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 seven newcomers from UFC 157.

The Ladies — Ronda Rousey first-round submission victory over Liz Carmouche

Although the ladies were making their UFC debuts, it’s somewhat different to analyze their performances in the context of this feature. After all, Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche are among the elite of the division already, the only difference is that they now fight under the UFC banner.

Rousey didn’t let the pressure of the media spotlight and her new home inside the Octagon get to her. Sure, she found herself in a bit of early trouble, but that’s a testament to Carmouche’s abilities as well. When fighting inside the Octagon, the expectation is that a fighter is truly fighting the best of the best. In the case of Carmouche, Rousey was fighting a legitimate top contender.

Once Rousey shook Carmouche off and took the fight to the mat, the end was all but a foregone conclusion. Rousey managed to cinch up another armbar, giving her seven through seven successful professional fights.

The question here is not really about the potential of Rousey or Carmouche, as both ladies should stand near the top of the UFC’s 135-pound women’s division for the immediate future. The question lies more in the UFC’s interest in the division. If Rousey loses in her next defense, or two fights down the line, does the UFC keep going? If so, it has already found two of its enduring stars.

Potential: High

Caros Fodor — split decision loss to Sam Stout

The Strikeforce migration continued at UFC 157, with UFC veteran Robbie Lawler heading a list of Strikeforce talent that showed varying degrees of success inside the Octagon. Among the better-known names outside of Lawler, lightweight Caros Fodor likely ranks as the most recognizable to casual fans.

Fodor’s Strikeforce run saw him win five fights before succumbing to an arm-triangle choke at the hands of perennial Strikeforce lightweight title contender Pat Healy. The Matt Hume-trained fighter didn’t draw an easy opponent for his UFC debut, though. Instead, he was tasked with overcoming longtime UFC vet Sam Stout.

Despite Stout’s penchant for standing with opponents, he opted to mix it up with Fodor, and in doing so may have exposed the weaknesses in Fodor’s game. Fodor has notched three submission victories in his career, but he wasn’t able to hold the upper hand against Stout that one would expect of a Matt Hume pupil. Stout was able to hit switches, fend off takedowns and even get mount on Fodor. The better grapplers and wrestlers of the lightweight division will have no issue doing likewise. And with Fodor already sporting two submission losses on his record, those adversaries will know how to finish the Washington native.

Fodor’s pressure in moving forward against Stout and his ability to connect with strikes provided the newcomer’s best moments in the affair. Yet, it’s doubtful that his striking skills will translate into future dominance. He did score a quick knockout of Justin Wilcox in Strikeforce, so he does have the power to be dangerous, but that power hasn’t been consistent and was not sufficient in hurting Stout.

Although Fodor’s striking and grappling could make him a low-level gatekeeper within the UFC, the promotion’s recent suggestion that it plans to purge roughly 100 fighters from its roster made winning a must for Fodor in this fight. If Fodor avoids a pink slip, he may be able to score a win in his next outing, but don’t look for him to rise above the status of a mid-tier fighter inside the Octagon.

Potential: Medium

Neil Magny — unanimous decision victory over Jon Manley

After meeting his end in the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter 16 with a knockout loss to Mike Ricci, Neil Magny debuted against fellow TUF cast member Jon Manley.

Much like in his success on the reality series, Magny benefited in his UFC 157 match-up from facing another inexperienced and not quite UFC-ready opponent. Magny was able to avoid the majority of Manley’s takedowns and get the better of the exchanges on the feet. What he was not able to do, as has been an all too common problem throughout his career, was to score the finish.

Before his loss to Ricci on TUF, Magny had advanced to the semifinals with decision victories in the elimination round fight and both of his prior fights after entering the house. With his win over Manley, Magny has four decisions in eight victories (plus the three additional decision wins from TUF that don’t count on his official record). Magny’s failure to stop the likes of Manley, Cameron Diffley or half of the regional talent he’s faced is not a good sign as he heads into the deeper waters of the UFC.

Magny’s takedown defense and striking ability may have been enough to get him this far, but the welterweight division is full of powerful wrestlers and knockout artists. Magny’s win secures him continued employment with Zuffa, but if he sees a more experienced foe in his next outing, he might not fare so well.

Potential: Low to Medium

Jon Manley — unanimous decision loss to Neil Magny

Jon Manley’s inability to defeat fellow TUF alum Neil Magny likely signals the end of his UFC stint, considering the UFC’s determination to shed 100 fighters from its roster. Manley was ineffective in scoring takedowns or posting any significant offense versus Magny.

Manley was able to survive to a decision, but as a grappling specialist, he needs to be able to find a way to take opponents down and impose his submission game against them. If he can’t do that against Magny, it’s doubtful he’ll do so against the rest of the wrestling-heavy 170-pound division.

Manley’s pink slip is likely already on its way. The nine-fight veteran should hit the regional circuit once again and gain more experience before making another run at the big show.

Potential: Low

Nah-Shon Burrell — unanimous decision victory over Yuri Villefort

The UFC appears determined to give the majority of the Strikeforce roster a chance at making it in the UFC. Case in point: granting Nah-Shon Burrell and Yuri Villefort a bout at UFC 157. It’s not that either man is anything less than a talented fighter, but both ended their Strikeforce runs on a loss. For what it’s worth, the two men at least came to fight, even if Burrell missed weight the day before.

Burrell’s striking stood out as his most redeeming feature in this fight. He used it not only for offensive means, but also to fight his way out of one of Villefort’s submission attempts. Powerful striking can take a fighter far in the UFC, but only when combined with other skills. That’s where Burrell might be lacking.

The 23-year-old was able to avoid Villefort’s submission attempts, but would he fare so well against a better finisher? It’s unlikely. Where Villefort failed with rear-naked choke attempts, others would probably succeed.

Burrell’s power, combined with his youth and athleticism, could eventually translate into Octagon success and move him into the realm of UFC mainstays. But if he can’t avoid getting taken down and being put in bad situations on the mat, his stay in the UFC will be short-lived.

Potential: Low to Medium

Yuri Villefort — unanimous decision loss to Nah-Shon Burrell

Yuri Villefort has now fought just twice in nearly three full years. The bigger problem is that both of those fights have resulted in losses for the Brazilian.

Against Nah-Shon Burrell, Villefort found himself out-gunned and unable to finish his fellow Strikeforce import despite gaining numerous advantageous positions. Villefort cannot afford to take an opponent’s back numerous times and fail to finish a rear-naked choke attempt, especially when an opponent has the power of Burrell.

Villefort could certainly find a way to string together a winning streak inside the Octagon, assuming the UFC feeds him a steady diet of debuting fighters lacking in submission defense. But, against the quality talent of the UFC’s roster, Villefort is more likely to find himself continuing to struggle in fights that go the distance.

Further complicating matters is Villefort’s inability to find a groove due to the lengthy time off between fights in recent years. If he can get back into his 2009-10 form, Villefort could turn into an intriguing addition in the UFC. But if he maintains his recent pace, he’ll never move beyond the lowest levels of the promotion.

Like his foe, Villefort is still very young and has a chance to grow into a better fighter. However, his loss to Burrell will likely mean that Villefort must experience that growth in the regional circuit.

Potential: Low

Photo: Nah-Shon Burrell (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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