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 four newcomers from UFC Fight Night 32.

Dustin Ortiz — third-round TKO victory over Jose Maria Tome

With many of the top-ranked flyweights already under the UFC banner, the promotion has started to expand its efforts to include up-and-coming fighters who have displayed a great amount of promise, but who have yet to crack into the division’s upper echelon. Among these men is Roufusport’s Dustin Ortiz. The flyweight fighter entered the UFC with an 11-2 mark and exited the Octagon with his 12th win after he scored a third-round TKO of the highly regarded Jose Maria Tome.

Ortiz’s biggest weaknesses were on display early in the fight. He had a hard time avoiding the takedown and had to exert quite a bit of effort in order to drag Tome to the ground. Ortiz also had a hard time finding his range against the Brazilian and was not explosive enough in his striking attack, despite being the more technical striker in the contest.

Although Ortiz was taken down by Tome, he did not allow the Brazilian to put in much offense on the mat. Ortiz defended well against transitions and scrambled back to his feet after getting taken down. In his own attempts to wrestle and gain top position, however, Ortiz found himself in a guillotine choke to end the first and second rounds. He wasn’t submitted, but it suggests one area opponents might be able to target against Ortiz in future match-ups. Ortiz has yet to be stopped through a 14-fight career, though, so it has not been a problem for him thus far. The level of competition he faces moving forward could change that.

When Ortiz was in the superior position on the ground, he was persistent with his ground-and-pound efforts and also displayed excellent transitions. One large benefit for Ortiz is that he came on strong as Tome faded. The Roufusport fighter has good cardio and just had to maintain a steady amount of pressure in order to erode Tome’s offense and turn the tide.

In defeating Tome, Ortiz beat a borderline top-10 fighter and added the most significant name to his list of victims. His two losses have come via decision, including a unanimous verdict that went against him in a 2011 meeting with Ian McCall under the Tachi Palace Fights banner.Ortiz is proving to be a tough opponent for anyone in the 125-pound division, but now he’s in an arena where he’ll meet only the best. He may push some of his adversaries to the limit, but he’s going to lose some decisions. Ortiz could contend for the title at some point in the future, but it’s more likely that he’ll settle in as a gatekeeper to the division’s elite.

Potential: Medium

Adriano Martins — second-round submission victory over Daron Cruickshank

If you’re a jiu-jitsu world champion at blue and purple belt, and you now hold a black belt, people are going to expect to see a ton of grappling and submissions. That’s what makes Adriano Martins unique. Although his UFC debut did in fact end in a second-round armbar submission victory over Daron Cruickshank, Martins is more likely to use his fists than his world-class grappling technique.

The 31-year-old already had 30 fights under his belt before entering the UFC, including a unanimous decision win over Jorge Gurgel under the Strikeforce banner. Surprisingly, he had only submitted two opponents prior to Cruickshank, whereas he had ended 11 fights with his fists.

It’s Martins’ good combination of power and ground skills that makes him a threat in the UFC’s lightweight division. He can certainly pose a threat to anyone when the fight hits the canvas, but he’s also very effective on his feet. That extends beyond his power and to his technique. Martins utilizes a southpaw stance and lures his opponent into stepping towards his power hand. He was able to connect several times against Cruickshank. Despite all his power, he has seen the scorecards in 11 of his wins and all but one of his defeats, which suggests that he might not have a killer finishing instinct.

Martins’ power also translates into his ground game. In top position against Cruickshank, the Brazilian dropped some powerful bombs during his ground-and-pound barrages. He uses those heavy hands well in setting up his opponents for submission attempts. And once he starts looking for a submission, he remains determined even when his foe is defending well.

Martins has the right combination of power, grappling and size to make him a contender in the UFC. He is 12-1 since 2010, with the only loss in that span coming against Francisco Trinaldo. He tends to keep fights close, as evidenced by the six split or majority decision verdicts on his resume. He has avenged some of his losses already, and could get a chance to avenge losses to Trinaldo and Gleison Tibau now that he’s in the UFC.

Potential: Medium to High

Omari Akhmedov — first-round TKO victory over Thiago Perpetuo

Omari Akhmedov is the latest in a long line of Russians to flood the UFC or Bellator rosters. Although his name might not be well-known yet, that is likely to change, especially if his first-round TKO victory over Thiago Perpetuo is any indication of what the future holds.

Akhmedov combines wrestling with a kickboxing attack. He has crisp kicks and has used his striking to end six of the fights on his unblemished 12-fight record. However, in fighting Perpetuo, Akhmedov also demonstrated that his chin may be a target. Perpetuo was able to rock him on several occasions, and the Russian middleweight is likely to see that chin tested as he moves forward.

Akhmedov was able to quickly recover when he did get rocked. He was also able to throw with knockout power even when hurt and backing up. That type of power makes him a threat and may force opponents to be less aggressive in pouncing on him for a finish when he’s rattled.

The Russian has only been out of the first round twice, in a pair of two-round decisions early in his career, but those fights are troubling. They came against opponents who now sit at 2-3 and 3-6, and he only edged out a split decision against one of them. The remainder of his fights have ended in the first round, though, and only four have gone past the three-minute mark. Akhmedov’s cardio could be called into question, and when he meets someone who doesn’t succumb to an early knockout or submission, things could get ugly.

Until Akhmedov proves he can go the distance against the level of competition the UFC offers and emerge victorious, there will be some question marks about his endurance. However, his power and wrestling make him a middleweight worth keeping an eye on. He should provide enough highlight-reel moments to solidify his place on the UFC roster.

Potential: Medium

Santiago Ponzinibbio — unanimous decision loss to Ryan LaFlare

Santiago Ponzinibbio would have been in the TUF Brazil 2 finals had he not broken his hand, but instead he entered the Octagon after nearly a year and a half without an official fight. Only making things more frustrating for the Brazilian is the fact that he lost his Octagon debut via decision to Ryan LaFlare.

Ponzinibbio was taken down too easily by LaFlare. However, the real trouble was on the ground, where LaFlare was able to smother Ponzinibbio. The Brazilian did try to sweep and reverse, which could work against less-skilled grapplers, but won’t work against the wrestlers the UFC’s welterweight division has to offer.

The one thing Ponzinibbio has been known for is his ability to turn the tide as the fight goes on. He adapted well against LaFlare and, with his showing in the later stages of the fight, definitely earns that reputation. Yet, he was winded by second round, which could hurt his chances of mounting comebacks against UFC-caliber talent.

Ponzinibbio has a strong striking attack when throwing combinations, but he was too willing to rely on single strikes early in the fight. Even once he did mount his comeback, he couldn’t close things. In a division with so many wrestlers and grapplers, Ponzinibbio was too willing to throw kicks even when facing a guy with good takedowns. Even after he already saw that those kicks were only working against him, Ponzinibbio still threw a few more.

If LaFlare was able to smother Ponzinibbio, it’s a guarantee that many of the division’s other wrestlers could do the same. It’s not a certainty that the Brazilian will see another chance with the UFC, which has a bloated roster right now and might see one loss as reason enough to hand Ponzinibbio his walking papers. If he does manage to hang on for one more go-around, he’ll have to hope for someone the level of which he fought during his time on The Ultimate Fighter, otherwise he’ll suffer the same fate as he did against LaFlare.

Potential: Low

Photo: Dustin Ortiz (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)