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 46.

Patrick Holohan — first-round submission victory over Josh Sampo

With the Irish crowd screaming at the top of their lungs to open the evening’s festivities, Patrick Holohan challenged his countrymen’s energy and turned it into a first-round, rear-naked choke finish of Josh Sampo.

Holohan entered the bout as an undefeated prospect, but the competition on his resume was perceived to be far inferior to that which Sampo has seen. Furthermore, “The Hooligan” had been out of action for two years. Yet, once the opening bell sounded, it was evident that Holohan belonged inside the Octagon. At 5-foot-9, Holohan is a lanky flyweight who can use his range to keep opponents at bay. A significant amount of his wins have come via submission, but the Irishmen flashed his power against Sampo. On the ground, Holohan did get caught in an armbar, but he knew exactly how to counter and escape the hold. In fact, he turned things in his favor when he not only escaped, but took Sampo’s back in the process. It wasn’t too long before Holohan was able to sink in the rear-naked choke.

Holohan’s combination of length, power and grappling acumen will make him a force in the UFC’s flyweight division. It’s evident that the SBG camp, which also houses Conor McGregor, is improving as a group, and Holohan could be the next member of the Irish fight team to work his way into title contention.

Potential: Medium to High

Cathal Pendred — second-round submission victory over Mike King

If Holohan was proof of the SBG camp’s overall improvements as a team, Cathal Pendred was proof that the team just couldn’t lose in their homeland. Pendred was demolished by Mike King in the opening stanza of their fight, but he survived the round and made one of the most dramatic comebacks the UFC has ever seen when he submitted King with a rear-naked choke in the second round.

Pendred entered The Ultimate Fighter 19 reality series as one of the favorites to go all the way in the show’s middleweight division. However, the Irishman lost in the semifinals, leaving his bout with King in his native Ireland as a consolation prize. The former Cage Warriors welterweight champion showed a lot of heart after what should have been a 10-8 round against him in the opening frame. The adrenaline was likely pumping as he fought in front of his countrymen, and it led to some overly aggressive rushes forward that allowed King to get takedowns. Pendred also kept his hands low, leaving himself open to get tagged by his opponent. He benefitted from hanging on and enduring the beating, effectively tiring out King, who put everything into seeking the first-round finish. Pendred did score with some nice body-lock takedowns, and he displayed a submission game that doesn’t typically show up in his performances.

Pendred has been more of a striker than a grappler throughout his career, but he’s also spent much of that career at welterweight, where his fists have been able to do more damage. If the Irishman sticks to the 185-pound division, he’s going to run into fighters who can do what King did in round one, but also return to deliver similar levels of punishment in rounds two and three. The best course of action for Pendred would be a return to 170 pounds, where he can look to outstrike his opponents. If he wants to stick around for more than just a few more UFC outings, the latter of those options is a necessity.

Potential: Low to Medium

Mike King — second-round submission loss to Cathal Pendred

Cardio can be everything. King learned that the hard way in his rear-naked choke submission loss to Pendred.

After rocking Pendred in the opening round, King put everything he had into throwing barrages of punches with the intention of finishing the fight. He came extremely close to getting the referee stoppage, but Pendred did just enough to defend himself and remain in the fight. King was aggressive on all fronts—he attacked with takedowns whenever Pendred moved forward, but he also looked to throw with power on the feet. The problem came in how much energy he expended in mounting such an aggressive offense. Prior to his fight with Pendred, King had finished all but one of his other five pro bouts in the opening frame.

In terms of offensive output, King could pose a serious threat to anyone he fights in the UFC. However, if his opponent is able to make it out of the first round, the tide shifts against the former football player. His fights on The Ultimate Fighter 19 went the distance, though it is commendable that he topped Nordine Taleb and lasted three rounds with eventual middleweight winner Eddie Gordon. The 30-year-old’s career is young, though, and he has the necessary tools to stick around with the promotion if he can improve his gas tank.

The fight with Pendred was extremely entertaining, and a case could be made that the referee, Marc Goddard, should have stepped in and handed King a victory in the first round. Those two factors make it a certainty that the UFC will invite King back. If he learns from his mistakes and takes a slightly more conservative approach, King could start finding wins inside the Octagon.

Potential: Low to Medium

Chris Dempsey — first-round knockout loss to Ilir Latifi

Sometimes a fighter’s record speaks volumes about how they’ll fare inside the Octagon. If a fighter had to settle for decision wins over .500 fighters and even suffered a loss to a fighter who stands at only one win above the .500 mark, then perhaps that fighter will struggle in the UFC. Case in point, Chris Dempsey. After compiling a 10-1 mark outside the UFC, Dempsey entered the Octagon and quickly exited as the recipient of a first-round knockout loss courtesy of Ilir Latifi.

Dempsey’s prior decision wins were a sign of his inconsistent finishing ability. His four most recent victories, however, appeared to indicate that he had solved that issue. But when Dempsey locked horns with Latifi, he had little to offer. His stand-up abilities were mediocre, at best. He should have sought more takedowns, especially given Latifi’s tendency to throw leg kicks. However, Dempsey seemed content to stand with Latifi and ultimately paid the price for that decision.

Dempsey looked very average in all aspects of his game. The 26-year-old was competing a division above his normal middleweight home, which could have played a part in his performance, and he was also competing overseas after a career spent primarily in Pennsylvania and the regional scene of the area. Dempsey had stepped in for an injured Tom Lawlor to take the Latifi fight, so there’s a chance he earns a sophomore appearance in the UFC, but his skill set doesn’t suggest that he’ll fare much better, even if he shifts back to middleweight.

Potential: Low