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 on Fuel TV 5.

Gunnar Nelson — first-round rear-naked choke victory over DaMarques Johnson

Gunnar Nelson, along with Brits Tom Watson and Jimi Manuwa, formed a trio of highly-anticipated debuts gracing the preliminary card of UFC on Fuel TV 5. Although none of the three thoroughly disappointed, Nelson was the most impressive from start to finish. The only problem is that his great performance came against a fighter returning just 56 days after a devastating knockout loss, who did not look mentally focused, came in eight pounds heavy for what was already to be a 175-pound catchweight affair, and didn’t look to be in shape.

Nelson, know primarily for his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, displayed his striking background in karate in the early moments of the fight. While his attack might have been slightly reminiscent of UFC light heavyweight Lyoto Machida, it still leaves him open to counters. Nelson kept his hands down as he bounced in and out of range of DeMarques Johnson, and had the Icelandic fighter faced a more in-shape Johnson, he might have even encounter troubled in this fight.

However, Nelson’s mat skills eventually won out, as he took Johnson to the ground and deftly worked his way to taking the UFC veteran’s back and sinking in a rear-naked choke to end the fight.

Nelson’s background includes a number of championships in grappling and karate, so he brings a unique blend of striking and high-level jiu-jitsu into the cage. And through his takedowns, he demonstrated that his wrestling isn’t too shabby either. While predicting a title run for Nelson is a bit of a stretch, he projects more like the middleweight version of Demian Maia—a skilled grappler who could quickly rise to contendership before having the holes in his game exposed by the division’s elite.

Potential: Medium to High

Tom “Kong Watson — split decision loss to Brad Tavares

Tom “Kong” Watson served as the most experienced of the three big debuts at the Nottingham, England, event. Walking out in his signature gorilla mask to a warm reception from the home crowd, Watson stepped into the cage against rising middleweight Brad Tavares and came up short in a three-round striking battle.

Watson, who spends time training at Jackson’s MMA and the Tri Star Gym, prefers to stand and bang in his fights. Although he has ended his opponent’s night seven times via some form of knockout, he had also been to a decision nine times prior to his UFC debut.

Watson displayed his veteran mentality in performing well in his Octagon debut, but his in and out style resulted in a pair of groin shots to his opponent and a number of tangled up misfires as both he and Tavares looked to throw simultaneously. When punches did get through, it was usually Tavares connecting to Watson’s face.

Watson remained calm in the middle stanza when defending against Tavares’ rear-naked choke attempt, but he was taken down several times by Tavares throughout the fight. His takedown defense wasn’t horrible, but it is one area where he could stand to improve.

Kong actually received a gift in the form of getting a nod from one of the three judges. While he hang tough through all three rounds, he didn’t clearly win any of them. Watson, with his veteran presence, quality stand-up game and his popularity with the British crowd, should hang on for one more go-around with the promotion, but at best, he would appear to be headed down a similar path to a number of UFC’s previous low-level gatekeepers—he can help the UFC differentiate between the contenders and the pretenders.

Potential: Medium

Akira Corassani — split decision victory over Andy Ogle

The British judges not only delivered a head-scratcher in the Watson-Tavares outing, they also had a more profound impact on the featherweight tussle between former Ultimate Fighter competitors Akira Corassani and Andy Ogle. In a fight that many felt Ogle had won, Corassani instead captured the split verdict.

Corassani’s style was the flashier of the two and he looked to be more relaxed than his British adversary, but the TUF 14 alum also demonstrated that his chin is severely lacking. The 30-year-old Swede has already suffered three TKO losses in his career, including in his previous fight against Paul Reed, and nearly found himself in the same position against Ogle.

Corassani, not much of a finisher in his own right, couldn’t do anything to end Ogle’s night either. While he did have his moments, Corassani didn’t exactly impress in this affair. Perhaps it had to do with his absence from the cage for more than a year and a half, though his stay in the TUF house should have minimized the ring rust.

The Swede should have lost this fight, and won’t likely be as lucky in his next bout. Like many a TUF alum before him, Corassani might linger in the lower reaches of the UFC’s preliminary card lineups, but that’s most likely his ceiling within the eight-sided cage.

Potential: Low

Andy Ogle — split decision loss to Akira Corassani

Yes, Andy Ogle probably should have been on the other side of the decision outcome against Akira Corassani. However, the fact is that he lost.

Ogle came out stiff, but his counter shots landed effectively against Corassani. The Brit also kept his hands up to avoid most of Corassani’s strikes, though a right hand got through in the opening frame.

The ground game definitely favored Ogle, and that’s why it was surprising to hear the verdict read in Corassani’s favor. Ogle, while not doing much damage, did take the Swede down in the second stanza and attempted a guillotine choke before abandoning it to end the round with a flurry of punched to the downed Corassani. Unless the judge counted Corassani’s late blow that took the Brit off his feet, round two favored Ogle. Ogle also took the fight to the mat in the third frame, but failed to capitalize with much in the way of offensive output.

Regardless of the decision, Ogle probably earned a reprieve from being cut based on the controversial scores. However, while he might make one more Octagon appearance, there’s very little to suggest that Ogle will climb the ranks of the UFC’s featherweight division.

Potential: Low

Jimi Manuwa — second-round doctor’s stoppage TKO victory over Kyle Kingsbury

Jimi Manuwa is an exciting British striker whose UFC debut was surrounded by much anticipation. Although he showed U.S. fans what all the fuss is about with his striking late in the opening round, he also raised a number of red flags in the second round.

His foe, Kyle Kingsbury, took advantage of an early mistake to take Manuwa to the mat. Kingsbury threatened with submissions, but Manuwa’s ability to remain composed and avoid scrambling into a worse position was impressive. Manuwa remained patient and only stood up once he was certain that it wouldn’t result in Kingsbury cinching in a guillotine choke or some other submission.

On the feet, it was all about Manuwa. He hit Kingsbury with a number of devastating punches, kicks and knees. There were several points in time where it appeared that the TUF alum was seconds from being finished, but he held in there. By the end of the first stanza, Manuwa’s strikes had caused Kingsbury’s eye to swell most of the way shut.

The second round was a different story, as a one-eyed Kingsbury took Manuwa down on multiple occasions, exposing one of the Brit’s two glaring weaknesses. While Manuwa did show a surprising level of skill on the ground with a Peruvian necktie submission attempt, he is not a fighter who thrives while fighting on his back. Unfortunately for him, the wrestlers of the 205-pound division should have little trouble taking him down after the first round.

That’s because his gas tank turned out to be limited. Once beyond the first five minutes, the combined exertion of going for the big finish in the opening stanza and fending off submissions and takedowns throughout the contest had resulted in Manuwa nearing exhaustion. It wasn’t so much that Manuwa was taken down as it was that he collapsed, too tired to support Kingsbury’s weight. Manuwa was also lazy in retreating when he wanted Kingsbury to stand up, and that nearly led to another takedown.

Manuwa will need to work on pacing and increasing his endurance. His striking attack is still intimidating and it could take him far in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. However, if Kingsbury’s eye hadn’t swollen shut by the end of the second frame, the former Arizona State University football player might have battled his way back for the win. That’s not a good sign for Manuwa, especially considering that an already nearly one-eyed Kingsbury was turning the tide in the second round. That alone is enough to limit his prospects once he reaches the higher levels of UFC competition. We might see a few highlight-reel finishes from Manuwa, but unless he shores up his takedown defense and increases his endurance, he won’t make it to the level of a contender.

Potential: Medium

Photo: Gunnar Nelson (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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