Greatest T.U.F.'ers ... so far
With the Season 9 finale just days away, here are the top 10 ultimate fighters
Forrest Griffin tops the list, having won a title and won over fans
Diego Sanchez, who sits at No. 4, faces a tough challenge on Saturday
Another chapter in The Ultimate Fighter series will come to a close this Saturday, as two additional contestants will join a growing list of Ultimate Fighter champions. As we wait for that moment, let's examine the merits of the show by electing the most influential fighters from seasons past.
1. Forrest Griffin
The lack of the obligatory moniker aside, Griffin (16-5-0) is as tough as they come. He is the original Ultimate Fighter and the poster boy for the popular series. His fantastic duel with Stephan Bonnar on the inaugural season's finale was coined "the most important fight in UFC history" by UFC president Dana White.
Griffin was also the second fighter from the show to win a title, when he defeated then-champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 86. Though he lost the belt to Season 2's winner, Rashad Evans, at UFC 92, Griffin will likely remain the most influential Ultimate Fighter alumnus for a while.
Griffin will return after a string of in-fight injuries at UFC 101, where he'll face his toughest opponent to date: UFC kingpin Anderson Silva, one of the best fighters in the world. A victory would place Griffin back in title contention in the light heavyweight division and further solidify his place in UFC lore.
2. Rashad Evans
Evans (18-1-1) became the third fighter from the show to capture UFC gold when he beat Griffin at UFC 92. While you could make the argument that Evans should be ranked first because of that title victory, he does not possess the appeal of Griffin.
Still, "Sugar" has been relevant. After winning the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, he became the only contestant to have won all of his fights en route to a title, save for his draw with MMA legend Tito Ortiz. During that run, Evans captured another win over a Ultimate Fighter contestant in Stephan Bonnar.
Evans will make a return to show, only this time he'll be coaching, opposite Quinton Jackson. A win over Rampage in the Season 10 Finale could give Evans the chance to get back in title contention, and it may also allow the reserved Evans to better connect with fans.
3. Kenny Florian
Florian (13-3-0) is another original cast member. Competing as a middleweight, he defeated Chris Leben before losing to Diego Sanchez in the finals. Still, he's ranked above Diego for several reasons.
For starters, Florian will be the second Ultimate Fighter graduate, after Matt Serra, to vie for a title twice when he takes on lightweight champion B.J. Penn at UFC 101. Ever the ambassador for the sport, Florian is also a regular panelist on ESPN.com's MMA Live show, which airs every Thursday.
Much like Griffin, Florian has been able to transcend the sport and find an appeal outside the Octagon. If he can pull off an upset at UFC 101, his stock will skyrocket and he would be favored to win a potential rematch with Sanchez.