Octagon jitters—it’s an infamous term. The first time a fighter steps into the UFC’s eight-sided cage, there will always be talk of whether the emotional rush and the nerves surrounding his debut will have a profound impact on his performance.

Pundits and fans making predictions on fights will cite the jitters as a reason to doubt a fighter’s chances. And in the aftermath of a defeat, these same jitters will take part of the blame for the fighter’s downfall.

So, following each UFC event, The MMA Corner will look at the fighters who made their Octagon debuts and provide impressions on their performances and their future potential under the UFC banner. In this edition, we focus on the sole newcomer from UFC 154.

Azamat Gashimov — first-round armbar submission loss to Ivan Menjivar

Sometimes, all it takes is one fatal flaw in a fighter’s technique to spell defeat for that fighter. Such was the case for Russian bantamweight competitor Azamat Gashimov in his Octagon debut. Despite good movement on his feet and a sambo background to aide him in scoring takedowns, Gashimov only lacks one thing in his game: submission defense. His lack of awareness on the ground cost him greatly against his seasoned veteran opponent, Ivan Menjivar. Before Gashimov succumbed to a fight-ending armbar, however, he displayed a skill set that hinted at potential for future success in the UFC cage.

Gashimov appeared comfortable on his feet. Keeping his hands up and showing good head movement and footwork, the Russian possesses the striking skills to at the very least hold his own against all but the elite strikers within the division.

More important to his overall game is Gashimov’s wrestling skills. The now 7-2 prospect is an International Master of Sambo, and he prefers to use the double-leg takedown to get his foe to the mat. Gashimov did as much against Menjivar, putting the 11-year veteran on his back during the course of their bout. This wrestling ability, combined with Gashimov’s jiu-jitsu skills, is the bread and butter of his game. If there’s one area where he can impose his will in future UFC encounters, it’ll be through the use of his wrestling to take opponents down and work them over from top position with a combination of ground-and-pound and grappling.

Whereas wrestling is Gashimov’s biggest asset, it also led directly to the biggest hole in his game. The young Russian left his arms out there for the taking, and someone with the level of experience and submission prowess of Menjivar won’t let that opportunity pass them by. Menjivar attacked the arm prior to locking in the finishing hold, and yet Gashimov continued to leave it out there until Menjivar was able to snag it more firmly and secure the armbar.

It’s hard enough to make an Octagon debut against even the lowest level of opponent, let alone against someone who has battled the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Urijah Faber during the course of a decade-plus as a professional. Gashimov was thrown into the deep end of the UFC pool, and it showed. Considering that the Russian is only 22 years old, he has plenty of time to firm up the portions of his game that need work. Helping him along his path have been a pair of great coaches, as he has worked under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and, more recently, AMA Fight Club coach Mike Constantino.

With youth, potential and a great group of coaches and training partners, Gashimov has the ability to become at the very least a mid-tier mainstay within the UFC.

Potential: Medium

Photo: Azamat Gashimov (Facebook/Azamat Gashimov)

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