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 Fight Night 33.

Alptekin Ozkilic — split decision victory over Darren Uyenoyama

When your opponent congratulates you and says he knows that fighters have been “ducking you,” well, you may just be a top prospect with a lot of future potential inside the eight-sided cage. That was exactly what happened to Alp Ozkilic after he edged Darren Uyenoyama via split decision in the only Facebook prelim of the UFC on Fox 9 card.

Uyenoyama was determined to get this fight to the mat and use his submission skills against Ozkilic, who holds a BJJ purple belt. However, Ozkilic is best known for his wrestling—the Turkish fighter is a two-time NJCAA All-American and a Turkish national Greco-Roman wrestling champion—and he used those wrestling skills to stuff the majority of Uyenoyama’s attempts and score some of his own. Ozkilic, who served as the wrestling coach for Team Dominick Cruz on The Ultimate Fighter 15 certainly enters the UFC as one of the best wrestlers in the flyweight division. He’ll be able to use that skill set to keep fights on the feet against superior grapplers or take it to the mat against better strikers. Ozkilic is no slouch on his feet, however. He landed with power against Uyenoyama and was quick in answering with counter shots.

The St. Charles MMA product’s win over Uyenoyama comes on the heels of an impressive showing in a TKO victory over UFC and WEC veteran Antonio Banuelos under the Legacy FC banner. The 27-year-old is now 9-1 overall, but his only loss came to Chico Camus in a bantamweight bout. At flyweight, Ozkilic is better equipped to pick up wins and avoid another loss. He still has to provide a more dominant showing at the UFC level, but his win over Uyenoyama should only be the start of a long career in the UFC.

Potential: Medium to High

Zach Makovsky — unanimous decision victory over Scott Jorgensen

The flyweight division has been overrun by bantamweights since its inception in the UFC. When Scott Jorgensen announced that he was moving down in weight, many figured that the former 135er would join fellow former bantamweights Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez at the top of the flyweight heap. What they failed to account for was a former Bellator bantamweight champion who has also recently made the move to 125 pounds and was stepping in on late notice to welcome Jorgensen to the division. That man is Zach Makovsky, and he spoiled Jorgensen’s flyweight debut by getting the better of the Idaho native for three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.

With a background as an NCAA Division I wrestler and a record heavy on submission wins, Makovsky’s strength has always been his grappling. He demonstrated some of those skills against Jorgensen with a number of scrambles and the occasional reversal, but it was his striking that really brought him the win at UFC on Fox 9. Makovsky landed several blows that rocked Jorgensen, and he consistently edged the UFC vet in striking exchanges. He also countered Jorgensen’s ground game with his own, even taking Jorgensen’s back and putting him in danger late in the fight.

As a former Bellator champ, Makovsky is already accustomed to bigger stages, and he remained composed throughout this fight. He looked less like a newcomer and more like an Octagon veteran in his debut. Jorgensen may yet make it into the flyweight division’s elite, but Makovsky has quickly proven that he’s worthy of consideration within those ranks as well. The striking game he displayed against Jorgensen adds another dimension to what had previously been a wrestling- and grappling-based attack. With a more well-rounded game, Makovsky should quickly establish himself as a contender and possibly even vie for the title by the end of 2014.

Potential: High

Photo: Zach Makovsky (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

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