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Meet the TUF 21: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians cast

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A brief look at the cast of the upcoming season of the Ultimate Fighter, and the potential favorites to win the whole thing.

So, another season of TUF is coming. And like some other recent seasons (which have included men & women in the same house, crowned champions, or been aired live) this one is once again looking to innovate on the core team vs. team structure. This time around, instead of putting famous (usually) fighters in the role of head coach over two teams of aspiring UFC fighters, to major MMA camps will go head to head with their hand picked teams of welterweight talent.

The competition takes place between Florida super-camps American Top Team and The Blackzilians, with $500,000 on the line for the winning team, as well as the customary TUF contract for the winning fighter. So, lets take a look at the fighters competing:

American Top Team

Blackzilians

Nat. Name Age Record Nat. Name Age Record

Welterweights

Brazilian Marcelo Alfaya 36 16–7 (1 NC) Brazilian Valdir Araujo 30 14–5
American Steve Carl 30 21–4 American Carrington Banks 26 3–0
American Nathan Coy 36 14–5 Brazilian Luiz Buscape 32 18–6
American Michael Graves 24 4–0 Jamaican Jason Jackson 24 4–2
American Hayder Hassan 32 6–1 Brazilian Vicente Luque 23 7–4–1
American Sabah Homasi 26 8–4 Brazilian Andrews Nakahara 31 4–2–2
Slovenian Uros Jurisic 23 5–0 Brazilian Felipe Portela 27 8–2
American Steve Montgomery 24 8–2 Nigerian Kamaru Usman 26 5–1

There they are, the TUF 21 fighters on their respective teams. However, before I launch into the best rising prospects on the show there are a few fighters that could have a real advantage in terms of competing in the house: Steve Carl, Nathan Coy, Sabah Homasi, and Valdir Araujo. Obviously with Coy and Carl already winning less prestigious MMA titles, their ability to fight to a certain level has been put on display. More generally however, all four of these fighters have been competing consistently for years and are in (or coming in) to the prime of their careers.

That can mean less than physical prowess or an unusual style in TUF, where the quick tournament format places a lot less importance on a fighter's ability to prepare for a bout, but as we've seen in the past with winners like Diego Brandao, Roy Nelson, and Jonathan Brookins (among others) sometimes being at the right stage in a fighter's career can put them in an ideal place to do well on the Ultimate Fighter.

As for the talent that I'm really watching for on this show, one name shines through first and foremost. That's Kamarudeen Usman. T.P. Grant and I listed him as our no. 1 WW prospect in the world, and I would not at all be surprised to see him make a Warlley Alves-esque run through the TUF house. We also highlighted Steve Montogmery, who's combination of size (he's 6' 4"), dynamic striking, and stifling cage control could make him a really difficult challenge for a lot of fighters.

Otherwise, I'm interested to see what Carrington Banks and Michael Graves have to offer. Graves isn't the most technical fighter I've seen, but he does have a ton of unchecked aggression that could serve him well. And Banks looks like a really powerfully built and fluid wrestler, without a lot of secondary tools at the moment. But,those kinds of fighters can often do better than expected on TUF, where having one key skill often serves competitors well.

All told, this season looks to have a lot of really interesting and potentially exciting talent for the UFC. Fighters like Jason Jackson and Uros Jurusic look like they could be fun and dangerous action fighters in the future, and veterans like Luiz Buscape and Marcelo Alfaya could still have something left in the tank to show less experienced rising talent. It's a better talent pool (outside of TUF 20) than the UFC has put together in a long time.