The Ultimate Fighter reality series returns for its 17th season.  This time, the show’s contestants will be coached by the dominating light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and the king of the microphone, Chael Sonnen.

Earlier, we looked at those fighters who are the favorites to make the house.

This time let’s look at the rest of the cast.  Odds are some of these fighters will make it into the house either because two of the favorites have to fight in the opening round, opening up a slot, or a style match-up that favors one of these fighters will be made.

Catch all the action on Tuesday, Jan. 22, on FX.


Clint Hester (7-3)
Atlanta, Georgia
Age: 26
Height: 6’2”
Twitter: @realClintHester

Notable opponents: Carl Yarbrough (L), Douglas Lima (L)

Clint Hester was on the verge of making it onto the Favorites list, but there just wasn’t room.  Hester is a former boxer with great punching power.  Since he started his MMA career, he is learning the ground game and is currently a blue belt.  It is not surprising that five of his victories come via knockout or that two of his losses are due to submissions.

Strengths: Hester is a trained boxer who has good power.  The most admirable thing about his style is that he is not afraid to go to the body to open up the knockout opportunities.

Weaknesses: He is still learning MMA, and if the fight hits the ground he could be in trouble.


Luke Barnatt (5-0)
Cambridge, England
Age: 24
Height: 6’6”
Twitter: @LukeBarnatt

Surprisingly, Luke Barnatt is one of two fighters to stand 6-foot-6 in this competition.  The physical height and reach advantage will give some fighters problems.  Barnatt started training MMA in 2009 and is learning the sport from the ground up.  He did not have a background in any other combat sport.  He has faced solid regional competition, and he has done well.

Strengths: Barnatt’s physical size may be his biggest advantage.  He also has proven to be a quick learner.

Weaknesses: He is still young and learning the sport.  Without a strong aspect in any area, he truly on has three years of experience in any type of combat sports.


Mike Jasper (6-0)
Camarillo, Calif.
Age: 29
Twitter: @stujasperMMA

Mike Jasper trains and fights out of Bas Rutten’s MMA Elite gym.  The former high school wrestler has competed at both welterweight and middleweight.  In a short time, he has come a long way.  His first fight was in May of 2011.

Strengths: His strong points are cardio and ground-and-pound.

Weaknesses: Jasper is still new to the sport and has relatively little experience.  He will also be taking a step up in the competition he faces on the show.


Leo Bercier (7-2)
Great Falls, Mont.
Age: 31
Height: 5’11”
Twitter: @LBercier

Leo Bercier has never seen the judges’ scorecards in his career.  He has knocked out six opponents, and both of his losses also come from the same means.  The reigning SCS champion and former ICF champion has a strong top control game featuring strong ground-and-pound and solid submission defense.

Strengths: His top control game is his main strength.

Weaknesses: Bercrier has shown that he is susceptible to being knocked out.  In this striker-filled cast, a weak chin is the one thing a fighter can’t afford to have.


Jake Heun (3-2)
Salt Lake City
Age: 25
Height: 6’2”
Twitter: @JakeHeun

Jake Heun, a former University of Hawaii middle linebacker, has never been to a decision.  He won two fights via knockout, one by submission and both losses were by submission.  He started his career at heavyweight, so this could be a big drop for him.  He has trained with Jeremy Horn to improve his ground game.

Strengths: Heun is physically strong and has a great ground-and-pound attack.

Weaknesses: He is still inexperienced in MMA.  Heun also has been very susceptible to submissions thus far in his career.


Fraser Opie (10-5)
Milton Keynes, England (by way of South Africa)
Age: 29
Height: 6’2”
Twitter: @THE_OMEN13

Notable Opponents:  Ivan Salaverry (W)

Fraser Opie is another fighter on this season with a kickboxing background.  He went 12-1 in the sport.  In MMA, he has won five fights via knockout, but also lost all five of his fights the same way.  Opie is physically strong, has an aggressive ground-and-pound attack, and is extremely confident (or cocky).

Strengths: Opie has a kickboxing background and is a proven striker.  He is most effective with his ground-and-pound attack.

Weaknesses: He has a questionable chin, which is not a good trait for a striker.  He has also competed primarily at light heavyweight, so there is a danger in his weight cut.


Eldon Sproat (3-1)
Molokai, Hawaii
Age: 27
Height: 6’1”

Eldon Sproat is another in a long line of Hawaiian fighters to appear on the show.  In fact, he often trains with Troy Mandaloniz and Kendall Grove.  The former bull rider demonstrates his toughness every time out.  He possesses smooth transitions and vicious ground-and-pound ability.

Strengths: His toughness and cardio are probably his biggest strengths.  You can expect him to push forward with a relentless attack.

Weaknesses: Some fighters have great technique, but that isn’t Sproat’s game.  He is a brawler, which means he opens himself to take damage.


Andy Enz (6-1)
Anchorage, Alaska
Age: 21

Notable Opponents: Nic Herron-Webb (W)

Andy Enz couldn’t wait to get into the sport.  His first two fights came before he even finished high school.  The Alaska Fighting Championship middleweight champion has shown his toughness and willingness to engage in wild brawling in his short career.

Strengths: He is a tough fighter and wants to turn every fight into a brawl.

Weaknesses: Enz is still inexperienced and has faced limited competition in his career.


Collin Hart (4-1-1)
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Age: 23
Height: 6’2”
Twitter: @CollinHartMMA

Notable Opponents: Dan Henle (D)

Not a lot is known about Collin Hart, who trains out of Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance.  The only film this writer could find on him showed a cautious and strategic fighter who attacked when he smelled blood.  He has finished all of his fights (three submissions, one knockout).

Strengths: Hart appears to be a smart fighter who waits for an opening.

Weaknesses: Again, after seeing only one tape, it appears that Hart is a fighter who didn’t really have a sense of urgency until there was an opening.  Many fighters this season are going to be much more aggressive and could take control of the pace and the action.


Ryan Bigler (9-3)
Yona, Guam
Age: 28
Twitter: @RyanBigler

Notable opponents: Dorian Price (W)

Ryan Bigler is a finisher, with eight of his nine victories ending early.  He earned the reputation as one of the best fighters in Guam.  The father of two left Guam to be the training partner for Johny Hendricks earlier this year.

Strengths: He is a strong finisher who is always looking to end the fight.

Weaknesses: Bigler has faced questionable opposition throughout his career.  His first seven opponents had a combined record of 4-11 and he has gone just 2-3 in his last five fights.  He is also listed as a welterweight on Sherdog and looks small for this competition.


Eric Wahlin (5-1)
Taylorsville, Utah
Age: 29

Eric Wahlin is a devote Mormon who took up MMA as a way to focus his anger and disappointment following his divorce three years ago.  He has wrestled his entire life and hopes to take most fights to the ground, where he has earned two submission victories and two decision wins.

Strengths: His wrestling is solid and can help him dictate where a fight happens.

Weaknesses: Wahlin is still pretty inexperienced.  In his young career, he hasn’t really found that killer instinct to end fights.  He is also list as a light heavyweight, so he may be burdened with a weight cut for the show.


Nicholas Kohring (3-0)
Valley Springs, Calif.
Age: 22
Height: 6’1”
Twitter: @nickkohring

Nicholas Kohring trains with Cesar Gracie’s team, which guarantees two things.  First, he will be aggressive.  It is just a trait of all of Cesar Gracie’s competitors.  And second, he will know what he is doing when the fight hits the floor—whether that is ground-and-pound or a developed submission game.

Strengths: He is extremely aggressive.

Weaknesses: There are a few concerns about his chances of success.  First, he spent his entire career at welterweight and is now moving up.  This means he will likely be undersized.  Second, he is inexperienced.  And finally, he has not competed since 2010, which makes ring rust a real concern.


Mike Persons (3-0)
Manteca, Calif.
Age: 28
Twitter: @mikepersons

Mike Persons has maintained a perfect record in his young career.  He has finished all of his fights (two wins via submission, one by way of knockout).

Strengths: He has a good top game.  He can control a fighter when he gets on top and is difficult to shake off.

Weaknesses: Persons has sloppy striking and keeps his hands low.  This is a recipe for disaster with the number of good strikers in this tournament.


Gilbert Smith Jr. (5-1)
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Age: 30
Height: 5’9”
Twitter: @JamalSmithMMA

Gilbert Smith has a strong wrestling base that has helped lead him to four submission victories.  He actually tends to take his opponent down and work a ground-and-pound attack until his opponent makes a mistake.

Strengths: His takedowns are solid and he clearly has some submission offense.

Weaknesses: Smith seems to struggle to control his opponents when he gets them down.  On the videos of his fights, his opponents often made it back to their feet, forcing Smith to try another takedown and open himself up to take damage in the process.

Photo: Fraser Opie (David Lethaby/Sherdog)

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.