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 39.

Jim Alers — split decision win over Alan Omer

Jim Alers, the former Cage Warriors featherweight champion, made a successful debut on Friday when he eked out a split decision over fellow newcomer Alan Omer.

Alers found himself in trouble early in the fight when several of Omer’s punches made it through his defenses. His chin held up and he battled back by using his wrestling chops to neutralize Omer through parts of the second and third frames. Though Alers did take the decision, it could be argued that Omer produced enough offense in the first two rounds to rightfully win the fight.

Alers’ striking looked crisp in the early moments of the bout. He doesn’t telegraph his punches, but he also wasn’t landing with much success or power. His bread and butter, though, is his wrestling and grappling. He scored points when he controlled Omer on the mat. He did attempt a brabo choke, but couldn’t complete it. The resume of “The Beast” supports his grappling tendencies—he has nine submission wins and only two victories by way of strikes.

The biggest concerns for Alers are his chin and his striking. His lone defeat came by way of a 24-second TKO, and he was allowing too many strikes to make it through his guard against Omer. He’ll have to rely heavily on his wrestling to control opponents and grind them out for decisions or work for the submission. He’s made that look easy throughout his career, but he’s facing a whole new level of competition in the UFC. He’ll have to continue to improve if he wants to succeed at this level, and he’ll also have to up his aggression in seeking submissions on the mat. Typically, he is more aggressive in this aspect than he was in his Octagon debut, so perhaps he was being conservative in hopes of locking down a win and staying with the UFC. However, he cannot continue that conservative trend if he wants to maintain his spot on the roster.

The 27-year-old’s previous accomplishments in Cage Warriors suggest that he has the ability to establish himself as a low- or mid-tier fighter inside the Octagon at the very least. If we see more flashes of his submission game in the future, he could even flirt with title contention down the road.

Potential: Medium

Alan Omer — split decision loss to Jim Alers

One missing aspect of a well-rounded game can be detrimental to a fighter. Possess excellent grappling and respectable striking, or vice versa, but lack takedown defense? Well, that could be your downfall. Thus was the case for Northern European-based Alan Omer. The 25-year-old emerged on the wrong end of a split decision in a fight he arguably won, and the outcome was in large part the result of the takedowns Alers scored on Omer in the second and third frames.

Omer’s resume includes 10 submission wins and six victories by some form of knockout, but his striking proved to be the most impressive part of his game against Alers. He slipped numerous punches through the guard of Alers, and he also had a habit of throwing sneaky uppercuts from odd angles with a high level of effectiveness. In terms of his stand-up, Omer was the superior featherweight in the fight.

The wrestling game is where things went wrong for the Stallion Cage product. He was not able to defend against Alers’ takedown attempts and spent parts of the second and third rounds on his back. He’ll need to work on reversing or escaping from bottom position to improve that portion of his game. His record proves that he’s not afraid to grapple, so he’s not completely lost on the ground. However, if he can’t manage to score takedowns or prevent fights from going to the mat, he could continue to struggle to find clear-cut victory in the UFC.

Omer has lost a few fights over the course of his career, and the majority of those defeats came on the scorecards. He’s not easy to stop, but he can be outworked. Two of those losses, including the one to Alers, were by way of a split verdict. That’s not a good sign for Omer, and neither is his lack of takedown defense in a league full of wrestlers. If he has a tendency to keep fights close, he risks the type of decision loss he faced on Friday.

Omer’s striking and submission game could result in just enough success to keep him in the UFC as a gatekeeper, but he’ll need to work on stopping takedowns if he wants to progress beyond that status.

Potential: Low to Medium

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