By Josh Stein on Sep 12, 2009
I’ve been holding off on doing too much analysis of this season of TUF lately, because I did a good deal before the roster was officially announced and tried to give a little insight when the list was put out. That said, with the start of the season now well under a weak away, I’m happy to start writing about it. This season looks promising and, more importantly, it looks like it will help to jumpstart what has long been the UFC’s weakest and least interesting division. While the new influx of talent will not quickly have any impact on the upper echelon of the division, and heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar (4-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC, #2 IWMMAR) doesn’t have to worry about an immediate threat from any of the former NFL players that will be coming out of the show, it should still be interesting to see which of the guys have longevity in the UFC.
The first note worth making is that we’ve seen a lot of larger heavyweights coming into the UFC lately, and that has a lot to do with the fact that there are simply a lot more athletes in MMA and, thus, a larger number of guys who are true heavyweights competing successfully in the sport. The handful of true heavyweights in UFC history will certainly be seen as more normal after this season as, from my analysis, half of the roster (8-of-16 competitors), will weigh in at 265 pounds. While a true heavyweight may not win the show (though I’ll get to predictions in a minute), many of them will end up with UFC contracts.
Now, it’s worth noting, as well, that the UFC has made a push recently to expand the number of really solid, respectable heavyweights that their bringing in outside of this season of TUF as well. On the recent UFC 102 card, we saw four relatively new heavyweight names that are solid prospects: Todd Duffee (5-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Tim Hague (10-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC), Mike Russow (12-1-0-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Chris Tuchscherer (17-2-0-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC). Obviously, these fighters are still young in terms of their UFC careers, so I’m not going to call them contenders or anything of the like, but it’s clear that the UFC is putting some effort, both with the series and outside of it, to bring in legitimate and respectable talent.
And, without further shenanigans, my picks and analysis of the brackets of TUF 10.
Since there is no preliminary round this season, I’m going to make the analysis before the first two episodes of the show air. It’s worth noting that over the last few seasons I’ve waited to scout the fighters and see the sixteen guys in the house. This season, I know more of the fighters and more about them and, as such, feel less obliged to do that. Of course, usually I picked one fighter on each team to run as a favorite, dark horse or dead fish, but this season I’m swinging a little more blind as far as what the teams are going to look like. That said, it makes for more interesting analysis.
There’s really one name that presents itself immediately as a strong favorite, and that’s Big Country Roy Nelson (17-4 MMA). Realistically, this is a fighter that should go directly into the UFC, but given that TUF will give him an opportunity to showcase his skills, build fans and help destroy the rumor that just because he’s fat he can’t fight, I understand why he’d be up for taking on this season of the show. A look at Nelson’s record really speaks for why he’s a favorite. He was the first and last IFL heavyweight champion and has gone 7-3 since 2007, when he started fighting more respectable opposition in the IFL. His only career losses are to some very well respect heavyweights, all of whom are better and more experienced that the guys in the house.
On a show with fifteen other guys, though, there’s no such thing as a prohibitive favorite. Nelson is a great fighter, but there will certainly be some good challengers. The real danger to Nelson, of course, are the fighters we don’t know much about. Still, one of the guy’s I’ve been hearing a lot of hype for leading into this season is Brendan Schaub (4-0 MMA). Schaub will not be one of the biggest guys on the show (probably not even close), but he is explosive and will be dangerous to all of his opponents. The guy throws hard, he brings leather and has finished all four of his professional fights well under the two minute mark. With four professional wins, he’s more experienced than many of the other guys on the show, but that’s obviously not his edge. His advantage, coming into the house, is in the mystery of an undefeated record that demonstrates that he’s never been tested.
Darill Schoonover (10-0 MMA) is a third favorite, and perhaps a better favorite than Schaub (and only marginally less interesting than Nelson, though I’ll get to why that is in a minute). The word on the street (and I’ve now heard this from multiple sources, is that Schoonover has come up from 218-220 pounds to somewhere between 240 and 250. If this is the base, and he’s managed to keep his athleticism, then he could make for an interesting fighter and a definite favorite. And after the show, he can (and should) come down to fight at 205. Schoonover will undoubtedly have one of the most technical games in the house, and one of the best ground games. At first I really thought of Schoonover more as a dark horse who can win fights on the basis of an incredible submission game, but after looking closer at his record, I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider him a potential favorite. His most recent win over Rex Richards (6-2 MMA) may have taken a while, but Richards is no joke, and if Schoonover can finish a 6’5, 265 pound warrior like Richards, who’s only other career loss, it’s worth mentioning, is to Shane Carwin (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC, #7 IWMMAR), then he definitely deserves to be considered a top guy. Not to mention that the only other heavyweight to win a season of TUF was the smallest guy in the house, and will be one of the coaches this season, and has become a top lightheavyweight.
There are some great threats this season. The first is obviously UFC veteran and resident giant Wes Sims (22-12-1-2 MMA, 0-3 UFC). Sims is a big, experienced fighter and has more fights than most of the fighters in the house combined. That said, Sims has a lot of technical issues and if he draws someone like Schoonover or Nelson in the first round, he’s submittable and can be beaten by someone who knows how to work around his almost seven-foot frame and deliver shots to his head and body. If he draws one of the bigger, more athletic heavyweights, he could be in trouble, too, as his size and athleticism are an advantage he’ll probably want to cling to.
Demico Rogers (0-0 MMA) is small, probably one of the smallest guys in the house, but there’s a reason for considering him a dark horse that has everything to do with athleticism, gameness and having nothing to lose. This is a guy who was picked up for the show without a professional fight. His one amateur fight was an armbar finish in under thirty seconds. He probably won’t be able to submit the guys in this house so easily, but it’ll still be interesting to see him pushed against bigger, stronger competition and see why he earned a spot in the house. If Rogers is as athletic and well-rounded as everyone says, he’s going to be a threat. If he, like Sims, avoids drawing a huge NFL player with superior athleticism in the first round, he’s going to be dangerous.
Initially, I thought that Wes Shivers (0-0 MMA) was going to be the dark horse out of the NFL players. He was, as far as I knew, by far the biggest and the strongest and the most athletic. Of course, I was wrong about that. The most athletic, the largest and the most frightening of the former NFL players coming into the house is former #1 NFL draft pick Marcus Jones (4-1 MMA). Apparently, I didn’t connect Jones (until I saw some video) to his appearances on the Howard Stern show, much less his career as a defensive tackled for the Bucs. Both Jones and Shivers are legit dark horse picks, but Jones is a bit stronger as he has more experience.
This could easily center on one name: Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson (3-1 MMA). Still, the arguments for why Kimbo is almost assuredly going to lose this show have been made. I’ll keep it sufficient to say that there are a lot of guys in this house who are a lot better and his a lot harder than Seth Petruzelli (11-4 MMA, 0-2 UFC). The fact that Kimbo got KO’d by a lightheavyweight is a strong indication that he’s not going to be able to take shots from the heavyweights in this house.
Abe Wagner (6-2 MMA), big and powerful and experienced as his is, is really a prohibitive underdog when it comes to winning the show. He’s not going to be the biggest, the strongest or the most experienced. Hopefully, though, he can get through the first round and earn himself a spot in the finale. Wagner, unfortunately, couldn’t finish an aging Sherman Pendergarst (11-14 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in the midst of a five fight slide, and that makes it really hard to look at him as a serious threat in a house full of guys who hit hard and finish fights, especially in acknowledging that Wagner can and has been finished both with strikes and by submission.
Kickboxer James McSweeney (3-4 MMA) will not be the fourth Brit to win TUF. As a solid kickboxer, he will be a threat to anyone who tries to stand with him (and may very well have the most accomplished striking background in the house), but at the end of the day, he’s going to have to fight someone who can take him down (even if it’s just one of the NFL players tackling him). If he hits his back, and he will, he’s really screwed. Of course, McSweeney would be one of the most exciting matchups for Kimbo Slice, as McSweeney would completely tool Kimbo standing up, and I’d love to see Slice put away with a head kick or a big combination that stiffens him up.
Overall, it should be a great, competitive season. Even the dead fish have the opportunity to make it out of the first round, if they get a good matchup, so it should be a good series and all of the controversy surrounding Kimbo Slice should draw a lot of views.
Filed Under: MMA
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.