The cast of contestants for season 17 boasted over 200 wins between competitors, as well as 7 undefeated fighters, and a wealth of talent that The Ultimate Fighter had not seen for a long while. The following are the ones who made it all the way, signing a contract with the largest organization in the world and doing their best to carve their legacy into the MMA world. Almost all that are left have fights scheduled in the near future, which will certainly create some waves in the middleweight (and welterweight) divisions.
Clint Hester - Clint was scheduled to fight Zak Cummings at the finale, in what was what many thought should have been the wild card matchup for the season instead of Bubba McDaniel vs Kevin Casey. Cummings was forced to withdraw from the bout due to a knee injury sustained weeks before the fight, and was replaced by Season 16 cast member Bristol Marunde. Marunde had recently been cut from the UFC, but was brought back to face Hester on short notice. He managed to survive nearly the whole fight with the powerful striker, but succumbed to a KO via Widemanesque standing elbow from the aptly named "Headbussa" before the final bell. Clint is the first of the cast members to be competing again in the UFC as he faces Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira in Mutante's home country of Brazil on August 3rd. Ferreira is primarily a striker that punched and guillotined his way into the tournament finals for TUF Brazil, eventually winning the last bout with a unanimous decision. He trains in South Florida with the Blackzilians, and is reportedly a close pupil of Vitor Belfort.
Dylan Andrews - Tournament semi-finalist Dylan Andrews kept his UFC career alive by stopping castmate Jimmy Quinlan in the first round of their fight in April, and will be taking on a very tough opponent in Papy Abedi. Abedi went 8-0 outside the UFC before finally getting the call. Looking impressive in the opening minutes of his bout with Thiago Silva, he ended up losing steam quickly and getting submitted via rear-naked choke. He went on to lose another bout to James Head via the exact same submission, then most recently earning a split decision victory over welterweight Besam Yousef. Dylan has also faced his fair share of competition before getting a crack at the UFC, including Jesse Taylor, Shonie Carter, and Brian Ebersole, and welcomes Abedi to the middleweight division as he will be climbing to 185 lbs for their bout on August 28th.
Bubba McDaniel - Also competing on the Indianapolis card, Bubba will be taking on a very tough opponent straight out of the gate in Brad Tavares. This is a matchup that McDaniel reportedly asked for, all the way down to the town it was to go down in. He has won seven in a row in professional competition, and sports a very decorated record of 21-6. Seeing as though he had more high level competition than any of his castmates, this matchup makes sense, although Tavares is a tall order for anyone, with an outstanding 5-1 inside the Octagon.
Zak Cummings - Cummings was also entering the show with somewhat veteran status, although in the eyes of many did not perform up to his potential on the season. He was set to face Hester at the finale, but injured his knee training for the bout, although his invitation to the UFC was not put in jeopardy by the injury, as he will cash in on his chance to fight in the Octagon on August 28th in a new weightclass as he meets Ben Alloway at 170 lbs. Alloway has had decent success in the UFC at 1-1, and Cummings has shown an ability to hang with the best, losing only to Tim Kennedy, Ryan Jimmo, and Elvis Mutapcic.
Kelvin Gastelum - Gastelum made everyone's head spin as he defied odds one after another all the way to the title of "The Ultimate Fighter." Just to recap the path he had to overcome in order to get there, he first had to defeat Kito Andrews, who was on a seven fight win streak, followed by Bubba McDaniel, who had six times the amount of fights, and Colin Hart, who while not having many fights on paper, was a very strong competitor and a Cesar Gracie/Dave Terrell Purple Belt. Following those three, he went on to defeat yours truly, and finally impressed the judges against the season favorite, Uriah Hall. While this roster of fighters is incredibly impressive for a 21 year old to beat all in the course of a year, he will be looking to parlay on the streak with another surprisingly tough match up in the always game Paulo Thiago. Thiago is no stranger to surprising the MMA world, as he knocked out Josh Koscheck in his UFC debut, while finding mixed success since then.
Luke Barnatt - Luke closed the book on his TUF story with what I thought was the best fight at the TUF 17 Finale, when he battled Colin Hart on the undercard. Tooth and nail they fought for three rounds, with Barnatt finally pulling away with the decision victory. Luke has only been training MMA for three-four years, and with continued improvement could be a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division at his towering 6'6" height and equally impressive reach. He will undoubtedly be waiting around for his matchup on the next European card, which is set to take place in October.
Tor Troeng - Tor came into the tournament with a wealth of experience, and was widely considered to be the #1 unsigned middleweight in Europe. At a well rounded 6 KO's, 6 submissions, and 4 decisions, he also part times as an Engineer in his home country of Sweden, making for a very intelligent fighter, as well as an interesting story. He defeated Adam Cella weeks before the TUF 17 Finale, and will also probably be waiting for the call to compete in Europe.
Remaining Cast Members:
Adam Cella - Adam bounced back from the Troeng loss in devastating fashion, as he knocked out Justin Demoney (15-5) in the first round last month. Expect to see him rack up another win or two, then make his way back to the UFC at 170 lbs.
Gilbert Smith - Gilbert lost a close fight by triangle choke in the third round at the finale against teammate McDaniel. That was a fight Smith personally asked the UFC for, and Joe Silva was more than happy to oblige. Making the story more interesting is that they also shared the same management, although I can imagine that didn't last long. In any case, he is scheduled to fight Jason Lee in "Prize Fighting Championships" on July 13th at 180 lbs, although he has plans of making the move to welterweight soon.
Kevin Casey - "King" Kevin Casey almost secured a win in the first 10 seconds of his UFC debut, only to end up coming up short and losing via TKO in the second round. He will be attempting to rebound off the loss on August 16th as he fights 5-0 Casey Ryan in the RFA promotion.
Collin Hart - Collin is based in Northern California, with ties to the Cesar Gracie affiliation. Although he does not have an announced fight date, I would not be surprised to see him make a debut in Nick Diaz' promotion if they continue to promote shows.
Jimmy Quinlan - Jimmy does not have a fight scheduled, and may possibly never step in a cage again. He will likely continue to compete in and hopefully dominate the BJJ and grappling circuits, as well as planned seminars all around the world.
Josh Samman vs. Uriah Hall- In the matchup that many were predicting and/or hoping for the finals, I will finally be facing Hall in what has all the makings to be an epic battle at UFC on FOX Sports 1: Sonnen vs Shogun on August 17th in Boston. With 15 finishes in our 17 professional wins between us, including 10 knockouts and many badly hurt opponents on the way, we will be competing on the main card of the very first ever Fox Sports 1 event. Hall was originally scheduled to face Nick Ring, although I got the call to step in once SSN complications arouse between Ring and the state of Massachusetts. This is a fight that I am excited about and always knew was in my future, although I had no way of knowing how immediate. Admittedly I would have preferred to fight him as the Ultimate Fighter winner as opposed to Ultimate Fighter runner up, the fight has still not lost interest and is something the fans deserve, as well as a great opportunity to showcase my skills on a main card.
To close, I will leave my post fight interview from the Kevin Casey fight, which answers many questions about the season that readers and BE members may have had. In addition, I will try to follow up with something more in depth for the Hall fight, maybe in the comments or another post. In the mean time, please share your thoughts, predictions, and breakdowns of the above matchups for myself and my castmates, as well as any other questions you guys may have.
Thanks for the support, I can be found on Twitter @JoshSamman.