Everyone has to start somewhere.
A debut is critical for any athlete because it's your chance to make a first impression on the world. Your performance in that pressure filled moment has the potential to change the course of your career for the better or worst. Let's look at the five most anticipated debuts...and a few honorable mentions we couldn't leave behind.
Most Anticipated UFC Debuts
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Most Anticipated UFC Debuts
#5 – Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey made her debut in the first women’s fight in UFC history. Battling for the bantamweight championship against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157, Rousey’s debut was one of the most anticipated to date. Being known as one of the best female mixed martial artists in the world, there was no one better to introduce women to the UFC. Rousey came in with a clean 6-0 record, all first-round finishes, all with her deadly armbar that no one could defend. Rousey relied on her armbar once again to defeat Carmouche with eleven seconds remaining in the first round. Living up to her hype, Rousey’s debut was just the start of an amazing career.
#4 – Jose Aldo
Jose Aldo came into his debut as one of the best fighters in the world. Known for his deadly leg kicks, if you asked, most would say he had no flaws at all. His unanimous decision win over Mark Hominick didn’t come without any action, though. In the first round, the Brazilian landed an elbow that cut the right eye of Hominick and he ended with a takedown to seal the opening round. The following minutes consisted of Aldo landing huge shots and Hominick always being a step behind, leading to a unanimous decision for the Brazilian.
#3 – Anderson Silva
Ultimate Fight Night 5
Andeson Silva made his UFC debut on Ultimate Fight Night 5 against Chris “The Crippler” Leben. The Brazilian had an impressive record outside of the UFC but was still moderately unknown to the American audience. Leben had a 15-2 record going into the main event but would leave with his first UFC loss. Silva showed out in a big way. A head kick and a jab sent Leben to the canvas. The middleweight gave him every chance to recover but showed no mercy, pulling Leben’s head forward and rocking him with a knee. The debut of Anderson Silva lasted less than one minute. Something no one was expecting but would never forget.
#2 – Justin Gaethje
The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale
The newcomer made his debut against veteran Michael Johnson. This bout had action right out of the gate. Gaethje stated doing what he does best, throwing combinations and using leg kicks to break down his opponent. In a desperate attempt to gain momentum, Johnson found some openings in his foe’s defense to take him to the fence in the final seconds of the first round. In the second round, Gaethje came out swinging and used Johnson’s emptying gas tank to his advantage. After a short uppercut and a flying knee, the referee had seen enough. This outstanding debut won Gaethje Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night. An unbelievable battle made the lightweight 18-0.
#1 – Sean O’Malley
The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale
“Sugar” Sean O’Malley was a graduate of the Dana White Contender Series 2 and made his promotional debut against Terrion Ware. His unconventional style brought a lot of hype to his entrance, and he did not disappoint. The bantamweight bout was entertaining top to bottom with its constant pace and pressure from both combatants. O’Malley took a lot of damage in the second round but stayed persistent. Catching a second wind, he absolutely dominated the third with two takedowns, winning the bout via unanimous decision, landing 120 total strikes.
With that, there are a lot of debuts that belong on the highlight reel. So we decided to add a few honorable mentions.
UFC Vegas 36
Paddy Pimblett against Luigi Vendramini was a highly anticipated bout. Pimblett’s interesting personality made him a fan favorite before he even hit the Octagon in the UFC APEX. The first few minutes were back and forth. Keeping the pace, the Liverpool native landed a right hook and swarmed Vendramini, suffocating him under an avalanche of strikes. This knockout showed the world that Pimblett is a fighter that should be taken seriously.
Brock Lesnar’s debut story was a little unorthodox. His background was in college wrestling, and he was a huge name in the WWE. Lesnar decided to test his himself in the UFC and signed a contract to face Frank Mir. The wrestler took no time in taking down the former heavyweight champion, but Mir’s experience outshined Lesnar’s pure athleticism and he submitted his foe in the first round.
Alistair Overeem made his debut against former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. Overeem entered the UFC with over 45 fights under his belt and, according to Joe Rogan, was “one of the most dangerous men on the planet.” In this striker vs grappler matchup, Overeem showed he could avoid the takedown, and as he pushed Lesnar towards the cage, Overeem laid a couple knees to the body and the big man was hurt. “The Reem” went in for the kill and didn’t stop until the referee intervened.