Timur Valiev (C) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

The Ultimate Fighter Season 31: Breaking Down the Bantamweight Roster

Season 31 of the The Ultimate Fighter premieres May 30 on ESPN. Boasting Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler as the coaches, the show features a plethora of UFC and Contender Series vets, as well as some new faces to the organization. Below is a breakdown of the bantamweight roster of this season.

The Favorite: Timur Valiev

Russia’s Timur Valiev is the clear-cut favorite on this season of the show, as it was shocking he was let go from the UFC in the first place. He’s a well-rounded fighter, though his striking is his specialty. He was 2-1-1 in the UFC and was sharp in all of those bouts. He scored wins over Martin Day and Raoni Barcelos, both of which were big victories for Valiev. The loss that got him booted from the UFC was to Jack Shore, a top-20 fighter in the bantamweight division. He matches up dominantly over the field here.


The Dark Horse: Brad Katona

Brad Katona is a former TUF champion, but, since then, he has kind of had a quiet career. That’s what makes him the dark horse, as he’s a guy that could sneak out of this season with a second TUF title for himself. He’s another guy who went 2-2 with the UFC, beating Jay Cucciniello and Matthew Lopez, while falling to Hunter Azure and Merab Dvalishvili. He’s been very successful since leaving the UFC, running a 4-0 record under the reputable BRAVE CF organization. Also, having TUF experience while benefit Katona throughout this competition.

The Longshot: Rico DiSciullo

Contender Series veteran Rico DiSciullo looks to be the biggest of the longshots here, though this accolade could have gone to two or three other fighters. The East Coast regional staple tasted defeat on the Contender Series to Montel Jackson, but, since then, has scrapped together two wins. The level of competition he has fought has not been super impressive, including a loss to a fighter that was 3-2-1 at the time of their encounter. He could surprise folks, but, for now, he’s the longshot of the bunch.

The Rest of the Field: Hunter Azure, Cody Gibson, Mando Gutierrez, Carlos Vera, Trevor Wells

Hunter Azure is a wrestler who went 2-2 in the UFC, besting Cole Smith and castmate Brad Katona, while falling to Jack Shore and Brian Kelleher. He originally made it through on the Contender Series by defeating Chris Ocon. He is likely another guy who will be a contender to win this season of the show given his skill and competition level.

Cody Gibson is the one of the two 35-year-old bantamweights on the show. The brawler also has the most pro MMA fights and was a rostered UFC member, running a 1-3 record. While he lost to Douglas Silva, Manny Gamburyan and Aljamain Sterling, he does own a UFC victory over Johnny Bedford. Gibson seems to be built for a competition like this, where being tough can carry you a long way.

Mando Gutierrez returns to the UFC organization after a loss in the Contender Series to now-star Raul Rosas Jr. Gutierrez is a tough, exciting fighter, who is likely an underdog here, but could surprise some.

Carlos Vera is the other 35-year-old on the bantamweight roster. The Ecuadorian, who now trains in the United States, is known for his submission grappling. The Fury FC veteran figures to be one of the longshots here.

Lastly, Trevor Wells is a blue-collared grappler who has won most of his fights by decision. He likes to wrestle and grapple, though a step-up in competition will be seen here, as he’s mostly fought average regional-level fighters.