UFC 136: Jose Aldo and the 10 Most Memorable Octagon Debuts in 2011
First impressions are important, and they set a standard for what fans should expect to see out of a fighter when they finally make their debut in the Octagon.
With the UFC acquiring the WEC roster and adding bantamweight and featherweight fights to their cards in 2011, it has been an important year in establishing the two lightest divisions and making sure they are well received.
Outside of those divisions, there have been plenty of other fighters making their debuts this year that have had memorable performances. The UFC is always looking for the next big heavyweight contender or lightweight title challenger, and they may have got them after seeing certain fighters' debuts this year.
These are the top 10 most memorable debuts of the year in the UFC.
No. 10: Ben Henderson UD Mark Bocek (UFC 129)
Ben Henderson's victory over Mark Boceck may have been overshadowed by the stacked card at UFC 129, but he did win decisively and set himself up for a shot at a lightweight contender.
As the former WEC lightweight champion, expectations were high for Henderson, who was involved in 2009's Fight of the Year versus Donald Cerrone.
Henderson entered the fight with Bocek and beat a very tough opponent over three rounds to win a unanimous decision.
After the win over Bocek, Henderson went on to fight and defeat Jim Miller. Now, he is set to fight Clay Guida for a No. 1 contender spot in the lightweight division.
No. 9: Diego Nunes SD Mike Brown (UFC 125)
On the first card of the year, featherweight Diego Nunes met former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown for his UFC debut.
Nunes brought a 4-1 WEC record into the UFC, but he had yet to fight on a main card. He would still be placed on the undercard of the pay-per-view event, but he made the most of it and defeated Brown by split decision after three rounds.
The victory would finally get Nunes a fight on a main card, but he would lose a close decision to No. 1 featherweight contender Kenny Florian.
No. 8: Brian Ebersole UD Chris Lytle (UFC 127)
Brian Ebersole hoped to make the most of his late-replacement status against Chris Lytle, and he did just that at UFC 127.
Ebersole had been one of the most experienced fighters in the sport, but he was also one that not many people had known or expected to see in the UFC.
He brought a record of over 60 professional bouts and put on a Fight of the Night performance against Lytle to win a unanimous decision.
Since that fight, Ebersole has gone on to defeat Dennis Hallman and is now going to test Rory MacDonald at UFC 140.
No. 7: Dave Herman TKO Jon Olav Einemo (UFC 131)
It has been a long time since two fighters made their debuts against each other on a UFC main card, but Dave "Pee Wee" Herman and Jon Olav Einemo did and put on the Fight of the Night, which earned them both $70,000 for their efforts.
It was not an easy win for Herman, who appeared to be hurt several times throughout the fight. He brought an extensive record of finishes and finally got to his opponent in the second round to win by TKO.
It would be the 20th stoppage in Herman's career of 23 bouts.
Herman was supposed to fight Mike Russow at UFC 136, but was pulled out after his pre-fight drug test came back positive for marijuana/steroids. He denies the test results completely.
No. 6: Erik Koch KO Junior Assuncao (UFC 128)
A Knockout of the Night bonus is sweet, but it's that much better when it comes in your UFC debut.
Featherweight Erik Koch opened UFC 128 with a highlight-reel knockout of Raphael Assuncao and earned an extra $70,000 for his KO.
The win put Koch on the short list of featherweight contenders and made him one of the top fighters to look forward to seeing in the division.
His next fight came against Jonathan Brookins, who he beat by unanimous decision in September.
No. 5: Dustin Poirier UD Josh Grispi (UFC 125)
Featherweight fighter Josh Grispi was supposed to face WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 125, but Aldo was forced to pull out of the fight and Dustin Poirier stepped in.
Grispi came into the fight with a 14-1 record and a 4-0 WEC record with three submission victories over LC Davis, Jens Pulver and Mark Hominick. With those impressive victories, he was taking a risk in taking on Poirier, who was mostly unknown going into the fight.
The risk would not be worth the reward when Poirier pulled off one of the bigger upsets on the card and defeated the top contender by a dominant unanimous decision.
Poirier is now 2-0 in the UFC and one of the top 10 fighters in the division.
No. 4: Chan-Sung Jung SUB Leonard Garcia (UFN 24)
In an anticipated rematch of 2010's Fight of the Year, Leonard Garcia and "The Korean Zombie" Chan-Sung Jung fought at Ultimate Fight Night 24 to prove who really deserved to win the first fight, which Leonard had won by split decision.
Chan-Sung had been coming off back-to-back losses against Garcia and George Roop so he needed to get an impressive victory in his UFC debut.
The Korean fighter pulled off one of the best submissions in a long time when he submitted Garcia with a twister at 4:59 of the second round.
The submission earned him a $55,000 bonus for Submission of the Night. It might also go down as Submission of the Year.
No. 3: Demetrious Johnson UD Norifumi Yamamoto (UFC 126)
Bantamweight fighter Demetrious Johnson welcomed the highly regarded Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto to the Octagon at UFC 126 and had no plans of being defeated like many thought he would be.
With his wrestling and speed, Johnson was able to upset Yamamoto's rhythm and take down the Japanese star at will.
Johnson did that for three rounds and walked away with a well-deserved unanimous-decision victory. He would go on to fight and beat Miguel Torres before earning a title shot against Dominick Cruz.
He would be beaten by Cruz after five rounds but showed he has the skills to fight and beat some of the very best in the 135-pound division.
No. 2: Dominick Cruz UD Urijah Faber (UFC 132)
After defending his WEC Bantamweight Championship two times in 2010, Dominick Cruz made the move into the UFC already as the UFC bantamweight champion.
His first defense would not be an easy one, and it would come against the only man to beat him in Urijah Faber at UFC 132.
Faber had been the first and only man to beat Cruz in a 2007 bout for Faber's featherweight title. Now, it would be Cruz defending his bantamweight belt, and he had more confidence than ever leading into the pay-per-view headliner.
After five rounds, Cruz won a unanimous decision and retained his title while earning a Fight of the Night bonus.
No. 1: Jose Aldo UD Mark Hominick (UFC 129)
It wasn't pretty, but former WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo was able to defeat a very tough and durable opponent in Mark Hominick to win the UFC Featherweight Championship at UFC 129.
Many fans are calling it the Fight of the Year, and the five-round war was fought at an intense pace for the entire distance. Aldo came out strong and put on a technical display of stand-up before having cardio issues late and letting Hominick come back to possibly steal the last round.
With massive swelling around his face, Hominick had no choice but to go for the knockout and Aldo had no choice but to survive. Aldo did and won a unanimous decision.
Aldo will defend his title this weekend at UFC 136 against Kenny Florian.