Just making it to the octagon is an achievement in itself for most fighters. Signing the bottom line of a contract that begins with the three simple letters—U-F-C—comes as the result of hours upon hours of hard work.
While most fighters have put in hours of training and have stepped inside a cage or ring multiple times, the bright lights of the UFC have a way of making you forget everything you've learned. The lights seem brighter, the crowds seem louder and, of course, there's even more pressure to succeed.
It's easy to get caught up in all the hoopla prior to making a debut, but the fighters on this list didn't fall into the trap. Some entered the octagon as unknown prospects, while others had a certain mystique surrounding them due to their previous experience.
No matter the road taken by these men, whether it was through obscurity or intense scrutiny, these men made some of the most spectacular debuts in UFC history—even if they didn't always come out on the winning side.
Kimo Leopoldo not only made a spectacular showing inside the octagon but entered the cage in similar fashion. The Hawaiian fighter walked down the aisle carrying a full size cross to face a man who seemed invincible.
That man was Royce Gracie, winner of the first two UFC tournaments and master of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Gracie captivated MMA audiences with his grappling art that steam rolled through every opponent put in front of him.
Leopoldo wouldn't have his hand raised at the end of their clash but he did effectively shatter the aura of invincibility surrounding Gracie and jiu-jitsu. Leopoldo brought the fight to Gracie like no one had ever done before and put on a great showing against the Brazilian.
He didn't win the contest but beat Gracie to the point where the Brazilian was forced to withdraw from the tournament final as a result of exhaustion. A case of not winning the battle but winning the war perhaps?
Although Joe Lauzon may have been a big name in the North East MMA circle, nobody had any clue who he was when Lauzon stepped into the octagon to face Jens Pulver.
Lauzon had just won three fights in a single night and had actually faced some stiff competition in his young MMA career.
Pulver was looking to get back into the UFC's lightweight division after fighting overseas. He was also a former UFC lightweight champion, and to UFC fans he was the man who defeated the highly touted BJ Penn. It seemed as if "Lil Evil" was set up to make a spectacular return to the UFC at Lauzon's expense.
It would be Lauzon, however, who made the big splash. Lauzon, a grappler by trade, actually used Pulver's own punch to KO the former champion.
Chan Sung-Jung didn't enter the octagon as an unknown fighter. "The Korean Zombie" was already a huge hit due to his victories overseas and his war with Leonard Garcia at WEC 48.
Jung's debut would be against a familiar face when he stepped in to face Garcia in a rematch of their 2010 barn-burner. Everyone came into the bout expecting to see an all out brawl, much like their first encounter.
Instead, Jung used his superior talent to get the better of Garcia for much of the fight. There were a few moments where the two exchanged punches but for the most part, "The Korean Zombie" fought a smart fight.
Jung would earn himself a highlight reel worthy victory by locking in a twister submission near the end of the second round. With only one second remaining on the clock, Garcia gave in to the pain as his body was contorted in different directions.
"The Korean Zombie" earned a number of accolades for his performance, not the least of which was Submission of the Night honors.
Pete Williams had a tough draw for his UFC debut. The Lion's Den fighter was scheduled to face off against the former UFC Heavyweight champion Mark Coleman.
Williams sported a healthy 7-1 record but was still an unknown fighter coming into the octagon at UFC 17. If you knew who Williams was prior to UFC 17, you were either a Lion's Den fighter yourself or a member of the family.
The same cannot be said of Coleman at that time. Although Coleman had just dropped the UFC title to Maurice Smith in his previous bout, Coleman was still a scary individual to fight against. Possessing some of the strongest wrestling in the world combined with a lethal array of ground and pound, Coleman was a tough opponent for anyone, let alone someone making their UFC debut.
Williams was able to hold off Coleman's offense, which eventually led to exhaustion on the part of Coleman. The former UFC champion even rested his hands on his knees during the bout as if he wanted to call a timeout.
Not only did Williams shock the world by surviving Coleman's attack but made everyone's eyes pop as he dropped Coleman with a massive head kick.
David Terrell entered the octagon at UFC 49 as a grappling ace, learning from Cesar Gracie himself. Although he was an experienced grapple, Terrell was a relative newcomer to the sport of MMA with only five total fights under his belt.
Matt Lindland, on the other hand, was an UFC mainstay and held victories over some of the best middleweights in the UFC at the time. Lindland also had the experience of competing on the biggest stage in the world, the Olympics.
Many expected a grappling clinic from the two men but Terrell would shock the UFC fans by dropping Lindland in under 30 seconds. The win was not only one of the most spectacular debuts in UFC history but also one of the biggest upsets in the promotion's history.
Todd Duffee entered the UFC with only five fights under his belt but already had the attention of quite a few fans. Not because Duffee looked like a world-beater in the cage but because of his chiseled physique.
Although Duffee's fight against Tim Hague would be scheduled to appear on the prelims of UFC 102, it wouldn't be missed by anyone in the MMA world. Duffee came out and dropped Hague in only seven seconds.
The KO would become the fastest KO in UFC history and set Duffee up to be "the next big thing" in the heavyweight division. It would also become memorable for Duffee's comments after the KO with him looking into the camera and saying, "That was just an appetizer—I want to eat now, Dana!"
Ryan Jimmo's UFC debut was a long time coming for MMA fans. The Canadian light heavyweight had made two successful title defenses in the MFC after winning the title in 2011. Included in his list of victims were former UFC fighters Wilson Gouveia and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
Anthony Perosh was known as one of the best fighters to hail from Australia and was an accomplished grappler under Carlos Machado. The Aussie had also won three-straight bouts after returning to the light heavyweight division.
Jimmo made short work of Perosh, as the Canadian won in just seven seconds after a thunderous right hand sent Perosh sprawling back into the canvas. The KO tied Todd Duffee's record for fastest KO in UFC history and also earned Jimmo Knockout of the Night honors.
Junior dos Santos entered the octagon at UFC 90 as a relative unknown to UFC fans. Although he was an accomplished boxer and sported a healthy 6-1 record, all of dos Santos' bouts took place in Brazil—far away from the eyes of North American fans.
Fabricio Werdum, meanwhile, was considered a top heavyweight contender at the time. Werdum did drop a decision to former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski but was fresh off two-straight stoppages of Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera.
Possessing world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu and seemingly having all the momentum in the world, Werdum needed to only get past a fellow Brazilian in order to receive a title shot.
Unfortunately for Werdum, JDS didn't plan on being anyone's stepping stone. In just over a minute, dos Santos landed an uppercut flush on the chin of Werdum. The punch sent Werdum crumpling to the floor and dos Santos not only earned a spectacular knockout but also Knockout of the Night in his first UFC appearance.
Although Anderson Silva was a well-known name to MMA fans due to his performances in Pride and dancing skills, the Brazilian was still an unknown to UFC fans.
Silva's opponent, Chris Leben, had become one of the biggest stars in the company after his stint on The Ultimate Fighter season one. Leben had displayed thunderous power in his hands, a granite chin, and also had yet to taste defeat inside the octagon.
In perhaps one of the greatest examples of irony, Leben who believed he would KO Silva, quickly found himself in a world of trouble. Silva came out with a series of punches, kicks, and knees that dropped the durable Leben in just 49 seconds.
Not only did Silva defeat one of the best middleweights in the UFC at the time but made Leben look like nothing more than an amateur in the process.
When the UFC held its inaugural event, the world was anxious to see a vast array of striking techniques on display. Fans were still entranced with martial art disciplines that featured flashy kicks and rumors of techniques that could kill a man with a single punch.
Not only did Royce Gracie not come from a striking-based martial art, but he was extremely undersized compared to most of his early adversaries. What was this little man in a karate outfit going to do to these massive men?
Shock the world is what he would do.
Gracie used his family's Gracie jiu-jitsu system to take down his opponents and easily submit them before even seemingly breaking a sweat. Gracie not only had a spectacular debut by winning the first UFC tournament but also sparked a revolution in the MMA world.