5 best UFC debuts of 2022
With every passing year, the influx of talent into the UFC continues to get better and better. 2022, in particular, has produced some truly sensational prospects to keep an eye on going forward.
This past year has seen numerous championship caliber prospects grace the famed octagon for the very first time. While some tend to choke under the bright lights of the world's premier MMA promotion, others rise to the occasion.
On that note, here are the five best UFC debuts of 2022.
#5. Michael Morales
After a flawless showing on Dana White's Contender Series (DWCS) last year, Michael Morales kicked off his UFC career in style with another near-perfect performance in the first pay-per-view of the year. Morales took on Trevin Giles at UFC 270 and delivered a statement-making finish, putting the welterweight division on notice.
Morales made light work of Giles, finishing him inside the very first round. The Ecuadorian's striking looked sensational right from the get-go, and after he got a feel for the range and distance, it was only a matter of time before he found the finish.
In his sophomore appearance inside the octagon, Morales produced another impressive knockout victory, putting Adam Fugitt to sleep at UFC 277 in July. He is currently 2-0 inside the octagon, and his official overall record stands at 13-0.
At just 23, Morales is among the best young fighters on the roster. His already well-refined stand-up game will continue to improve as he works his way up the ranks, making him an intimidating proposition for other welterweights going forward.
#4. Chidi Njokuani
Chidi Njokuani, the younger brother of former UFC fighter Anthony Njokuani, fought all over the world prior to signing with the global MMA leader. The American fought for RFA, LFA, and Bellator before getting an opportunity to join the big leagues. The 33-year-old earned a UFC contract with a stunning TKO win in DWCS last year.
Njokuani made his full promotional debut at a Fight Night event at the Apex facility in Las Vegas in February and barely needed any time to dispatch his opponent. 'Chidi Bang Bang' made quick work of Canadian middleweight Marc-Andre Barriault, finishing him in just 16 seconds.
He then followed it up with a scorching first-round knockout win over Dusko Todorovic just a few months later, earning his second Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts. His third outing was an all-out war with Gregory Rodrigues in September, which earned Fight of the Night honors.
With three post-fight bonuses in as many fights, Njokuani is now among the most fun fighters to watch on the roster. His debut remains one of the fastest wins for a promotional debutant in MMA history.
#3. Jack Della Maddalena
After losing his first two professional fights on the regional MMA scene in Australia, Jack Della Maddalena promised his coach that he would do everything in his power to accrue 10 pro wins, irrespective of how many losses he'd suffer along the way. Well, things have turned out pretty well for the Aussie welterweight since then.
Della Maddalena went on to win his next nine fights to earn a shot at DWCS last year, where he dominated his opponent to earn a contract and pick up his tenth professional win. In his full octagon debut, he made it look easy against Pete Rodriguez in January.
Della Maddalena's pin-point boxing proved to be a problem for Rodriguez right from the opening bell. The Perth native was seemingly untouchable on the night as his opponent could barely land any strikes. His stiff jabs and lightning-quick combinations did significant damage to Rodriguez, who was already bloodied and battered two minutes into the fight.
At the three-minute mark, Della Maddalena unleashed a devastating combination that sent his American counterpart crashing to the canvas, prompting the referee to intervene.
Since his full UFC debut, Della Maddalena has picked up two more TKO wins, beating Ramazan Emeev and Danny Roberts, both inside the first round, to take his overall record to 13-2. He will be looking to fight in front of his compatriots when the promotion heads to Perth, Australia, next year.
#2. Muhammad Mokaev
Muhammad Mokaev is among the most promising young fighters on the planet. After a stellar amateur career comprising two IMMAF championships and a 23-0 record, Mokaev turned pro and compiled a 6-0 record in BRAVE CF. He then signed with the UFC and made his promotional debut in London in March.
Mokaev has notably vowed to become the youngest-ever UFC champion.
In his octagon debut, Mokaev squared off against Cody Durden at the O2 Arena in London. 'The Punisher' needed just under a minute to pick up his first win on the world's biggest stage, submitting his American foe in just 58 seconds.
Mokaev picked up his second win at the next event in England just a few months later, dominating Charles Johnson en route to a unanimous decision win. With his goal of becoming the youngest-ever UFC champion now closer than ever before, the Dagestani-Brit submitted Malcolm Gordon at UFC 280 to enter the flyweight top 15.
He is arguably the most highly touted prospect under 23 in the world right now.
#1. Raul Rosas Jr. – Youngest fighter in the UFC
The biggest stars to emerge out of the latest season of DWCS are wrestling phenom Bo Nickal and teenage sensation Raul Rosas Jr. While Nickal's highly anticipated octagon debut is slated for next year, Rosas Jr. hasn't wasted time in opening his account in the UFC.
Rosas Jr. was just 17 when he appeared on DWCS this past summer. The Mexican-American made light work of his opponent, who was eight years his senior, to earn a coveted UFC contract. Just three months later, and now 18 years old, Rosas Jr. took on Jay Perrin in the final pay-per-view of 2022.
Many questioned whether joining the shark tank that is the UFC at such a young age was a smart career move. Undeterred, Rosas Jr. proved that he belongs as he tore through Perrin effortlessly, submitting him in just over half a round to further extend his perfect record.
Without a shadow of a doubt, 'El Nino Problema' will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.