Those who fight against the odds and persevere hold a unique place in American sports culture and in fans’ hearts.  Joe Namath’s guarantee wouldn’t still be talked about if the Jets were the favorites.  “The Miracle on Ice” wouldn’t have been a miracle at all if the U.S. team was picked to win.  Would “Linsanity” be the craze it is right now if Jeremy Lin was the No. 1 draft pick and was expected to be a star?

Underdogs are so popular that countless movies have been created about them.  From child-friendly movies like the Bad News Bears and The Mighty Ducks that spawned multiple sequels to more adult themed movies like Academy Award winner Rocky to real life stories like Rudy, all focused on underdogs finding a way to overcome challenges.

MMA has seen its fair share of underdogs stepping up into the limelight.  Who can forget Matt Serra beating GSP or Gabriel Gonzaga knocking out Mirko Cro Cop? 

The Ultimate Fighter has seen its own underdogs step out of the shadows to succeed.  Rashad Evans was an underdog on his season who was expected to lose to nearly every fighter in the house.  Amir Sadollah did not have a single professional MMA fight in his career when he entered the house, while CB Dollaway was expected to walk through the competition during season seven of the reality show, but Sadollah still found a way to take home the trophy.

This season of The Ultimate Fighter also has a number of fighters who have some obstacles to overcome.  While I have already previewed the favorites and those likely to make the house, today’s feature focuses on the underdogs.  Most of these fighters find themselves on the underdog list because of limited experience and/or the level of competition they have faced.  However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to find success on the show.

Underdogs:

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Michael Chiesa
Spokane Valley, Wash.
Record: 7-0
Twitter:@MikeMav22
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Chiesa is an underdog I have high hopes for this season.  He is one of two fighters this season who trains with Strikeforce veteran Lyle “Fancy Pants” Beerbohm.  He is an undefeated prospect who has finished five of his opponents by submission.  Although his last four opponents haven’t been the best in the world, he did finish them all in the first round.

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Andy Ogle
Tynemouth, England
Record: 8-1
Twitter:@andyogle89
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Ogle is one of the UK-based fighters trying to make the house this season.  He enters TUF on a seven-fight winning streak.  The 23-year-old fighter uses his wrestling and submission skills to win most of his fights.  While he has a fair amount of experience and is on a nice winning streak, he has not competed in any of the bigger organizations in the UK.

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Cody Pfister
Amarillo, Texas
Record: 6-3
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Pfister started out his career strong going 4-0, before experiencing a three-fight slide, only to rebound in his last two outings.  The former Texas high school wrestler has stopped four of his opponents in the first round.  He has a loss to recent UFC signee Tim Means on his record.  His three-fight skid has me a little worried, especially since one of his victories since came against a debuting fighter.

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Chase Hackett
Littleton, Colo.
Record: 4-1
Twitter:@PrisonStare
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Hackett enters the house with one of the better nicknames: “Prison Stare.”  The former Motocross racer got into MMA because his parents loved the sport so much and encouraged him to try a BJJ class.  He currently trains at Factory X Muay Thai with Chris Camozzi.  Three of Hackett’s victories came via submission, but he does hold a decision victory where he dropped noted striker and TUF castmate Drew Dober.  On the downside, Hackett has fought against inexperienced competition throughout his short career.

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Chris Saunders
Long Beach, Calif.
Record: 9-2
Twitter:@kidisgood
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Saunders trains out of Southern California, but he is from Quebec.  He recently had his seven-fight winning streak snapped by a loss to Chris Horodecki in Bellator.  Saunders is a well-rounded fighter whose biggest win is a KO victory over Cleber Luciano, Tito Ortiz’s BJJ coach.  Even though Saunders has solid experience and has faced decent competition, there just wasn’t room on the other lists for him.

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Drew Dober
Omaha, Neb.
Record: 7-3
Twitter:@DrewDober
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Dober grew up as a mixed martial artist.  He has been training in kickboxing, BJJ and wrestling since his early teens.  As he grew older, he fell in love with muay Thai, where he has competed as both an amateur and a professional.  In MMA, he competed on the amateur circuit for years, going undefeated.  As a professional, Dober has already made the leap to the larger shows.  He is a Bellator veteran.  He does have a loss to fellow TUF castmate Chase Hackett on his record from 2009.

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James Vick
Fort Worth, Texas
Record: 4-0
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Vick’s first professional fight was only last June.  However, he has crammed as much experience as possible into the time since.  He fought every month for four months.  His first three fights were first-round stoppages, while his fourth went to decision.  He also has competed as an amateur kickboxer and amateur boxer.

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Jeff Smith
Mechanicsburg, Penn.
Record: 9-1
Twitter:@JeffSmithMMA
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Smith lost in his debut fight but has reeled off nine consecutive victories.  He also holds an amateur record of 6-1.  In his 15 victories, he stopped his opponent 13 times with 12 of those coming by way of submission.  He has a good amount of experience on the regional circuit and is a fighter who, without the name or gym recognition, could make some noise in the competition.

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John Cofer
Hull, Ga.
Record: 7-1
Twitter:@coferpottery
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Cofer trains out of Hardcore Gym with former WEC champion Brian Bowles.  He has an extensive wrestling and coaching background.  It is no surprise that he will look to get a fight to the mat.  He is on a four-fight winning streak, where his opponents had an impressive 16-6 record, going into the house.

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Johnavan Vistante
Pearl City, Hawaii
Record: 3-1
Twitter:@WarriorzKingdom
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The Hawaiian fighter is just 3-1 as a professional fighter.  He has stopped all of his opponents in his victories.  His sole loss was to UFC veteran Bernardo Magalhaes.  Vistante also received some press in his local news for stopping a robber and holding him until police arrived.

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Mark Glover
Liverpool, England
Record: 6-1-1
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Glover is another UK fighter looking to make his way into the house this season.  He has trained with Team Kaobon, home to such UFC vetarans as Terry Etim and Paul Sass.  Glover has won five fights via submission.  He does hold a first-round submission victory over former UFC veteran and TUF contestant Aaron Wilkinson.  However, out of Glover’s six victories, only two have come against fighters with a winning record.  His last four victories have all been against fighters with losing records.  In fact, heading into the fight with Glover, their record was a combined 18-41.

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Sam Sicilia
Spokane Valley, Wash.
Record: 10-0
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Sicilia is the second competitor this season coming from Strikeforce veteran Lyle Beerbohm’s camp.  He went a remarkable 9-0 in 2011, finishing every opponent.  He finished his last seven fights in the first round.  On the other hand, his opponents in 2011 only had a combined record of 20-24 going into their fight, and two opponents never won a fight prior to, or since, meeting Sicilia.

Catch all of these competitors on the new season of The Ultimate Fighter, which airs on Friday, March 9, at 9 p.m. ET on FX.

Photo: Michael Chiesa (CageSport MMA)

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.