TUF9 Rookies Set To Make Debut, Minus One Noticable Piece
The recent seasons of the Ultimate Fighter have been criticized, by writers including myself, for gearing itself more towards house drama and producing surprisingly few viable candidates for the UFC.
However, if one season's cast members have excited me, it's the group that made their debuts on Season 9: US vs. UK. While the season is generally remembered for the US teams surprisingly poor performance, and the trash-talking by Bisping that led paled in comparison to the brutal knock-out suffered at the hands of Hendo, time has made me remember the season as one that could produce a few very solid UFC contenders.
The Lightweight Championship fight between Ross Pearson and Andre Winner showcased two of those particular fighters in a tremendous three round bout. Pearson, the victor, is set to face a tough, wrestling-based Aaron Riley in his first fight post TUF.
A 25 year old fighter with a record of 9-3, Pearson intrigues me because of his power, tough chin and obvious determination. He seems to be a fighter that will always come forward and trade hands with anybody. While he may not have the overall skills to ever win a UFC belt, he has the guts to always be in contention.
However, I believe that Andre Winner could be the cream of the crop in that weight class. He showed speed and explosion that none of the other fighters on the show had and was solid both on his back and on his feet. He could certainly be one to watch.
The alumni Fight of the Night during UFC 105 comes down to battles between two of the UK competitors against two former TUF fighters from the USA.
The fight on the main card features TUF9 champion James Wilks against Matt Brown. Wilks showed tremendous submission skills in defeating Bisping-favorite Che Mills to get on the show and Demarques Johnson in the finale. During his time, he also boasted power, knocking out the teeth of the American, before submitting him in their first fight, and winning by TKO in their rematch to move onto the finals.
The other fight of note pits Nick Osipczak against Matt Riddle. Osipczak showed surprising versatility in his three fights, displaying efficient and accurate punches as well as kicks. His only loss was in the semi-final to Demarques Johnson in a closely contested bout that Dana White called one of the best in UFC history.
He is only 24 years old and has serious room to grow, so although he will be tested early, but the dangerous Riddle, he could be one to watch down the round.
Lastly, on a sadder note, we'll be without the fight that displays the only American fighter of note from the season. 27 year old Demarques Johnson talked a big game on TUF and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but he also showed a seriously well-rounded game. Although he fell victim to the wicked submissions of James Wilks, Johnson showed enough to be considered a serious contender going forward.
However, his scheduled fight with Peter Sobotta was scrapped because of conflicts regarding Sobotta's military duties. Rumors have Johnson finally making his debut during UFC107, although nothing has been confirmed.
So, while many people are focusing their attention on whether Couture and Vera is really a headline fight, I'll be watching what could be a good crop of UFC up and comers.