I'm not a fan of TUF... I think the UFC could produce a better product, and avenue for finding and developing talented fighters. But the reality is that UFC has used TUF over the years to fill the middle of its roster without producing many stars, and it doesn't seem like they have any plans to stop. I wrote a piece about a year ago that talked about some groupings of talent that would have made great seasons of TUF but were missed out on, even though the fighters were signed to UFC / Strikeforce / Bellator contracts around the same time. After doing an evaluation of the Heavyweight prospects in the sport, I think the time is right for UFC to go with a season of TUF for the Heavyweights.
In 2008 the UFC found a great haul of talented HW fighters, with Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin, Junior Dos Santos, and Pat Barry all debuting that year. It is clear on the heals of these fighters success that UFC reached with TUF: 10 in 2009 thinking that they would find even more impact Heavyweight fighters for the division. While Roy Nelson, Brandan Schaub, and Matt Mitrione are still around, I think that the cast in general fell short of Zuffa's expectations. I have been as down as anyone, except Kid Nate, when it comes to the future stars of the division, but then I started digging through video, and researching prospects. I think there is a quality grouping of fighters that is at the right point in their career, talented, speak English (Big for TUF) and ready to go.
Tony Johnson Jr. (7-1), Derrick Lewis (9-2), Jared Rosholt (7-1), Jan Jorgensen (6-0), Chris Birchler (4-0), Cody East (6-1), Patrick Walsh (3-0), Tyler King (6-1), and possibly two 2008 Olympians, Steve Mocco (2-0), Satoshi Ishii (8-2) could all be candidates for TUF. These fighters are all at a similar places in their careers right now, where they are prospects, and looking for the fight to show that they can step up to the big time. I don't think every fighter in this group has top 10 potential, there are a few that could work their way through the ranks someday to make an impact on UFC. Not every fighter would be a perfect fit for TUF, the reality is that each fighter's current contract, and family situation may hinder them from participating on TUF, but these would be the fighters I would approach to see if they are interested.
If they are going to pursue Heavyweights, it would also make sense to team them with LHW's. That way, they only have to find 16 from each weight class, and the fighters can still be close enough in size to train together.
While I'm not as sold on the whole group of Light-Heavyweights out being able to make an impact long term like the HW's, there is a group that come from or have fought mostly in English speaking countries, Max Nunes (11-0) (Swedish, but has fought extensively in UK), Patrick Cummins (4-0) (US), Justin Ledet (5-0) (US), Linton Vassell (11-3)(UK), Steve Bosse (10-1) (Canadian), Brandon Ropati (7-0) (NZ), and Iain Martell (9-1)(UK).
I'm much higher on the depth, and ability of the HW prospects to make an impact at some point during their careers. I don't know what UFC's plans for TUF 19 are, but if when they get announced in 4 or 5 months, don't automatically grown if they announce they are doing a season of HWs, there is a group with solid potential out there if UFC can get them on the show.