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 two newcomers from UFC Fight Night 30.

Brian Houston — first-round submission loss to Derek Brunson

The worst possible way to end a UFC debut is to not even have the opportunity to showcase any of your skills. A quick knockout or submission can end a night before it even gets started. UFC newcomer Brian Houston was afforded an unfortunate taste of both on Wednesday evening in Kentucky. First came a head kick that left Houston reeling, then came Derek Brunson pouncing on Houston and sinking in the rear-naked choke to end the contest. Total time? Forty-eight seconds.

“B-Hue” joins a small group of fighters who have made their Octagon debut before accumulating at least five fights on the regional or international circuit. Houston’s pro debut came in April 2012, when he took a unanimous decision win over Josh Heath. It was his subsequent three victories, all via strikes and all coming under two minutes of the first round, that likely punched his ticket to the big show after just a four-fight undefeated run.

The Disorderly Conduct product is extremely inexperienced, has only been fighting professionally for a roughly a year and a half and had one loss in an eight-fight amateur run spanning from 2009 to 2010 that included two split decision outcomes, one in his favor and the other being the loss.

Houston’s style incorporates a heavy dose of striking. As an amateur, he reeled off five first-round stoppages due to strikes and added another that ended in the second stanza. Three of his four pro wins have also come via strikes, lending to the notion that Houston has but one primary dimension to his game.

Houston is a former college football player who turned to MMA after an injury during his senior season. He has only defeated one man thus far who holds a winning record. His sprawl-and-brawl style may be effective at the regional level, but he wasn’t able to do much against Brunson. He gave a valiant effort in attempting to fight off Brunson’s submission attempt, but he’s not going to get very far against any middleweights that incorporate a ground game into their offensive attack. And Brunson beat Houston on the feet, where the 26-year-old possesses the best of his skill set.

Houston’s quick loss could bring out some sympathy with the UFC brass and therefore provide Houston with one more chance, but with the size of the promotion’s roster and its roster-cutting ways, that’s not likely. Houston is going to have to work his way back up through the regional circuit, destroying lesser competition with his fists. He’ll have to round out his skill set and prove that he can beat tougher opposition before he walks through the Octagon door once again.

Potential: Low

Photo: Brian Houston (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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