18 Mar 13 Most Impressive UFC Debuts of All-Time
UFC debuts are usually nothing to rave about. Newer fighters usually play it safe while more seasoned ones (Cro Cop, Rampage Jackson, Shogun Rua) inexplicably took so much time heating up.
Nevertheless, we are treated every now and then with breathtaking inaugurations and they are usually portents of things to come. Here are some of the fighters– in no particular order– who detonated their way into the Octagon, and to nobody’s surprise, many of them are in the conversation as all-time bests.
Todd Duffee, UFC 102
If you hold the record for the fastest KO in UFC history, then you have got to be in here.
A 260-pound diesel of a man, Duffee unleashed a stiff left jab as soon as Tim Hague approached, dropped and finished him a couple of seconds later.
Just. Like. That.
Andre Fili, UFC 166
Andre Fili is a strange guy, with a strange nickname, and an even stranger debut.
“Touchy” was preparing for a welterweight fight elsewhere when UFC came calling, looking for a possible replacement opponent for Jeremy Larsen— at 145 pounds! To fulfill his childhood dream, Fili took the fight on two weeks’ notice and cut 30 pounds in an attempt to make weight. He didn’t made it all the way through (he was 2.5 pounds over the limit) but he still went and gave a heck of a show in Houston.
He finished Larsen with over a minute left in the second round. Watch the full fight here.
Siyar Bahadurzada, UFC Sweden
Siyar Bahadurzada is an ordinary-looking guy with an extraordinary UFC debut.
“The Great”, who hails from Afghanistan by way of Netherlands, fought Paulo Thiago, a member of the Brazilian Police Elite Forces and a one scary-demeanored dude.
As Thiago charged forward recklessly, Bahadurzada tagged him with a short right that ended the night quickly for the Brazilian and meant a sweet $25k bonus for the Afghan.
Joe Lauzon, UFC 63
How do you think a fight between a former lightweight champion and a 22-year-old debutante would go? Joe Lauzon resoundingly answers that question at UFC 63 against former 155-lb titlist Jens “Little Evil” Pulver.
Lauzon did not need a full minute in dominating Pulver, flushing him with a knee and taking him out with a wicked right hand. That earned the Massachussets native his second of a record, 13 post-fight bonuses.
And in an overly weird moment a year later, Lauzon joined The Ultimate Fighter 5 where he was cast as a member of BJ Penn‘s team opposite–you guessed it– Jens Pulver.
Chan Sung-Jung, UFN 24
The only Twister ever pulled off by anyone inside the Octagon. Enough said.
Paulo Thiago, UFC 95
Long before Thiago drew the short end of a debutante’s stick, he was the one dishing punishment against a more acclaimed opponent in his first-ever UFC gig.
No one exactly knew what Thiago has to offer and Josh Koscheck found out about it the hard way. A brutal uppercut and a nasty left hook later, Kos was out even before he hit the ground.
Rich Franklin, UFC 53
Whichever fight you consider Rich Franklin‘s UFC debut– the TUF Finale vs Ken Shamrock or UFC 53 vs Evan Tanner— it hardly matters. What mattered is “Ace” finished both of them in highly impressive fashion. Granted, Shamrock was a shell of his former self but Tanner was at the top of his game when he fought Franklin, which says a lot about the ex-Math teacher’s elite-level skills.
Until the next person on this list arrived…
Anderson Silva, UFN 5
It’s a good thing Chris Leben talked a lot smack before the standoff against “The Spider” because that was pretty much the one of two things Silva allowed him to do. Catching 57 kicks and punches with his head and face was the other.
Mark Coleman, UFC 10
Perhaps Mark “The Hammer” Coleman‘s greatest achievement in all of MMA is laying out the blueprint for future powerhouse wrestlers to follow.
Coleman set the standard by employing the ground and pound, taking down opponents at will and forcing a stoppage due to strikes from the top or even from inside the guard. Moti Horenstein, Gary Goodridge and the great Don Frye can all attest to that.
Dennis Hallman, UFC 29
Nobody’s giving a damn about this guy’s UFC debut but it could arguably be the best ever. Matt Hughes (yes THAT Matt Hughes) was at his absolute physical prime when they met for the second time in their careers and Hallman made mincemeat of Hughes’ submission defense, submitting the Hall of Famer inside one round via an armbar.
That’s not easy to do especially after getting slammed like that. Sometimes, fighters do have bad matchups and it’s pretty safe to say Hallman is Matt Hughes’ kryptonite.
Frank Shamrock, UFC Japan
Kevin Jackson is a powerfully-built man with an Olympic wrestling gold medal to boot. He won the UFC Middleweight tournament with relative ease just a few months back and he’s expected to do it again against Frank Shamrock.
Other than being known as Ken’s brother, Shamrock hasn’t really proved anything unless you call a pedestrian 14-7-1 slate something.
Easy pickings, right? Yes, if only Frank got the memo.
Shamrock became the UFC’s first Middleweight champion (now called the Light Heavyweight title) by submitting Jackson with an armbar in a mere 16 SECONDS. Now, that’s hard to top.
Junior Dos Santos, UFC 90
JDS was just a young buck trying to earn his stripes when the UFC threw him into the fire against fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum. Already a seasoned veteran, Werdum has competed against the best at Pride FC’s legendary heavyweight division and has done quite well in that regard.
But Dos Santos is just a different kind of animal, one that has murderous hands to show.
“Cigano” stalked “Vai Cavalo” across the cage and placed a perfectly-timed uppercut that ended the night quickly for Werdum.
Vitor Belfort, UFC 12
Speaking of “bursting into the scene”, Vitor Belfort was way ahead of his time when it comes to mixing unbridled aggression with superb technique. All of that explosiveness and sheer brutality was in full display at UFC 12, sometime in 1997, hence the nickname “The Phenom”.
Seventeen years after he was named UFC 12 champion, Belfort is still fighting at the highest level of MMA although his tenure was not without controversies. Even then, his fighting ways are pretty much the same as the day he brutally finished Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo.
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