An Ultimate Fighter Comeback show is a very hot topic for MMA fans recently, it has been over 6 years since the last comeback season of the Ultimate Fighter. Everyone knows what happened after the show with Matt Serra pulling off one of the biggest upsets in MMA history at UFC 69 winning by a dominant TKO to take the Welterweight title from Georges St-Pierre. The other winner Travis Lutter failed to make weight for his title shot, and losing to "new" Middleweight Kingpin Anderson Silva by second round submission, even in defeat and failing to make weight, Lutter gave Anderson Silva the toughest UFC fight until Anderson Silva faced Dan Henderson to unify the Middleweight championship at UFC 82.
I feel for the new season that the winner should not immediately win a shot to fight for the title but I feel after winning the show they should be catapulted into title contention and fight for a #1 contendership or Co-Main event on a future UFC fight card. The first season I will go over will be the Lightweight division. I think that there should be 2 weight divisions for each show with 8 former UFC, WEC, TUF, Pride or Strikeforce veterans who deserve another shot in the biggest fight promotion in the world. For now I will just go over the 8 fighters I think should have a spot on the show in no particular order and then a few replacements or other possible options for the show. I include Pride, WEC, Strikeforce, and TUF in the Zuffa records..
1. Charlie Brenneman (18-5) (4-4 UFC) 3-0 Post Zuffa
The first fighter I think should be a lock for the show would be Charlie Brenneman. Brenneman came into the UFC with an 11-1 record, only losing to John Howard who was a hot commodity at the time in the UFC Welterweight Division, and Brenneman was a former Ring of Combat Welterweight Champion (losing title to John Howard). He won his debut fight in the UFC against Jason High (also making his UFC Debut) by Unanimous Decision but in his next fight he would take on future title challenger Johny Hendricks at UFC 117 and would go on to lose by way of TKO in the 2nd Round. Brenneman would rebound from his first UFC loss by taking on Amilcar Alves and would take an easy Unanimous Decision from him. In his next fight Brenneman with a 2-1 UFC record would take the biggest fight of his career at the time, when Nate Marquardt was popped for elevated testosterone levels, against Rick Story in the Co-Main Event of UFC: Live Kongo vs Barry. Brenneman would go on to out wrestle Story for 3 rounds and win the fight by Unanimous Decision. After the impressive short-notice fight Brenneman was given a step up in competition when he met Anthony "Rumble" Johnson at UFC: Live Cruz vs Johnson. Brenneman would take a nasty head kick from Johnson and go down for a first round TKO loss. After the loss Brenneman would get back on track with a unanimous decision over Daniel Roberts bringing his UFC record to 4-2. Brenneman would go on to lose his next two fights in the octagon to Erick Silva and Kyle Noke by way of First round TKO and First Round Submission respectively. Since Brenneman has dropped to lightweight and has picked up 3 straight wins on the regional circuit.
2. Pat Audinwood (11-2) (0-2 UFC) 2-0 Post Zuffa
Pat Audinwood is perfect for the Ultimate Fighter Comeback season, young, talented and undefeated outside of the UFC. Audinwood came into the UFC as a hot prospect, with M-1 Global experience, The BCX Lightweight title and an undefeated 9-0-1 record. Audinwood's first UFC fight came against Lightweight gate keeper Thiago Tavares, Audinwood would go on to submit to the black belt by first round submission. His rebound fight in the UFC was against John Makdessi, an undefeated striker who many thought Audinwood would win based on the Striker-Grappler match-up but Makdessi went on to keep it standing and dominate the fight. After the fight Audinwood was released from the promotion. Since his release Audinwood is 2-0 on the regional circuit including a win over TUF 15 runner-up Al Iaquinta by First Round Submission.
3. Danny Downes (8-3) (1-3 Zuffa) 0-0 Post Zuffa
Another fighter I think should be a lock for an Ultimate Fighter Lightweight Comeback season should be Danny Downes, Downes along with Audinwood is young and undefeated outside of the Zuffa company. Downes made his WEC debut against highly touted prospect Chris Horodecki at WEC 49, Downes lost the fight by 3rd round Rear Naked Choke. Downes once again found himself against another highly touted prospect in Zhang Tiequan in his next WEC bout at WEC 53. Downes went on to win a decision against Zhang shocking alot of the MMA community. After the WEC organization was dissolved into the UFC Downes took a fight on the regional circuit and would go on to win by first round submission and the win would earn him a contract with the UFC. Downes octagon debut would be against Lightweight gate keeper Jeremy Stephens at the Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale, Stephens was 3-1 in his last 4 UFC fights. Downes would lose a unanimous decision to Stephens. His next UFC fight would come against TUF 13 runner-up Ramsey Nijem, Downes would once again lose a Unanimous Decision and was released from the promotion. Downes has since retired from MMA but a spot on a TUF Lightweight comeback show would bring him out of retirement.
4. Kuniyoshi Hironaka (21-8) (1-3 UFC) 10-3 Post Zuffa
Kuniyoshi Hironaka was signed to the UFC in 2006 after accumulating a 10-2 record on the regional circuit and wins over Nick Diaz, Ryan Schultz, and Renato "Charuto" Verissimo. Hironaka's UFC debut came against future Welterweight title challenger Jon Fitch at UFC 64, who at the time was 3-0 in the UFC, Hironaka would lose the fight by Unanimous Decision. In his next fight Hironaka would take on Forrest Petz at UFC Fight Night 9, he would go on to win the fight by Unanimous Decision to even up his UFC record. After the Petz fight, Hironaka would go on to lose both of his next fights to future title challenger Thiago Alves and Jonathan Goulet both by way of 2nd Round TKO. After his release from the UFC Hironaka would sign with Dream and after winning his first fight, he would lose to former UFC Welterweight title challenger Hayato "Mach" Sakurai by Unanimous Decision and after the loss he would drop down to 155 and go 8-2 at 155 in his native Japan. Also winning the CageForce Lightweight and Shooto Welterweight (154 lbs.) titles with his only losses to Katsunori Kikuno and Satoru Kitaoka.
5. Justin Wilcox (11-5) (5-3 Strikeforce) 0-0 Post Zuffa
Justin Wilcox is another fighter that should be a lock to be on a TUF Lightweight Comeback season, Wilcox was 5-2-1 in his last 8 Strikeforce fights and on top of that he has to be one of the most stacked fighters in the Lightweight division. Wilcox started his MMA career with trial by fire facing future Strikeforce and UFC Fighter Bobby Voelker in his first pro bout winning by Unanimous Decision, in his next fight he would take on future UFC fighter Chad Reiner succumbing to a First Round Armbar, his next fight would be against future Bellator tournament finalist Dan Hornbuckle once again losing this time by way of First Round TKO. After starting off slow, Wilcox would go on to win four straight fights bringing his record to 5-2 and a win over Former UFC fighter Gabe Ruedigar by Unanimous Decision. Wilcox would lose his Strikeforce Debut to another debuting fighter in Mitsuhiro Ishida by First Round Armbar. Wilcox would take a fight on the regional circuit winning the fight by Unanimous Decision he would go on to win 5 straight fights under the Strikeforce Banner, with wins over Shamar Bailey by Unanimous Decision, Japanese legend Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro also by way of Unanimous Decision and A doctor stoppage win over Rodrigo Damm. With the impressive win streak Wilcox was in title contention. Once again taking a step up in competition Wilcox would take on another Japanese legend in JZ Cavalcante. The fight would end by No Contest after Wilcox was accidentally poked in the eye by JZ at the beginning of the 2nd Round. Wilcox would go on to lose his next two fights under the Strikeforce banner to another upcoming star in Caros Fodor by First Round Knockout and Jorge Masvidal by Split Decision.
6. Anton Kuivanen (18-6) (1-2 UFC) 1-0 Post Zuffa
Anton Kuivanen is another young fighter who should deserve another chance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Kuivanen was scooped up by the UFC after going 16-4 on the regional circuit and winning the Cage Lightweight Championship. Kuivanen was slated to face another debuting UFC fighter in Justin Salas at UFC on Fuel TV: Sanchez vs Ellenberger, Kuivanen would lose the fight by Unanimous Decision. For his comeback fight Kuivanen would be paired up against Mitch Clarke in his hometown of Canada. Kuivanen would go on to win the fight by Split Decision. His next fight would be against TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa (who I have a bias for as he is a personal friend) Chiesa would go on to win the fight by Rear Naked Choke in the 2nd Round. After the fight Kuivanen was released from the UFC and in his only fight since his release, Kuivanen took on former TUF 11 contestant Jason Pierce who he dominated for a Unanimous Decision.
7. Keita Nakamura (25-5) (0-3 UFC) 9-2 Post Zuffa
Keita Nakamura was signed to the UFC after accumulating a 15-0-2 record with wins over future UFC fighter Yoshiyuki Yoshida by Majority Decision and winning the Shooto Pacific Rim Middleweight Title (167 lbs.) over Ronald Jhun By First Round Rear Naked Choke. For his UFC Debut Nakamura was put against returning UFC Welterweight Brock Larson who was on a 6 fight win streak. Hironaka would lose the fight by Unanimous Decision. For his next fight Nakamura would be put against Welterweight Gate Keeper Drew Fickett, he would once again lose a Unanimous Decision. Nakamura would take a regional fight and would go on to win by First Round TKO and would once again get to showcase his skills in the UFC. For his return fight he would drop down to Lightweight and take on TUF 5 contestant Rob Emerson, he would go on to lose the fight by Split Decision and would be released from the UFC. After returning back to Japan Hironaka would return to the win column with a Split Decision victory over Future UFC Lightweight Adriano Martins at Dream 6. Nakamura would also go on to win the SRC Welterweight Grand Prix and win the SRC Welterweight Championship.
8. Dustin Hazelett (12-7) (5-5 UFC) 0-0 Post Zuffa
Dustin Hazelett was signed to the UFC in 2006 with a 7-2 record with wins over Rhalan Gracie by Split Decision and a First Round Knockout of Future UFC Welterweight Chad Reiner. For his UFC Debut Hazelett would face off against Tony De Souza who was making his return bout with the UFC after winning 6 of his last 7 fights. Hazelett would lose the fight by First Round Kimura and drop down to 155 to take on debuting Diego Saraiva who he would defeat by way of Unanimous Decision. Hazelett would return to Welterweight and win his next two bouts against Stevie Lynch by First Round Anaconda and a First Round Armbar over Jonathan Goulet. In his next fight Hazelett would take on Future Title Challenger Josh Koscheck who would defeat him by 2nd Round TKO. Hazelett would rebound from the loss with wins over Josh Burkman by Submission of the Year and 2nd Round Flying Armbar and taking his second submission of the night bonus against Tamdan McCrory with a 1st Round Reverse Armbar. Hazelett would go on to lose his next two fights against Paul Daley at a 172 Catch weight fight after Daley missed weight. Hazelett would lose the fight by a brutal First Round knockout. In his next fight Hazelett tried to bounce back against Rick Story but would again lose the fight this time by 2nd Round TKO. Hazelett again dropped to Lightweight when he took on Mark Bocek at UFC 124 in Bocek's Hometown of Canada. Hazelett lost the fight in the battle of black belts when he was forced to submit to a First Round Triangle. After the loss Hazelett was released from the UFC and retired to focus on his school.
Antonio McKee (28-5) (0-1 UFC) 3-1 Post Zuffa
McKee is a decorated wrestler, MFC Lightweight Champ, was given unfair shake after losing a Split Decision to Jacob Volkmann. Supposedly Signed with the CFA?
Curt Warburton (12-3) (1-2 UFC) 5-0 Post Zuffa
Put on a good win streak since being released, should deserve another shot. Would have to get released from BAMMA contract?
Sean Sherk (36-4) (9-4 Zuffa) 0-0*
Sherk would be perfect for the show, Top 10 Fighter on long layoff, Former UFC Lightweight Champ, If someone beats him than they prove that they deserve to be in title contention
Justin Buchholz (15-7) (1-4 UFC) 6-2 Post Zuffa
Buchholz has impressed as of late, Alpha Male Coach, SCC and Showdown Fights Lightweight Champion
Carlo Prater (31-14) (2-4 Zuffa) 1-2 Post Zuffa
Prater is still a talent