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 38.

Noad Lahat — first-round knockout loss to Godofredo “Pepey” Castro

After an undefeated run through seven fights, Noad Lahat made his first Octagon appearance against Godofredo “Pepey” Castro. The Brazilian, who was badly in need of an UFC win in order to extend his employment with the Zuffa-owned company, knocked out Lahat in vicious fashion with a knee in the opening stanza of the fight.

Despite Lahat’s debut loss, there are certainly some positives to take away from the performance. Anyone who eats a brutal knee is going to lose consciousness, and anyone can be fooled by the double knee strike that Pepey threw. Prior to the knockout blow, Lahat demonstrated excellent striking on his feet for someone more known for their ground skills. He was able to avoid some of Pepey’s strikes by using effective head movement. In addition, Lahat appeared strong in the clinch.

The problem is that we were never afforded the option to witness Lahat’s skills on the ground. Every fighter wants to put on an entertaining show, but Lahat has a background in judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He even won a World championship in BJJ as a brown belt. Lahat needs to use his strength in the clinch and his judo skills to bring opponents to the mat, where he can tie them up in submissions. If he can play to his own strengths, Lahat could settle into a stable spot in the middle tier of the UFC featherweight division. However, should he opt to strike with Muay Thai fighters in the future, he may see more stars, followed by a UFC pink slip.

Potential: Low to Medium

Hans Stringer — split decision win over Francimar Barroso

After a lengthy run of success in the European regional circuit, light heavyweight Hans Stringer made his Octagon debut against Francimar Barroso. The Dutch fighter did just enough to eke out a split decision victory over his Brazilian counterpart.

Stringer displayed a well-rounded skill set. He has excellent power and ground-and-pound, and as a decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, he wasn’t afraid to go to the ground with Barroso, a BJJ black belt. Stringer was able to maintain top control for an extended time against Barroso without getting into any bad positions, and he was able to avoid trouble late in the fight when he was on bottom. Stringer’s best work came in the clinch, where he was able to consistently keep Barroso pressed against the cage. He delivered knees to the legs and body of his opponent, scoring points with at least two of the judges in the process.

Despite his BJJ background, Stringer actually has more knockout wins than submission victories. His power was evident against Barroso, but so was his sloppy approach to throwing punches. Stringer often seemed to lunge forward or even throw himself off-balance while seeking the big bomb. That style could cause him trouble against counter strikers or versus wrestlers who use the opportunity to take him to the mat.

Stringer’s 17-2-1 stretch since 2008 suggests that he should be able to carve out a spot on the UFC roster. However, he could struggle against the next logical step up in competition. He doesn’t have the takedowns or technical striking to gain an upper hand against the best fighters in the division. He’ll probably experience some losses on the scorecards as he continues to develop, but the potential is there for Stringer to emerge as a gatekeeper to the upper levels of the division.

Potential: Medium