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 29.

Alan Patrick — first-round TKO victory over Garett Whiteley

The evening’s first preliminary card fight featured two UFC newcomers and gained a boost in exposure when it was promoted to the Fox Sports 1 prelim broadcast. That was good news for Alan Patrick, who delivered a first-round TKO victory in his battle with Garett Whiteley.

Patrick has taken numerous honors in jiu-jitsu and grappling competitions, but he chose primarily to stand with Whiteley. However, the Brazilian did attempt takedowns early in the fight. He was powerful in his shots and was able to ground Whiteley, but he did have trouble holding his American counterpart down. He might find it easy to score points with the judges via takedowns, but he’ll have to work on controlling his opponent once the fight hits the canvas.

The X-Gym fighter fell in love with capoeira in his youth, and he was able to utilize the art in creating unorthodox striking attacks that doubled as the setup for takedown attempts. Although the style of capoeira will rarely lead to much success on its own in the Octagon, Patrick was able to blend it into his attack in such a way that there was a natural flow from his striking to his takedowns.

“Nuguette” is friends with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, and his overall stance and method of attack has faint traces of Jacare’s influence. He’s got a strong takedown game, but he also has the knockout power, wide stance and rangy striking style reminiscent of Jacare, though he has some improving to do before he can become a true lightweight version of his middleweight contender friend.

The biggest flaws in Patrick’s game came in his striking attack. Although he used capoeira-style attacks to set up takedowns and ended the fight with a TKO, he also kept his hands low and lunged in with winging punches that left him open to counters. The quality of his opponent in this debut fight allowed him to get away with those things, but that will change as he progresses to more accomplished adversaries. He needs to look to Jacare again here in making his striking game a bit more crisp and clean. The power in his hands has led to four career wins by some form of knockout, but with his style, he could eventually end up as the one staring up at the lights.

Despite Patrick’s history of grappling, he only has two wins via submission through his 11-fight career and projects as a more well-rounded fighter who can be a threat on the ground or on the feet. If he continues to improve his ground game and tightens up his striking style, he could build towards a spot somewhere in the middle of the UFC’s lightweight division, either as a borderline contender or a gatekeeper to the division’s upper tiers.

Potential: Medium

Garett Whiteley — first-round TKO loss to Alan Patrick

The worst way for a fighter to go out in a UFC debut is early. It leaves little opportunity for the fighter to show off his best qualities and provides very little in the way of a lasting impression. Garett Whiteley is one example of this end result. The Indiana native lasted just under four minutes before suffering a TKO loss at the hands of fellow newcomer Alan Patrick.

Whiteley came into the fight with seven wins in seven career outings. He had finished four opponents by some form of knockout and three via submission, and all but one of his victories came in the first round. It’s surprising, then, that Whiteley demonstrated very little in terms of effective offense or early explosiveness. As for questions of cardio, well, no answers there either.

Whiteley was not complacent when on his back and didn’t let Patrick hold him down for too long. However, he also didn’t have much success in defending against the takedown in the first place. It may be easy for Whiteley to get fights back to an upright position, but wrestlers will have little trouble scoring points through takedowns. Furthermore, stronger wrestlers may not face the same problem of Whiteley popping right back up.

In the striking department, Whiteley, who trains alongside Chris Lytle, displayed decent striking and knees, but this isn’t someone who is going to dominate. He didn’t seem to pack much power in his strikes and he failed to register the openings that Patrick left for counters.

If Whiteley sticks with the UFC, it’ll come after another trip to the regional circuit. However, the 32-year-old did not do anything in his four minutes inside the Octagon to suggest he’s capable of an extended run on the UFC roster.

Potential: Low

Yan Cabral — unanimous decision victory over David Mitchell

It’s not often that a fighter makes his UFC after more than two years away from action, but that’s exactly what Nova Uniao’s Yan Cabral did at UFC Fight Night 29. The 30-year-old qualified for the house on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2, but a broken hand forced him out of the competition. The accomplished grappler was granted another chance, though, and used it to dominate fellow submission specialist David Mitchell for three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Cabral has the potential to dominate the lower levels of the UFC welterweight division through his jiu-jitsu game in much the same way as Demian Maia did upon debuting in the UFC’s middleweight division. Cabral used adequate striking to set up his takedowns, but it’s what he did after getting his opponent to the canvas that makes him a potential mainstay in the UFC. The Brazilian was relentless in advancing positions and maintaining top control. He also utilized a strong ground-and-pound attack that is certainly intended to soften his opponents up for submissions.

Cabral does have power in his strikes and was able to rock Mitchell. He was also able to drag Mitchell to the mat, but his takedowns won’t hold up against fighters with takedown defense far superior to that of Mitchell. Cabral, much like Maia, will have to rely on his ground game while developing a stronger striking arsenal. The good news is that he trains with a camp that houses some of the more highly regarded strikers in the business.

Mitchell is a strong grappler, but Cabral neutralized him in every way. On the other hand, Mitchell has suffered losses in all but one of his UFC outings, so he’s hardly the best gauge by which to measure Cabral’s future potential. Still, Mitchell has fought and won against the likes of War Machine and Bobby Green in the past, so he’s no pushover either.

Cabral announced his arrival in the UFC with the win over Mitchell, but he still needs to make a bigger statement. He’ll do so in his next outing and, as long as he stays active, will work his way towards a spot somewhere in the middle of the division. In order to make the leap from mid-card talent to contender, however, Cabral will need to improve his striking game and work on a more effective approach to bringing his opponents to the mat.

Potential: Medium

Igor Araujo — unanimous decision victory over Ildemar Alcantara

After competing on The Ultimate Fighter 16 in 2012, Igor Araujo finally made his official Octagon debut on Wednesday night. The Brazilian, who trains out of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., earned a unanimous nod from the judges over Ildemar Alcantara.

The 32-year-old already has more than 30 fights under his belt, and he’s ended 17 of them by way of submission. His preference for a ground battle showed in his persistence with takedown attempts against Alcantara. The problem is that his efforts were largely inconsistent. Initially, Araujo used his striking to set up his shots, but he quickly abandoned that method of attack in favor of lunging, telegraphed takedown attempts.

He also grabbed for Alcantara’s ankles in hopes of dragging his foe to the mat, but this strategy often leaves the fighter attempting a takedown open to additional punishment from an opponent that can simply stand there and deliver a barrage of unanswered strikes.

Araujo’s grappling acumen meant that he was well prepared to defend against Alcantara’s submission attempts. He also scored with a sweep, but failed to capitalize on it. And capitalizing on his efforts is one of his primary issues. He needed a third round to defeat Cortez Coleman in the qualifying round of TUF 16, barely edged Nic Herron-Webb on the reality show and subsequently lost both rounds against Colton Smith. Although he has plenty of first-round finishes, his wins have come later in fights during his more recent run against tougher competition.

Araujo has lost several times in his career, but he’s been largely successful lately. He’ll grind his way to some wins and tap out opponents in others, but we could see some ugly fights in between where his takedowns are ineffective and he’s either knocked out or loses on the scorecards.

Potential: Low to Medium

Photo: Alan Patrick (Fernando Mucci/Olhar do fa no MMA)