by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
When The Ultimate Fighter TV series was conceived there was understandably a lot of apprehension on behalf of the MMA community to embrace the participants as legitimate UFC fighters.

Now over a year after its debut the show has proven that it can produce solid talent, and not just out of fighters who win their weight division, but also out of those who were runners-up.

For evidence of this all anyone has to do is look at the run made by the likes of season one products Chris Leben, Mike Swick, and Stephan Bonnar. All have had great success in the UFC, winning all of their bouts since the season one finale.

Include into that Nate Quarry’s Middleweight Championship shot against Rich Franklin and the solid performances of Kenny Florian and Josh Koscheck, and you see that these fighters are not just flash in the pan reality stars.

Season two has also seen its share of fighters do well so far in the UFC. Keith Jardine, Josh Burkman, and Jason Von Flue have all been successful in their action post-season two finale. And now welterweight runner-up Luke Cummo hopes to join the successes of TUF as he takes on Von Flue this Thursday at Ultimate Fight Night 4.

Out of all the fighters to enter into both completed seasons of TUF, Cummo most likely represents the greatest underdog to success story.

Heading into TUF 2 Luke was 3-2, coming off a loss to TUF 1’s Josh Koscheck a year prior. During fighter selections it was clear that he was the odd man out and not given any chance to do well against some of the most regarded welterweight prospects around.

Yet with odds against him, he rose up and showed the heart he’s become known for and succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.

After defeating the less experienced Sam Torres via unanimous decision in his first fight on the show, Cummo was to go up against Sam Morgan, a fighter who had made a name for himself heading into TUF 2 by knocking out UFC veteran Duane “Bang” Ludwig months earlier.

Not given much chance to succeed, Luke defied expectations and ended up stopping Morgan in the second round of their fight via TKO. The longshot had now made it to the finals of TUF 2, but to win the contract he would have to beat the most feared welterweight coming into the show, Joe Stevenson.

In what became one of the year’s more memorable fights, Cummo gave Stevenson everything he could handle, fighting hard both standing up and on the ground.

In the end however the judges felt that Stevenson had done enough to win, but Luke had gained the respect of the MMA community and more importantly he impressed the UFC enough to himself earn a coveted contract.

So now the fighter that nobody seemingly wanted is now a fighter that everyone is behind. Cummo now faces a different kind of pressure heading into UFN, he’s the favorite this time, but can he continue to succeed now that he’s no longer the underdog?

For Luke to beat Jason Von Flue he must continue to do what’s worked well for him this past year. He must be aggressive standing and keep Von Flue at bay and eliminate the possibility of a takedown. The more he frustrates Jason standing, the more chance Cummo has an opportunity to exploit a mistake should Von Flue begin reaching.

When on the ground Cummo must work hard to stay off his back where he’s had problems getting out of bad positioning. His ground game has gotten better since working with Matt Serra, but still, if he’s to win this fight Luke must use his best asset, his striking and persistence.

Should Luke win it will further validate his presence in the UFC and continue to show that The Ultimate Fighter can produce viable competitors. A loss, while a setback, would not be devastating if Cummo continues to show grit and heart, two traits that will always warrant a return in the fans’ eyes.

While he might not have won the trophy, car, and the other amenities that come with winning TUF 2, Luke Cummo has gained something more important, respect. He’s been a fighter that’s had to work harder than others to succeed and in the end it has served him well and brought him to this point, a UFC contract fighter.