roster.
He has since gone on to a 10-7 record with the company and – regretfully – has never really cemented himself amongst the division elite, having lost fights at critical points throughout his career to the likes of Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa, both of whom went on to fight for the Middleweight Championship.
Since the Costa loss, Hall has gone on a 4-fight winning streak and enters this weekend’s fight against Sean Strickland full of momentum.
It remains to be seen if we will ever see Uriah Hall reach the heights we all expected during his time on the show. The clock is ticking.
2. T.J Dillashaw
Fresh off a triumphant return last weekend, this list wouldn’t be complete without a little TJ Dillashaw.
After losing to John Dodson in the season finale, Dillashaw was promptly signed to the UFC, where he made an immediate impact – winning his first 4 fights in quick succession.
Despite dropping a controversial split decision to Raphael Assuncao at UFC Fight Night 29, Dillashaw was always destined for greatness, and found himself holding the 12 pounds of Bantamweight gold less than 12 months later.
Despite eventually losing the belt at UFC Fight Night 81, Dillashaw worked his way back into title contention, and earnt himself a shot at former team-mate Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217. Dillashaw, or as he would soon be dubbed ‘Killashaw’, before successfully defending the belt in a highly anticipated rematch with the knockout artist at UFC 227.
In a bid to cement his legacy amongst the all-time greats, Dillashaw attempted to drop down to the flyweight division where he would take on Henry Cejudo in a bid to become just the third person to hold two UFC Championships at the same time.
However ‘Triple C’ put a vicious end to those dreams in just 32 seconds, with a knockout that shocked many onlookers.
Nothing that occurred during the fight was as shocking as the revelation two months later that Dillashaw had failed a USADA drug test for using Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (better known as EPO). As a result, he was suspended for 2 years, and stripped of his Bantamweight belt.
TJ returned to action last weekend to take a close split-decision victory against Cory Sandhagen – quickly reinstating himself as a force to be reckoned with at the top of the 135 pound division and quieting any doubters who wondered if Dillashaw may have lost a step in his absence from the sport.
1. Rose Namajunas
Daniel Cormier’s screams of “THUG ROSE! THUG ROSE! THUG ROSE!” will be etched into UFC broadcasting history until the end of time. Such is the significance of her rise to fame following her run on TUF 20 – during which time she dominated her way through the house – before going down to Carla Espaza in the 2014 finale.
Thug Rosa was quick to make amends following the loss, amassing three quick victories against Angela Hill, Paige VanZant and Tecia Torres, before losing a dubious split decision loss to Polish sensation Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Not one to be overcome in the face of adversity, Thug Rose bounced back strongly with a Rear Naked Choke over Michelle Waterson, earning herself a shot at the (then) undefeated champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Heading into the fight at UFC 217, almost nobody gave Thug Rose a chance to leave Maddison Square Garden with the Strawweight gold.
However, in an ending that rivalled the iconic head kick knockout of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, Thug Rose shocked the world with an impressive combination 3:03 into the very first round, ending Jedrzejczyk’s reign at the top of Women’s MMA.
Rose would rematch with Jedrzejczyk less than 5 months later, in a match that will go down as one of the most competitive women’s title fights in UFC history. Thug Rose proved victorious once more, prevailing by unanimous decision after a 5-round war.
Despite momentarily losing the belt to Jessica Andrade courtesy of a brutal slam KO at UFC 237, Thug Rose bounced back to avenge her loss at UFC 251, which set the scene for one of the most highly anticipated title fights of all time against Chinese phenom Zhang Weili, who was riding an incredible 21-fight win streak, the third longest active win streak in all of MMA at the time.
Much like the first Joanna fight, very few people in MMA circles gave Thug Rose much of a chance at UFC 261, and she once against silenced the doubters with yet another iconic knockout in the first round – all but cementing her legacy as one of the greatest WMMA fighters ever, and HANDS DOWN the number #1 TUF runner-up of all time.