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 five newcomers from UFC Fight Night 41.

Viktor Pesta — unanimous decision loss to Ruslan Magomedov

It’s not often that a pair of heavyweights gracing the preliminary card manage to put on not only a competitive fight, but a fight that entertains. Viktor Pesta managed to achieve that rare feat, though he also fell short on the scorecards against Ruslan Magomedov in the evening’s opening contest.

Pesta had his moments. After getting tagged early, he was able to stun Magomedov with knees from the clinch. With Magomedov rocked, Pesta served up some ground-and-pound, but he wasn’t able to finish his Dagestani opponent. He also made nice level change for a takedown, but he failed to duplicate that early success as the fight wore on. Magomedov was able to stuff his later takedown attempts and answer back with strikes that left Pesta on the wrong end of the judges’ decision.

The 23-year-old Czech was clearly outclassed on the feet. As he launched into combinations, he moved forward in a reckless manner that allowed Magomedov to land counters. He tends to swing too wildly, which will open him up to possible knockout losses in the future.

Pesta is a fighter who works well from the clinch and top control, but he doesn’t have the takedowns to get most of the UFC heavyweights to the mat with consistency. His stand-up will leave him prone against many of the UFC’s high-level strikers, further the adversity he faces in trying to carve out his place in the promotion’s ranks.

The formerly undefeated fighter did enough against Magomedov to earn a return invite from the UFC, and given the proper opponents, he could stick around for a few more fights. However, Pesta’s ceiling is likely as a low-level gatekeeper at best.

Potential: Low

Ruslan Magomedov — unanimous decision victory over Viktor Pesta

Although Ruslan Magomedov scored the unanimous nod over Viktor Pesta, the 27-year-old isn’t exactly leaps and bounds ahead of Pesta when it comes to future UFC potential. It’s not the Magomedov isn’t a skilled heavyweight, but Pesta was able to expose one weakness that other, far better wrestlers will capitalize on in future bouts.

Pesta was able to change levels and score a takedown against Magomedov, and the Dagestani fighter failed to do much from the bottom. It was only due to Pesta’s inability to finish—or to take Magomedov down during other attempts later in the fight—that allowed the ProFC and Fight Nights veteran to get back to doing what he does best.

What Magomedov does best, of course, is strike with opponents. His fists landed with accuracy whenever Pesta surged forward. Magomedov staggered Pesta on one occasion and tagged him numerous other times via those counters. But it was Magomedov’s kicks that truly highlighted his stand-up arsenal. When he threw kicks, they landed effectively and from a variety of angles. If he can mix those kicks into his game with regularity, he could do significant damage to his opponents. However, the use of those kicks will also open him up to takedowns against any opponents with decent wrestling chops.

Despite his impressive array of kicks and effective counterstriking, Magomedov cannot be counted on for a consistent stream of victories in the eight-sided cage. His questionable takedown defense is enough to cost him at least a few fights here and there, and he didn’t show the power necessary to finish opponents before they can finish him or grind him out on the scorecards. With the win, Magomedov will stick around the UFC for at least a little while longer, but he’ll need to work on his takedown defense and ground game if he wants to entrench himself as a fixture inside the Octagon.

Potential: Low

Pawel Pawlak — unanimous decision loss to Peter Sobotta

What’s one way to make an underwhelming first impression in the UFC? Well, you could land so few punches against your opponent that it actually appears as if you’re simply standing in front of them while shadow boxing, then get taken down and dominated on the mat. That’s an apt description for the unsuccessful UFC debut of Polish fighter Pawel Pawlak. The 25-year-old struggled to put up any significant form of offense in dropping a unanimous verdict to Germany’s own Peter Sobotta.

Pawlak appeared to have trouble finding his range throughout the three-round affair. Sobotta backed out of danger each time the formerly undefeated Gracie Barra Lodz product let his hands fly. And when Sobotta wasn’t backing out of Pawlak’s range, he was ducking under the punches and scoring takedowns as the Polish fighter whiffed.

Those takedowns brought the fight to the mat, where Pawlak demonstrated that he could effectively keep Sobotta from advancing his position. However, the four-year pro was not active in throwing up any submission attempts or even striking from his back, and he made fews attempts to sweep or escape.

Pawlak’s performance won’t earn him many kudos with the UFC brass. His stint in the promotion will probably be limited to this losing effort, unless the UFC returns to Europe and has spots to fill in the lineup.

Potential: Low

Nick Hein — unanimous decision victory over Drew Dober

Strength and power. Those two attributes are almost always assets for a fighter, and German lightweight Nick Hein possesses both. The 30-year-old “Sergeant” put them, along with his judo skills, to good use in capturing a decision victory over Drew Dober.

Hein possesses a big left hand that looked menacing when thrown early in his fight with Dober, but the German only has one knockout victory on his 13-fight resume. He’s more likely to use that left fist as a complement to his ground game, which has accounted for the four submission victories on his record.

Hein tended to load up on his strikes, which allowed Dober to counter with some success. Yet, Hein managed to land counters of his own to rack up points with the judges and open a cut on Dober’s head. Dober had few answers for Hein’s judo trip takedowns either, but Hein could benefit from engaging in more clinches and hunting for more throws and takedowns.

With the physique of a Dennis Siver or Sean Sherk, power in his left hand and a healthy dose of judo, Hein has what it takes to stick around in the UFC. In such a tough division, he might struggle to climb too high on the ladder, but a gatekeeper role could be in the future for the German.

Potential: Medium

Niklas Backstrom — first-round submission victory over Tom Niinimaki

Swedish fighter Niklas Backstrom entered the Octagon on short notice and managed to accomplish something that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and ADCC champion Rani Yahya couldn’t do: he submitted Tom Niinimaki.

Backstrom, who replaced Thiago Tavares as Niinimaki’s opponent, proved to be a sneaky grappler in his UFC debut. He threatened his Finnish counterpart with a guillotine choke before eventually claiming the win via a rear-naked choke. It was no ordinary rear-naked choke, however, as it developed out of a side headlock/bulldog choke and turned into a no-hooks rear-naked choke that left Niinimaki with no choice but to tap.

The Allstars Training Center featherweight, who is now undefeated through with eight wins and a no-contest through nine professional bouts, entered the bout with only one previous submission win. His lanky 6-foot frame often gives him a reach advantage over his opponents, and he demonstrated his ability to use that length against Niinimaki. He was able to remain just inches out of reach for Niinimaki, and the 24-year-old’s height played to his favor when he threw knees in the bout. He connected with one of those knees not long before he tied up Niinimaki in what turned out to be the beginning of the end of the contest.

Backstrom’s combination of grappling, striking and reach provides him with the potential for a great amount of success inside the Octagon. His victory over Niinimaki proves that he’s a dangerous opponent for any top featherweight. He’s certainly set the bar very high, but he should develop into a gatekeeper to the division’s top tier at the absolute minimum, and he could eventually knock on the door of a championship berth.

Potential: High