Mailbag: Best of Spike-era TUF

By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports

The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale on Saturday at the Palms in Las Vegas will mark the end of an era: It will be the final live UFC event to air on Spike TV.

In many ways, Spike made the UFC and the UFC made Spike.

The sport of mixed martial arts grew up on Spike. The UFC has outgrown Spike and will move next year to the Fox networks, providing it with more in-depth coverage and a wider audience than Spike ever could.

The bout between Jared Rollins (airborne) and Jon Koppenhaver at the TUF 6 Finale was one of the most memorable of the UFC's Spike TV era.

So, on the eve of the final show ever on Spike, its an appropriate time to choose the Best of TUF from the Spike era.

Best fighter: Three men went on to win UFC titles after appearing on TUF and numerous others became UFC mainstays. Judging them by the careers they have had post-TUF and the potential they maintain for greatness, the Top 10 fighters in TUF history looks like this: 1, Rashad Evans, Season 2; 2, Josh Koscheck, Season 1; 3, Forrest Griffin, Season 1; 4, Matt Serra, Season 4; 5, Kenny Florian, Season 1; 6, Diego Sanchez, Season 1; 7, Michael Bisping, Season 3; 8, Gray Maynard, Season 5; 9, Nate Diaz, Season 5; 10, Stephan Bonnar, Season 1.

Best coach: Tito Ortiz. Ortiz coached on Season 3 and Season 11 and actually helped his fighters improve. He was patient when he needed to be, forceful when it was called for and always caring. Other top coaches include Evans, Georges St. Pierre, Jens Pulver, Serra and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Best fight: The Griffin-Bonnar fight from the Season 1 finale was so good, it not only saved the UFC, but it should force the UFC to rename its Fight of the Night award to the Griffin-Bonnar Fight of the Night. So the top three non-Griffin-Bonnar matches in TUF history (including all bouts on Ultimate Fighter Finale cards, not just TUF tourney fights) go to Scott Smith-Pete Sell of Season 4; Jon Koppenhaver-Jared Rollins of Season 6 and Joe Stevenson-Luke Cummo of Season 2.

Best coaches fight: The coaches traditionally fight at the end of each season, but the most memorable bout by far came in Season 9 when Dan Henderson knocked out Bisping with one of the greatest one-punch KOs in UFC history. Bisping, who had become the UFCs greatest villain by that point, was out cold at UFC 100 after taking that perfect right hand from Henderson.

Best season: This depends upon how you define it. In this case, Im doing so by the number of quality fighters who came off the show and into the UFC. Its a no-brainer for Season 1, which produced Griffin, Bonnar, Koscheck, Sanchez, Florian, Mike Swick, Chris Leben and Nate Quarry. Honorable mentions go to Season 5 (Maynard, Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Matt Wiman, Manny Gamburyan) and Season 2 (Evans, Keith Jardine, Stevenson, Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard and Jorge Gurgel).

Worst season: Its still early, but Season 13 only produced Tony Ferguson and Ramsey Nijem. None of the other fighters seem to have much hope of becoming UFC regulars. Other less-than-star-studded seasons include Season 11, Season 9, Season 6 and Season 7.

Most annoying: There are many choices here, but in the end, it comes down to a battle of two guys who seemed more interested in partying than fighting, Junie Browning of Season 8 and Jesse Taylor of Season 7. In a close call, Brownings nonsense was more annoying and he gets the nod.

Worst prediction: This one goes to UFC president Dana White, who during Season 8 told reporters he had found the next Anderson Silva. He was referring to lightweight Phillipe Nover, who never came close to living up to the hype. Nover lost to Efrain Escudero in the finale, then lost his next two UFC fights and was ignominiously cut. Hes 1-4 since the Season 8 finale, including two fights outside of the UFC.