It is safe to say that the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter has brought a rejuvenated interest in the long-running season after several seasons that had fans yawning and changing the channel. The new format the show currently possesses, in addition to having respectable top-notch talent, has brought fans back in droves to watch the show.

It has definitely helped that the talent on this season has been much better than that of the past. Studs like Uriah Hall, Josh Samman and Dylan Andrews have become guys that are talked about on a regular basis by fans. Hall, Samman, Andrews and Kelvin Gastelum are in the final four and are slated to play things out on television tonight, but what about the 10 other fighters who were in the house that were eliminated? Can these men become guys who stay employed by the UFC for some time to come? And who are the fighters that will fail to find consistency and retreat to the shadows from whence they came?

The first guy who is currently eliminated that could be a mainstay in the UFC for some time is Tor Troeng. The Swede already won his first fight in the UFC this past weekend in Sweden when he easily choked out castmate Adam Cella via rear-naked choke. Troeng is so solid in every aspect of fighting that he is a tough matchup for most fighters. He is a durable guy, as well as smart. Sometimes it is the fighter with the bigger brain that wins fights, and Troeng is among the smarter guys out there.

Another guy that could stick around for some time is Luke Barnatt. The Brit has a tall, lanky frame at 6-foot-6 and uses that to his advantage. He fights very tall and is surprisingly strong for a guy who doesn’t look very muscular. He uses leverage very well, especially against the cage. Barnatt has good knockout power, as striking is definitely his bread and butter. He also has the warrior’s mentality, as seen through his dialogue and actions on the show.

The last guy that could see long-term employment for the UFC is Bubba McDaniel. This may be an unpopular choice, but understand that McDaniel’s performances may have been affected by cutting a ton of weight multiple times in a short duration on the show. McDaniel has fought at light heavyweight in the past, so if he wants to stay away from the weight cut, he has the option to move back up. McDaniel is a technical striker that fights long, like Barnatt. He does have power, and once he gets the right motivation from his corner, can turn it on to overdrive.

On the flip side of the coin, there are some guys that raise some red flags as fighters that may not have the brightest future in the sport.

The first of the eliminated participants that would fit that bill is Gilbert Smith. Smith is a brute in terms of strength and will be able to overpower physically weaker fighters, but high-level guys that scout him out will have an easy time with him. Smith’s striking is very green and his gas tank is very light. That combination makes him a very suspect prospect in this game.

Another guy who raises some red flags is Collin Hart. Despite making the quarterfinals, Hart has serious issues in his striking defense. His aggression and wrestling game are definitely positives, but if he can’t stop himself from getting his jaw touched, he will be in trouble. In his win over Kevin Casey, Hart looked very weak in his striking game, as he took some serious bombs from the Team Sonnen member. Then, in his loss to Gastelum, he experienced the same problems, except that Gastelum cleaned his clock.

The last guy who may be weeded out moving forward is Kevin Casey. Despite having an okay record right now as a professional, Casey’s weight-cutting issues and gas tank leave much to be concerned about. In his fights against McDaniel and Hart, Casey gassed very quickly and had to be helped out of the cage on both occasions. If this continues, Casey may be out of MMA and could be forced to just stick with competitive grappling.

There you have it. Troeng, Barnatt and McDaniel are three guys that will likely be UFC mainstays, whereas Smith, Hart and Casey are three fighters that will likely fade away when it’s all said and done. Time will tell what happens and the beginning of this journey begins this weekend at the finale in Las Vegas.

Photo: Tor Troeng (Henrik Wall/

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.