How have UFC Debutants Faired in 2021

UFC Debutant
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 23: Michael Chandler reacts after his knockout victory over Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The introduction of new UFC debutants is always exciting. Will they be a flop? Will we have a new Conor McGregor on our hands? So much anticipation of relatively unproven talent and exciting prospects getting their shot in the big leagues. 

Since the turn of the year, there have been 26 UFC debutants, with mixed successes. Yes, we have had debutants facing one another on a few occasion but more often than not, a debutant faces someone who has already had at least one UFC bout.

One thing we do know is that the fighters making their UFC debuts, whether that is the UFC Apex or on Fight Island the jitters can’t be the same. Making your debut without a crowd will certainly take some edge off a fighter’s performance. The build-up is different, being in the UFC bubble is a different experience. We take a look at all those who have made their UFC debut, how they’ve faired and what could be next for some of the standouts. We take a look at all the debutants who featured in January and give a nod to the standouts.

UFC Debutants in 2021

January

UFC on ABC 1

Joselyn Edwards was the first UFC debutant of the year and made a successful trip to the octagon on the first card of the year. She dominated her opponent to cruise to a unanimous decision victory and looked good doing it. Having stepped in on late notice, Edwards impressed. So much so that she returned again in less than a month, this time to face Karol Rosa. Unfortunately for the Panama based fighter, she lost her next UFC fight, again going 15 minutes. At just 25, she certainly has a lot of time to learn, improve and come back with a vengeance later in 2021.

UFC on ESPN 20

UFC on ESPN 20 saw seven UFC debutants. Manon Fiorot defeated fellow UFC debutant, Victoria Leonardo. The striking of Fiorot was on another level to that of Leonardo, finishing her in the second round after pure dominance. Fiorot is already scheduled again, this time for a June showdown with Marya Moroz. Despite dropping her debut to one of our 2020 UK stars to watch, Leah McCourt, Fiorot is flawless in her last six. As for Leonardo, she’ll come again. However, she’ll certainly have to improve and face a lower level of competition than Fiorot.

This card also saw Umar Nurmagomedov defeat Sergey Morozov. Nurmagomedov shone in his debut, notching a performance of the night bonus. With a more stand-up heavy style that his name-sake Khabib, Umar Nurmagomedov showed a well rounded game, finishing Morozov with a rear-naked choke. Nurmagomedov is without a doubt one to keep an eye on at bantamweight. With seven finish victories in 13 wins, the younger Nurmagomedov knows how to finish. Expect to see him out again soon in his attack on the 135lbs division. His opponent, Morozov is the former M1-Challenge champion at bantamweight so clearly has the skills to cut it. With three knockouts in his five victories prior to joining the UFC, Morozov has heavy hands. He’ll certainly come again in the UFC, hopefully for him with an easier opponent than Nurmagomedov.

Former CageWarriors double champion, Mason Jones came to scrap in his UFC debut. Despite dropping a unanimous decision to Mike Davis, Jones made a name for himself with his walk forward, take one to land one style. Having experienced his first loss in the fight of the night, Jones is already scheduled again. Taking on Alan Patrick, the Welshman will look to get back into the win column in June. With seven finishes in 10 victories, Jones will have the whole of Wales behind him when he looks for his first UFC win.

UFC on ESPN 20 also saw another UFC debutant, Francisco Figueiredo. Another Figueiredo at flyweight is a problem. Francisco Figueiredo made his UFC debut against Jerome Rivera in a successful manner. 29-28 on all cards saw the champs brother come away with a victory. Having made his name in the well respected Jungle Fight promotion, and with a record of 12-3-1, Figueiredo is already scheduled to compete again in May. Jimmy Flick stands in front of the Brazillian in his quest to go 2-0 in the UFC.

The final UFC debutant to make the walk at UFC on ESPN 20 was Gaetano Pirrello. Pirrello was a late notice replacement for Brian Kelleher to face Ricky Simon. Simon’s experience showed in this one and unfortunately for this UFC debutant, it ended in defeat. It was finished in the second round when Simon locked up an arm triangle, tapping Pirrello. Pirrello is certainly talented but has experienced six losses. He should definitely get another chance in the UFC having stepping in on short notice and saved a fight from being scrapped. Don’t be surprised to see him facing someone making their UFC debut later on in the year.

UFC 257

Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest name to debut in the UFC thus far in 2021 has been Michael Chandler. Chandler debuted at UFC 257 in the co-main event of Conor McGregor and Dustin Porier. This was certainly a plot in order to get a lot more fans’ eyes on the former Bellator poster boy. Chandler entered the UFC with a lot of hype and understandably so. 21-5 coming in with the weight of a different promotion on his shoulders, Chandler shone. Facing Dan Hooker, Chandler proved why Dana White signed him. Knocking out Hooker in just 2:30, Chandler consequently earned a title shot. 

Now Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired, Chandler is set to face off against Charles Oliveira at UFC 262. This is huge as the likes of Porier, Justin Gaethje and McGregor aren’t booked, but have all been looked over in favour of handing Chandler the shot. This UFC debutant grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

Standout Performances

There are two UFC debutants that stick out from the rest for January. Michael Chandler announced himself to the UFC audience with a savage knockout of Hooker. Announcing himself to the world with his performance, especially with the eyes of the world on the card, Chandler turned up when it mattered. What capped off his performance? His brilliant post-fight interview. Not only did he get the viral knockout, but he rocked the mic also.

Manon Fiorot also stood out as a UFC debutant in January. With elite striking at flyweight, Fiorot could be a huge problem. If she comes through her next bout, expect her to get a top 15 fight afterwards and be on a fast track to the title picture.

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