Last month I had released an article covering the ten best winners from the non-international seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. While TUF has been used as a huge starting point for some of the sport’s biggest names, there are just as many fighters who trip over their own feet on liftoff and are never able to get back up. With such fighters as Michael Bisping, Rashad Evans, and Forrest Griffin discussed, it's time to take a look at the other side of the coin and the winners who weren’t up to snuff in regards to maintaining a viable UFC career. These fighters never could get the momentum they needed to succeed for one reason or another, with a few eventually getting released by the UFC. This list is designed to look at their UFC careers and what the reasons are that account for them making the list in the first place.
From losing streaks to weight issues, these guys had problems that fans thought should not have been as big an issue for fighters in this caliber of competition. Some things taken into account for this ranking include overall UFC record, issues in or out of the cage, and if the fighter was released by the UFC, among other things. It just goes to show that even though a fighter can tear through The Ultimate Fighter tournament, it does not always translate into professional success inside the Octagon of the UFC. Whether it is a sign of the fighter’s inability to handle the mantle of being the Ultimate Fighter winner, the level of competition within the UFC, or a combination of those issues and others, it is safe to say that the fighters mentioned in this list definitely deserve their rankings as the worst winners in the history of The Ultimate Fighter.
10 Court McGee, UFC Record: 5 – 3
The one person on the list who can possibly remove his name from here would be season 11's winner, Court McGee. He has an above average record in the UFC and has the background story that makes for a marketable fighter, if he can string together big wins. What may really hold Court back though is that he’s not the most exciting fighter in the Middleweight division, with only two of his UFC fights not going to a decision, but if he continues to pick up wins and starts finishing fights, he can easily separate himself from the other names on this list.
9 James Wilks, UFC Record: 2 – 2
Upon beating DaMarques Johnson at the TUF 9 Finale, James Wilks was coming into the UFC Welterweight division riding a four fight winning streak. Unfortunately, he was not able to capitalize on his success as he would lose his next match to Matt Brown by TKO at UFC 105. He would pick up a win in his next fight with Peter Sobotta but would then again lose the following fight, this time to Claude Patrick. Wilks would then announce his retirement after suffering numerous injuries during training including a fractured vertebrae and being told by doctors that he ran the risk of serious paralysis.
8 Amir Sadollah UFC Record: 6 – 5
After winning the seventh season of TUF, Amir Sadollah has become one of the very few fighters to have their career completely inside the UFC. Unfortunately, that kind of experience has not translated into complete success inside the Octagon. Bouncing between wins and losses, Sadollah has been unable to get a real grasp inside the Middleweight division, unlike the man he beat in the finals, C.B. Dollaway, who has clawed his way into the top 10 and finds himself facing former Lightheavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida. Another issue that has hampered Sadollah’s career is due to him being prone to injury numerous times, the most recent which took him out of action for a couple years.
7 Kendall Grove UFC Record: 6 – 6
As part of Team Ortiz on the third season of TUF, Kendall Grove would make it to the finals after winning two fights by submission. He would then defeat Ed Herman by unanimous decision and earn a contract with the UFC. After winning two more fights including a submission win over Alan Belcher, Grove would lose back-to-back fights to Patrick Cote and Jorge Rivera by KO and TKO, respectively. He would bounce back by defeating former Middleweight Champion Evan Tanner by split decision in what ended up being Tanner’s last fight before his death and then beat Jason Day by TKO. Unfortunately Grove would then bounce back and forth between wins and losses before being released from the UFC following a loss to Tim Boetsch, becoming the third TUF winner to be released by the UFC.
6 Jonathan Brookins UFC Record: 2 – 3
A real surprise during the twelfth season of TUF was how well Jonathan Brookins fared against other supposed strong submission specialists. The only thing people really knew about him before his first fight was that he had a hard fought loss against Featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo, showing that he might have the heart to push through the tournament. He would eventually win the tournament, beating teammate Michael Johnson, but would never get into a rhythm for winning matches. He would ultimately take a hiatus from MMA after losing to Dustin Poirer before coming back to fight on the regional MMA circuit.
5 Mac Danzig UFC Record: 5 – 8
After winning every fight by submission in order to win the TUF 6 tournament, Mac Danzig seemed like a great addition to the UFC’s Welterweight division. Unfortunately, Danzig could never get a strong foothold within the division as he would go on a three fight losing streak after beating Mark Bocek. He would then bounce between wins and losses before going on another three fight losing streak, ultimately leading to him announcing his retirement from MMA competition due to numerous concussions and brain damage, leaving him with a UFC record of 5-8.
4 Colton Smith UFC Record: 1 – 3
After winning the 16th season of TUF, many were wondering how Colton Smith would fare in the stacked UFC Welterweight division. In his time in the TUF house, he had won all of his fights by grinding out decisions, capping off one of the most boring seasons in the show’s history. The only thing that people really remembered about Smith was him faking a glove touch leading to a takedown in his elimination round fight and then accidentally kicking season runner-up Mike Ricci in the groin, and then proceeding to attack him as Ricci tried to signal a stop to recuperate from the low blow. Fans would learn quickly how Smith would do as he would be finished in his next three UFC fights and then be released from his contract.
3 Joe Stevenson UFC Record: 8 – 8
After winning the second season of TUF alongside Rashad Evans, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson seemed poised to make a run at the title. After a couple of setbacks he would eventually get a shot against B.J. Penn for the Lightweight Title at UFC 80 but would lose in one of the bloodiest fights in MMA history, giving the MMA world the infamous image of Stevenson on his hands and knees with his face covered in blood. Stevenson would never really be able to recover from that loss as he would bounce between wins and losses before getting cut from the UFC after going on a four fight losing streak.
2 Efrain Escudero UFC Record: 3 – 5
Winning on season eight of TUF, after beating Phillipe Nover, many thought that Efrain Escudero could be a great addition to the Lightweight division. Unfortunately, he was never able to get a solid footing in the division, having issues making weight, and would pick up losses to Evan Dunham and Charles Oliveira before eventually being cut by the UFC. He would make a couple returns to the UFC after picking up some wins in smaller promotions but even then he was never able to get the steam to move forward in the division.
1 Travis Lutter UFC Record: 2 – 4
After beating Patrick Cote in the finals of TUF: The Comback, Travis Lutter found himself with a guaranteed Middleweight Title shot against Anderson Silva. Fans were already wondering if lightning could strike twice after Matt Serra had dethroned Georges St. Pierre in for the Welterweight Title, but those thoughts were halted come weigh-in time as Lutter came in heavy at 187 and then 186.5 lbs., making the fight a non-title bout. Even worse, it seemed like Lutter might pick up the win at one point when he was in Silva’s guard and landing a series of unanswered strikes, but ultimately Silva locked up Lutter and earned a submission victory. Now on a very short leash, Lutter was in a make-or-break fight against former Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin; but would ultimately lose by TKO and then be quickly released.