The 25 Most Impressive Debuts in UFC History

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2013

The 25 Most Impressive Debuts in UFC History

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    UFC debuts are often lackluster. Coming in as a new addition to the roster under the bright lights is a tough thing to do.

    However, from time to time there will be a debut that makes you stand up out of your seat and celebrate. It will awe you and instantly put that fighter on your radar for their next outing.

    As the UFC looks forward in 2013, Bleacher Report will look back at the past events to determine who has come on the scene most impressively. Who burst on to the scene with an excellent performance and made their presence noticed.

    Here are the 25 most impressive debuts in UFC history.

Honorable Mentions

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    Randy Couture defeats Tony Halme and Steven Graham in the first round at UFC 13.

    Mark Kerr defeats Moti Horenstein and Dan Bobish in the first round at UFC 14.

    Maurice Smith defeats Mark Coleman by unanimous decision at UFC 14.

    BJ Penn defeats Joey Gilbert by TKO at UFC 31 in 4:57.

    Mike Swick defeats Alex Schoenauer by KO at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in 0:20.

    Rashad Evans defeats Brad Imes by split decision at The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale.

    Michael Bisping defeats Josh Haynes by TKO at The Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale in 4:14.

    Shane Carwin defeats Christian Wellisch by KO at UFC 84 in 0:44.

    Ryan Bader defeats Vinny Magalhães by TKO at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in 2:18.

    Roy Nelson defeats Brenden Schaub by KO at The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale in 3:45.

    Chan Sung Jung defeats Leonard Garcia via submission (twister) at Ultimate Fight Night 24 in 4:59.

    Nick Denis defeats Joseph Sandoval by KO at UFC on FX in 0:22.

    Ryan Jimmo defeats Anthony Perosh by KO at UFC 149 in 0:07.

No. 25: Pat Barry, UFC 92

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    Pat Barry entered the UFC against Dan Evensen at UFC 92.

    Much was being made of Barry's kickboxing background, and we got to see why in the first and only round of the fight.

    2:36 in to the fight and Evensen was TKO'd by virtue of brutal leg kicks. And that is why Barry makes the list of most impressive debuts.

    Ending a fight via leg kicks is rare enough, but Barry did so in brutal fashion. The repeated thud was sickening. Evensen was unfit to continue and Barry made a statement in his debut. The heavyweight roster was put on notice that it was not wise to exchange kicks with the powerhouse striker.

No. 24: Charles Oliveira, UFC Live

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    Charles Oliveira's jiu-jitsu credentials were put on display against Darren Elkins at UFC Live.

    41 seconds was all it took for him to snatch an armbar and end the fight.

    Elkins is a quality grappler, and for Oliveira to end the fight that quickly and that decisively was very impressive. He transitioned from a triangle to an armbar and got the finish with ease.

    Oliveira was an instant hit with the crowd, and would be a lightweight to watch out for. Now, Oliveira is putting his skills on display in the featherweight division.

No. 23: Glover Teixeira, UFC 146

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    Glover Teixeira's UFC debut was long awaited and highly anticipated. Him surpassing the hype is why this comes in at no. 23.

    The light heavyweight stood across the Octagon from Kyle Kingsbury. A tough man in his own right, but it was quickly realized that he was far out of his league against Teixeira.

    Kingsbury was battered viciously. His toughness kept him conscious, but he was never in the fight.

    Teixeira eventually ended the fight mercifully with an arm-triangle choke at just 1:53 of the fight.

    His ability to live up to the extraordinary amount of hype with a violent performance was outstanding. Not many fighters have been able to achieve that amount of success out of the gate inside the UFC's cage.

No. 22: Diego Sanchez, The Ultimate Fighter Finale

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    The first season of The Ultimate Fighter put the UFC on the map, but the live finale is what sent the UFC on its rise to the top.

    Diego Sanchez is a big reason why.

    Sanchez and Kenny Florian were the first fighters up to determine the winner of the show in their weight class. Sanchez was heavily favored, and he showed why.

    The Nightmare ended the fight at 2:49 of the first round. It was complete domination.

    Fans of the show were awaiting his performance. With his victory he became one of the main UFC welterweight prospects to watch. It was that night at the finale that put the UFC, and Sanchez, on course for much bigger things.

No. 21: Rich Franklin, UFC 42

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    Pundits and hardcore fans knew of Rich Franklin. They knew he would be a quality addition to the UFC's roster. However, he was thrown right in to the thick of things when he was pitted against Evan Tanner at UFC 42.

    Franklin delivered.

    It only took the Cincinnati native 2:40 to dispatch of his tough opponent.

    The quality of his opposition is why Franklin makes it to no. 21 on the list. To be able to dispatch of Tanner that quickly, and that easily, is no small task and showed that Franklin had all the skills to compete at the highest of levels.

No. 20: Erick Silva, UFC 134

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    Want to talk about impressive debuts? You have to include welterweight Erick Silva.

    At UFC 134 he would be taking on Luis Ramos. It was a clash of regional champions to determine who was the better man. Silva emphatically answered the question in under a minute.

    Silva threw a devastating overhand right that connected flush. Ramos went down, and Silva pounced. After a few more shots on the mat Ramos was saved and the explosive Silva had arrived on the scene.

    After UFC 134, Silva was immediately labeled as a potential future title contender. That is huge praise in the stacked welterweight division. Praise he is worthy of.

    Silva made an impact at UFC 134, and the knockout places him solidly on this list.

No. 19: Cain Velasquez, UFC 83

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    UFC 83 saw the beginning of big UFC career. The best heavyweight in the world made his debut.

    Cain Velasquez entered the UFC to much hype. American Kickboxing Academy lauded him, his teammates raved about him, and he had the amateur credentials to help promote his stock as the next big thing in the heavyweight division.

    After success on the smaller cards he made his debut under the bright lights.

    He would run through Brad Morris in just 2:10.

    Velasquez's strength, skills, and pace were too much for Morris. He had no answer for this new, young heavyweight. The hype was for real. Morris was the first to find that out.

No. 18: Dan Henderson, UFC 17

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    What makes Henderson's debut so special? First, he fought twice in the same night. Second, he did so against stiff competition.

    Allan Goes was first on the docket.

    Henderson pushed him for 15 minutes and picked up a unanimous decision victory to earn a spot in the tournament finals. There he would meet Carlos Newton.

    Newton was one of the new young stars on the rise, and had all the talent to back it up. Henderson and Newton battled to the scorecards, and Henderson got the split decision nod.

    While two decisions may not scream impressive on paper, it does if you put it on context. Henderson defeated two very tough opponents in one night to earn the tournament championship.

No. 17: Siyar Bahadurazada, UFC on FUEL TV

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    42 seconds and Siyar Bahadurzada was finished with his UFC debut.

    More impressive, it was a clean, one-shot knockout over Paulo Thiago.

    Thiago was seen as a big test for the incoming welterweight. How would he handle being thrown to in to the deep end of the talent pool? Bahadurzada's debut was long overdue and fans were finally able to see what he is capable of.

    Face down and motionless. That is how Bahadurzada left Thiago in his debut. A stunning KO for the ages.

No. 16: Tim Boetsch, UFC 81

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    Little known Tim Boetsch made his debut at UFC 81. He was going up against a solid fighter by the name of David Heath.

    Had Boetsch just dominated the fight he likely would not be on this list. Had he submitted or knocked out Heath he might not make the list. However, Boetsch gave us a memorable moment to note his debut to the UFC.

    Boetsch manhandled Heath.

    Not figuratively, but literally.

    4:52 of the first round the referee had to call a stop to the action because of Boetsch's beating. He tossed around Heath and punished him. It was a jaw-dropping performance by an unassuming fighter.

No. 15: Jon Jones, UFC 87

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    Jon Jones' UFC career is remarkable.

    It is not just remarkable because he is a dominant champion. It is not simply remarkable because of his 2011 run through the division. Yet, it is remarkable from the very beginning when he was called up to the UFC roster.

    Jones entered the fight against Andre Gusmao on short notice. When he entered the fray it was Gusmao who was supposed to the be the new young guy in the division. Jones was just a late replacement that Gusmao could look against.


    Jones dominated the fight, and he threw some of his now signature moves such as the spinning back fist to thrill the crowd. The beginnings of a quick ascent to the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship all started with a late replacement fight versus Gusmao.

No. 14: Todd Duffee, UFC 102

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    Todd Duffee wasted no time in his UFC debut.

    He clocked the official record for the fastest knockout in UFC history with a seven second KO over Tim Hauge.

    While many regard Duane Ludwig's knockout over Jonathan Goulet as the record, it is not the official one on the books. That belongs to Duffee.

    Duffee blitzed through Hauge and looked to be a serious heavyweight prospect. Those notions would quickly go by the wayside in his next outing, but for that brief period of time Duffee introduced himself to the UFC world with a destructive and impressive KO.

No. 13: Mark Coleman, UFC 10

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    The Hammer made his MMA and UFC debut at UFC 10. The wrestling standout would lay down a blueprint for future wrestlers, and it all started in 1996.

    2:43 was the time when Moti Horenstein tapped out to strikes. Coleman was on his way to the semi-finals of the tournament.

    Gary Goodridge had to submit due to exhaustion at 7:00 of their semi-final encounter as the night's action caught up to him. Coleman's beating and conditioning proved too much for him. The win would set up a big tournament final against Don Frye.

    The finals of the tournament were hard fought, and Coleman walked away with the tournament title by virtue of a TKO at 11:34 of the fight.

    Coleman set the standard for ground and pound. His brutal strength and power from top would make him the tournament champion and eventually the UFC Heavyweight Champion.

No. 12: Anthony Johnson, Ultimate Fight Night

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    When Anthony Johnson arrived in the UFC all anyone could do was marvel at him. He was a massive welterweight with speed and power. He was a supreme physical specimen.

    Chad Reiner had the unfortunate duty of welcoming him to the Octagon.

    A welcome that lasted all of 13 seconds.

    Johnson knocked Reiner out. That was all it took. There have been a lot of quick knockouts in UFC history, and many made the list. Johnson's, however, stands out. His size, speed, power, and incoming hype culminated on that night in a big way.

No. 11: Dennis Hallman, UFC 29

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    Dennis Hallman's UFC debut often gets overlooked. It shouldn't.

    It would be a rematch against Matt Hughes.

    They met two years previous and Hallman was able to submit him in just 17 seconds in to the fight with a guillotine. Surely, the rematch would be different.

    It would be. Just not how people imagined it.

    Hallman ended the fight 20 seconds in this time, but with an armbar. He ended it that quickly over one of the best 170-pounders on the planet. For the second time. A huge accomplishment, and an impressive debut.

No. 10: Joe Lauzon, UFC 63

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    UFC 63 was supposed to be the big return of Jens Pulver. This little lightweight from Massachusetts was just supposed to be a showcase fight for the former champion.

    He had other ideas.

    Lauzon came from the woodwork with a big left that found its mark just 48 seconds in to the fight.

    Pulver went down and out. Lauzon suddenly found himself with a bigger wallet and a lot more fans.

    Lauzon would eventually go on to join the cast of The Ultimate Fighter, but it was at UFC 63 that he made his mark on the MMA world. He went from virtual anonymity to becoming a breakout performer in the lightweight division overnight.

No. 9: Gary Goodridge, UFC 8

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    You cannot talk about impressive debuts without mentioning Gary Goodridge.

    Goodridge made his UFC debut at UFC 8 and lost in the tournament finals to Don Frye in 2:14. So, what else about that night made his debut special and noteworthy?

    In the semi-finals Goodridge defeated Jerry Bohlander at the 5:31 mark by TKO. A good enough performance to put him in the finals. However, it would be the very first fight that remained on Goodridge's highlight reel until the end of his career.

    The debuting Goodridge needed only 13 seconds to knock Paul Herrera out cold with vicious elbows. Those elbows remain a part of the MMA lexicon till this day. That lone 13 second fight is why Goodridge is inside the top 10.

No. 8: Forrest Griffin & Stephan Bonnar, The Ultimate Fighter Finale

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    Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin will go down in MMA history together, and they go on this list together at no. 8.

    The second of two The Ultimate Fighter finals put the UFC on the map. Without these two fighters and this fight there may not be a UFC today.

    Their debut was a slugfest. A back-and-forth slugfest.

    While many will say there was no loser on that night, it was Griffin who would walk away with the judge's nod unanimously.

    Those who watched live will never forget that incredible fight, those who got the call mid-fight raced to their television sets were still treated to a fantastic brawl, and those who have been to a live UFC event have seen the clips close out the pre-PPV hype video. It is the seminal moment in UFC history.

No. 7: Frankie Edgar, UFC 67

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    Tyson Griffin was the lightweight prospect everyone was waiting to break out. At UFC 67 he was tasked with welcoming young New Jersey native Frankie Edgar to the UFC.

    What we got was one of the all-time great fights in company history, and the debut of a future champion.

    Edgar battled with the esteemed lightweight. They exchanged strikes and submission attempts, but Edgar continued to seem to come out on top. He came from nowhere to surprise everyone.

    The fight stole the show, and Edgar took the unanimous decision victory.

    Stepping up against Griffin and putting on the show he did elevates Edgar's debut all the way to no. 7.

Pete Williams

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    Impressive debuts might as well have Pete Williams' picture beside it in the dictionary.

    He made his Octagon debut opposite the most feared heavyweight in the game, Mark Coleman.

    38 seconds in to round two and Williams shocked the world. He knocked Coleman out with a head kick.

    It was not supposed to happen. Williams was not supposed to beat the dominant heavyweight. It was never a thought that crossed anyone's mind. But he did it. And it will keep his name in the record books for eternity.

No. 5: Vitor Belfort, UFC 12

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    Long before Vitor Belfort walked out to challenge for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 152, he made his debut at UFC 12 in one of the UFC's early tournaments.

    Belfort's explosiveness was on display.

    He only needed two minutes flat to win the heavyweight tournament.

    Tra Telligman went by the wayside at 1:17 of the fight via a cut caused by Belfort. The Phenom would advance to the finals against Scott Ferrozzo.

    Ferrozzo did not make it a full minute inside the cage against Belfort. The fight was over by TKO at just 43 seconds.

    From UFC 12 till today Belfort still is at the top of his game competing at the highest of levels, but it all started with two quick finishes of heavyweights.

No. 4: Junior Dos Santos, UFC 90

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    The former UFC Heavyweight Champion exploded on to the scene at UFC 90.

    Fabricio Werdum was making waves in the division, and he was looking to have another impressive performance over the young newcomer. He was not expecting to eat canvas early in the first round.

    1:21 was all Junior dos Santos needed.

    An uppercut found its home on Werdum's chin and he crumpled like a sack of potatoes. A compelling knockout of one of the world's top heavyweights put Dos Santos on the radar of every other heavyweight under the UFC umbrella.

    He would continue to ride that momentum all the way to the UFC championship.

No. 3: Royce Gracie, UFC 1

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    Royce Gracie was chosen to represent his family's jiu-jitsu in the first ever UFC event, and he represented the family well.

    First up was Art Jimmerson. Jimmerson had no idea what he was in for and when Gracie got mount he tapped. 2:18 in to the fight and Jimmerson wanted no more of being underneath the jiu-jitsu master.

    Then came the other favorite of the tournament, Ken Shamrock.

    The semi-final match lasted under one minute. Shamrock made a crucial mistake and Gracie got the choke. Shamrock was forced to tap out and send Gracie to the finals of the first ever tournament.

    Gerard Gordeau would be the final victim for Gracie. 1:44 and a rear-naked choke would give Gracie the oversized check and tournament victory. Gracie put jiu-jitsu out in the forefront of the martial arts world by winning the first UFC event, and made himself a legend.

No. 2: Frank Shamrock, UFC Japan

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    In today's MMA world when an Olympic medalist makes a debut our ears perk up. We know how important wrestling is, and what kind of athletes Olympians are. We instantly put them on our watch list.

    Think back to how an Olympic gold medalist would be received in 1997. Now you have an idea of what it was like when Kevin Jackson was going for the UFC Middleweight Championship against Frank Shamrock.

    Jackson had won the UFC 14 tournament with ease. Shamrock was making his debut and was the younger brother of Ken.

    Shamrock, who would become the first prototypical mixed martial artist, tapped Jackson via armbar in just 16 seconds.

    16 seconds.

    It is hard to top that kind of debut.

No. 1: Anderson Silva, Ultimate Fight Night 5

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    To anyone who may have missed Anderson Silva's debut at the fifth Ultimate Fight Night, the picture of Leben sprawled out after taking a knee to the dome says it all.

    No one has ever made a debut like Silva.

    Leben was thought to be a good opening opponent for Silva. An iron chin against a great striker. Leben could push Silva to the limit and see if he broke.

    Instead, Silva broke through to the other side with a beautifully destructive 49 second knockout.

    He initially dropped Leben with punches, but referee John McCarthy let the action continue and Silva didn't immediately go in for the finish. No matter. Once Leben got up Silva continued his assault and finished with a well placed knee.

    Silva arrived in the UFC. He made a statement that he was the best middleweight on the planet. A statement that has still yet to be proven otherwise.