Three men who have won their division on "The Ultimate Fighter" have subsequently gone on to win a UFC world title belt.
Matt Serra won the welterweight title by scoring the biggest upset in UFC history, knocking out Georges St-Pierre in his first fight after defeating Chris Lytle to win TUF 4.
Serra, though, was an anomaly among TUF winners because he appeared on a "comeback" season in which veterans who had left the UFC came back for a chance at redemption. In most other seasons, the fighters on the show have entered it with little or no previous UFC experience.
That was the case with both Season 1 winner Forrest Griffin and Season 2 winner Rashad Evans. Each man won the UFC light heavyweight title in their eighth fight after winning TUF.
Chael Sonnen, who coached Uriah Hall on Season 17 of "The Ultimate Fighter," believes Hall is already a contender in the UFC's middleweight division.
That's a remarkable step for any fighter to be a contender so quickly. Even accomplished fighters who have dominated in other promotions, such as Hector Lombard, have struggled when they've joined the UFC.
Lombard is only 1-2 in the UFC and his job security is probably no better than the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Hall will meet Kelvin Gastelum on Saturday in the "The Ultimate Fighter Finale" at the Mandalay Bay Events Center and then, if Sonnen is correct, head straight into bouts against top middleweights.
Hall, whose knockout of Adam Cella in his first match was one of the most spectacular in UFC history, knocked out Dylan Andrews from the bottom position in the semifinals. As doctors tended to Andrews, Sonnen walked over to Hall in the cage and said, "You're a contender. I spent five years in the 185 division, and you're a contender right now."
With time to think about it, Sonnen didn't change his mind. Reached by email, Sonnen was adamant.
"He could win the title today, but right now he just needs to focus on competing well Saturday night," Sonnen said.
The UFC has developed some stars from TUF, with Evans, Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Michael Bisping and Nate Diaz.
Both Sonnen and UFC president Dana White are convinced Hall is going to join that group. Each man he fought – Andy Enz, Cella, McDaniel and Andrews – wound up in the hospital.
Hall's four TUF fights are considered exhibitions, so they don't count on his official record. Officially, he's 7-2 with losses only to Chris Weidman and Costas Philippou.
Weidman is rated No. 1 at middleweight and will challenge Anderson Silva for the title in July. Philippou is ranked sixth in the division and has won five in a row.
Hall is guaranteed nothing unless he defeats Gastelum on Saturday, and that's no sure thing. Even conceding that point, White could barely contain himself when he spoke of Hall's potential.
What has amazed White so much about Hall is the body control he has displayed. He was able to do things with his body that only the elite of the elite can do.
"You know how boxers will feint punches with their arms and their shoulders?" White said. "Well, Uriah does it with his feet and his arms at the same time. People just don't know what's coming. They're looking at him and they see him do that and they don't know if he's going to punch, if he's going for a kick or what the [expletive] he might do.
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"He can snap off those kicks so fast, it's scary. He's unbelievable. I think the kid is incredibly talented. He's done what no one has done in TUF history. You don't see guys in the UFC fighting like Uriah Hall does. He feints those kicks and he can then throw them in any direction, with awesome power."
It's a safe bet that a number of fighters from Season 17 will go on to have successful UFC careers. It's even possible that one of them may surpass Hall's accomplishments when it is all said and done.
But few in the lengthy history of the UFC's reality show have ever stirred interest the way Hall has. White has to feel like an NFL scout who picks up a 1,500-yard running back while walking his dog past a flag football game in the park.
Hall has the ability to be special, and those kinds of finds are very rare and even more cherished.
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