Underground Blog Guest Blogger (UBGB) Jack Brown is "The Part-Time Martial Artist," offering a full-time fan's perspective on UFC and major MMA news, developments, or hypotheticals. He earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do a decade ago from Joe Rogan's teenage alma mater Jae H. Kim in Boston, and currently trains at Lauzon MMA.
In his second blog, he offers choices for a hypothetical repeat of the TUF Comback Season, which uniquely was composed of fighters that had fought in the UFC, but had yet to win a UFC title, rather than the usual cast of UFC hopefuls.
TUF 4 fighters included Travis Lutter, Charles McCarthy, Jorge Rivera, Mikey Burnett, Pete Spratt, Patrick Côté, Shonie Carter, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra, and Din Thomas.
Who should be in if they bring back the concept?
TUF Comeback Season 2 continued – The Welterweights and the Middleweights
Judging from your responses to my last blog about the lightweights, we are all on the same page about one thing. We want another TUF comeback season!
Some of you questioned why I’d want to use current UFC fighters, rather than those who had been cut. The UFC is in a much different position now compared to the TUF 4 era. Back then, their roster was nowhere near as deep as it is now. For the most part, if you’re three fights away from headlining a PPV and getting a title shot, you’re already in the UFC or contracted to Bellator or Strikeforce. Also, this is a TV show, potentially on FX, and the UFC is not likely to spend their time and money promoting fighters they already thought should be cut. So stop complaining and think about how unbelievable it would be to watch some of these fights, and the behind the scenes drama, for free.
On the original comeback season, TUF 4, there were two weight classes. So while the lightweights are a possibility, we can’t forget about how deep the UFC’s welterweight and middleweight divisions are (Sorry, the two heaviest and three lightest weight classes don’t have the depth for this show right now). So once again, using some of the original comeback season’s blueprints, plus a few ground rules, here are the candidates for the eight man casts of welterweights and middleweights (Sorry, Anthony Johnson – Still no chance at these cuts either. We’ll enjoy watching you tearing it up at 205 someday).
Ground rules: Fighters should all be part of the UFC’s current roster, should not have fought for or had the title before (Ouch! No Fitch, Koscheck, Alves, Hughes, Serra, Penn, Hardy, or Diaz at welterweight and no Belfort, Franklin, Okami, Cote, or Sonnen at middleweight. But some of these guys could definitely rotate in for some coaching and training on the show), and should plausibly be three wins away from the title fight that winning the show would get them. We’ll also leave out the current champs (GSP/Condit and Anderson Silva) and the top contenders (Hendricks, Kampmann, Ellenberger, and MacDonald at welterweight and Lombard, Munoz, Stann, Belcher, and Weidman at middleweight) to keep the welterweight and middleweight divisions active while the show plays out.
Must Have: These two guys are TUF favorites and fan favorites as well. Both fought on TUF 1, but neither fought at welterweight back then. They’ve both struggled to find the right weight class, but they come from top camps and have had some great fights in the UFC.
Diego Sanchez – Diego is a proven headliner who has fought for the title at lightweight, but who has yet to make it that far as a welterweight. The TUF 1 middleweight champ has always been exciting to watch inside the cage and out. Coming off a decision loss to Jake Ellenberger, and, prior to that, a controversial decision win over contender Martin Kampmann, the Greg Jackson fighter could make a welcome return to TUF and might be the favorite to win that title shot.
Mike Swick – Swick fought as a light heavyweight on TUF 1, but since then he’s had a number of exciting fights at various weight classes. His most recent fights have been at welterweight, but unfortunately the last two were losses, and Swick has not fought since Paulo Thiago submitted him at UFC 109 in February 2010. Illness and injuries have held Swick down, but the AKA fighter is still on the roster and needs this show to make another title run.
Must Watch: These two fighters are both outside the typical mold of a UFC welterweight, but you won’t see any ratings dips on the weeks that they fight on the show.
Duane Ludwig – Owner of the record for the fastest knockout in the UFC, Ludwig has always been known as a striker who loves to keep the fight standing. He did just that in his last fight against Dan Hardy at UFC 146, but he got knocked out in the first round. Nevertheless, Ludwig would be a serious threat to put away anyone who faces him on this show.
Yoshihiro Akiyama – Akiyama is a tough one to include here, but just as hard to leave out. Akiyama has only had one fight at welterweight in the UFC and it was a decision loss to Jake Shields at UFC 144. Before that, he lost three in a row at middleweight. Still, the guy’s on the roster and his judo and otherwise reckless style is great viewing. But part of the difficulty with having Akiyama on the show would be the logistics. By all accounts his English is limited, and this guy is also an international superstar with interests outside of the UFC that might make him difficult to hold down. Admittedly, it’s a stretch, but people all over the world would be rooting for him.
Made for Reality TV: These two fighters allegedly hate each other. That’s good enough for me.
Rick Story – Pierce said that Story was a bully in the gym. But Story was also a bully in the cage when he won back to back decisions over top welterweights, Alves and Hendricks. After that, however, Story lost back to back decisions to Brenneman and Kampmann. Story didn’t have many kind words for Pierce after he told tales out of school, and the potential to have these two guys together and fighting might be too good to be true.
Mike Pierce – Pierce had two tough split decision losses against top welterweights, Koscheck and Hendricks. Before that his only other loss in the UFC was a decision loss to Fitch back at UFC 107. While he’s often been impressive, it’s the possibility of Pierce having to room with former training partner, Story, that really interests me.
Charlie Brenneman – It would be a welcome return to TV for Brenneman, who got his first bit of fame when he won on Pros vs. Joes back in the day. He’s a true underdog who thrilled the fans with an unlikely victory over Rick Story at UFC on Versus: Kongo vs. Barry. Brenneman was a very late replacement who fought Story on only a few days’ notice. Since then, he’s been up and down but average Joes everywhere would be rooting for him.
The Real Comeback:
Chris Lytle – Yes, he’s retired, and he seemed to go out in the perfect way after submitting Dan Hardy in the main event last August. However, Lytle is still on the active welterweight roster according to UFC.com, and his recent run for office didn’t pan out. Lytle was a finalist on the original TUF 4 comeback season and since then he’s had a number of bonus-winning victories. It would be a spectacular comeback for the long-time veteran and it would certainly be his last chance at a title shot.
For Further Consideration: I’ll go with Paulo Thiago (Must have a Brazilain), John Hathaway (UK market, please) Mike Pyle (Mullets are fun), Josh Neer (A dentist and a good way to get buddy Nick Diaz to swing by), TJ Waldburger, Dong Hyun Kim, and anyone else that you‘re going to get on me for not including.
Must Have: These three guys are superstars, have all fought each other, and are very accustomed to getting paid a lot and fighting at the top of the card. They have also had some key losses that are making it increasingly unlikely that they will ever get a title shot at middleweight in the UFC.
Chris Leben – Leben is a fan favorite and a TUF 1 veteran, who actually fought at middleweight on the show and has stayed at middleweight ever since. Two of his last three fights were TKO losses to top middleweights, Stann and Munoz. In between, Leben brutally knocked out Wanderlei Silva. Leben is currently serving a year-long suspension after he tested positive for drugs following the UFC 138 loss to Munoz last November, but the reports are that Leben has been adhering to treatment and has been doing well in recovery while he continues to train out in Hawaii. Leben’s stint on TUF 1 may have been the most memorable of all the TUF seasons, and a return to fighting and TUF would be an impressive comeback in many ways.
Wanderlei Silva – One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, the former Pride champ and UFC veteran has yet to have a middleweight title shot in the UFC. He’s had some key victories, including a close decision win against Bisping at UFC 110, but he’s had some difficult losses too. After coaching on the recently completed first season of TUF Brazil, a stint as a fighter on the next TUF comeback season would help make the show a hit throughout the Americas.
Michael Bisping – One of the most hated MMA fighters ever, yet very popular in his native home of England, Bisping was the TUF 3 light heavyweight champ and he coached a team in both TUF 9 and TUF 14. Though he’s probably quite sick of TUF at this point, he now lives near Vegas in southern California. He’s also made it quite clear that he strongly desires a title shot. Unfortunately, he lost his best chance when he came up short in a decision loss against Sonnen at UFC on FOX 2 in his last fight. A very skilled and well-rounded fighter, Bisping would likely be the favorite to win the show and get that title fight.
Must Watch: These two fighters have exciting styles that opponents normally have to spend a while training for. Perhaps that will give them both an advantage given the TUF format.
Cung Le – Le only has one fight in the UFC, a TKO loss to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139, but the former Strikeforce champ and action film star has a large fan base. He is also a fighter that has kicks and spinning techniques that make viewers want to pause, rewind, and then watch his fights again in slow motion. Like several other members of this cast, his age makes it unlikely that there will be any other opportunities for a title shot.
Rousimar Palhares – In a sport full of scary dudes, Palhares may be the scariest. Those who have lost to Palhares have often had to rehab difficult injuries thanks to the Brazilian’s knack for ligament-tearing submissions. That’s part of what made his recent TKO loss to Belcher at UFC on Fox 3 so surprising. Palhares had Belcher in trouble several times, and each time the crowd gasped in unison, but eventually Belcher managed to escape and make Palhares pay. Palhares, though his English is very limited, can up the horror quotient as we watch TUF in suspense whenever he fights.
Tom Lawlor – Lawlor might seem a bit out of place here given his .500 record at middleweight in the UFC, but the guy is pure entertainment. Lawlor, a TUF 8 veteran, originally fought at light heavyweight on the show. Since then he’s become well known for his weigh-ins, walk-outs, and memorable interviews. But Dolloway, Cote, and, most recently, Jason MacDonald can all vouch that Lawlor is much more than a clown. He’s a skilled boxer and wrestler that also has some submissions at his disposal. Whether he wins or not, fans will be rooting for him and laughing with him.
The Real Comeback:
Jorge Rivera – Similar to Chris Lytle, this original TUF 4 comeback season veteran recently retired, yet still appears as active on the UFC roster. Also, like Lytle, Rivera retired after a win. Rivera’s last fight was in January at UFC on FX 1 when he got a second round TKO against Eric Schafer. Rivera was the rare example of a fighter who seemed to get better during the latter stages of his career. If he’s up for it, it would be great to see him get a rematch against Bisping after the controversial loss he suffered to the Brit at UFC 127.
HAVE WE ALL DIED AND GONE TO COMEBACK HEAVEN:
Royce Gracie – Before you all freak out, go to UFC.com. I swear that the 45-year-old Gracie is on the active middleweight roster. And I don’t care that his last fight in the UFC was an unimpressive loss at UFC 60 to a welterweight, Matt Hughes, way back in 2006. Would this not be amazing? Come on. You would watch every minute.
For Further Consideration: I’ll go with Alessio Sakara (Italian, like from Italy), Jason MacDonald (Canadian), CB Dolloway (Canine), Ed Herman (redhead), and anyone else that you‘re going to get on me for not including.
Get at me with your comments and complaints on Twitter – @jackjohnbrown
In the next blog, an MMA guide to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast…