While I would advise that all new MMA fans watch every season of TUF (or at least the fights), these five can not be missed, and round out the top ten seasons of The Ultimate Fighter.
#5: TUF 2: Franklin vs Hughes
The early seasons of TUF had a lot of kinks to work out. The show still had mostly pointless challenges (although the scarecrow challenge in this season actually provided some good drama), and TUF 2 probably has the best case for producing the best fighter in the show’s history — Rashad Evans. Overall, the season produced tons of relevant fighters, and perhaps the only real black mark was that Burkman was eliminated early after suffering an injury against Rashad Evans.
Notable Fighters: Rashad Evans, Joe Stevenson, Melvin Guillard, Josh Burkman, Marcus Davis, Keith Jardine
#4: TUF 5: Pulver vs Penn
The first season to feature only one weight class, and everything about it delivered. The fights inside the house were great, the fight outside the house were hilarious, and the season produced tons of great talent. The only black mark on the season really was a weak finale, with Gamburyan suffering a fluke shoulder injury against Nate Diaz
Notable Fighters: Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon, Manny Gamburyan, Matt Wiman, Cole Miller
#3: TUF 15: Cruz vs Faber
TUF 15 is unique in multiple ways. The fights to get into the house were live, as was the actual season. Also, this was the only season where elimination fights to get into the house were only one round. Ultimately, early favorites in Myles Jury and Cristiano Justin Lawrence failed to advance to the finals, and it was the perennial underdog, Michael Chiesa, who walked away with the crown after pulling off another upset and choking Al Iaquinta unconscious. Plus, this season features arguably the greatest fight in the show’s history: Al Iaquinta vs Myles Jury.
Notable Fighters: Michael Chiesa, Al Iaquinta, James Vick, Myles Jury, Jon Tuck, James Krause
#2: TUF 1: Liddell vs Couture
While unquestionably the most important season in the show’s history, the show has its black marks. Fighters were eliminated without fighting, and Florian advanced to the finals by winning only one fight. Add in stupid challenges, and the fact that the show had three episodes with no fights, and the bad outweighed the good in this season securing the number one spot. However, epic fights with Sanchez vs Koscheck and Griffin vs Bonnar, as well as the impact the show had guaranteed a top three spot for this season.
Notable Fighters: Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck
#1: TUF 14: Bisping vs Mayhem
This season gets the #1 slot for one reason: the fights. The little guys did not disappoint, as virtually every single fight, including the fights to get into the house, were absolute barn burners. Diego Brandao’s savage run to the finals was capped off with an incredible comeback against Dennis Bermudez, and John Dodson surprised with a quick finish over the bantamweight favorite TJ Dillashaw. Plus, it’s almost two years later, and practically half the cast has winning UFC records.
Notable Fighters: John Dodson, TJ Dillashaw, Diego Brandao, Dennis Bermudez, Steven Siler, Marcus Brimage