In a surprising turn, Efrain Escudero, the lightweight winner of "The Ultimate Fighter 8," was cut by the UFC on Monday, the fighter announced on his Twitter.
What's more surprising is Escudero is the first non-"Comeback" season winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" to be released from his UFC contract. The nine non-"Comeback" seasons that have been completed have produced 15 winners. Escudero is the first winner to be cut, meaning if you had Joe Stevenson, Kendall Grove or Mac Danzig in the pool, you are not a winner.
Now, did the UFC make a big mistake in cutting the 24-year old Escudero?
It's been less than two years since Escudero won his season of TUF and showed great promise, beating favorite Phillipe Nover. He came out with fury in his first fight, stopping Cole Miller with punches in the first round. But then he was submitted by Evan Dunham. He rebounded with a decision win against Dan Lauzon, but his downfall came when he not only missed weight by three pounds but also was submitted by Charles Oliveira last week at UFC Fight Night 22.
Per usual with these sorts of things, I am sure there is more to this than meets the eye. The UFC doesn't just cut a solid prospect without there being something under the surface (see Duffee, Todd), but again, the UFC is just handing either Bellator or Strikeforce a very solid fighter who received significant television time in their promotion. For as hyped as Duffee was, he didn't receive nearly the amount of TV time Escudero did. All five of Escudero's UFC fights were televised and he received much exposure on TUF.
If this truly was only a performance-based release, the UFC is making a mistake here. Despite the two losses, Escudero has shown solid skills during his UFC tenure, although his effort against Oliveira certainly was his weakest to date. Again, if this was a performance-based cut, Escudero should've received one more fight.
It's almost shocking to see the UFC give up on someone they've invested so much into. Of course, Escudero could be a flop wherever he goes, but if he was going to completely flop, he should've completely flopped in the UFC.