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 on Fox 10.

George Sullivan — unanimous decision victory over Mike Rhodes

It took Ring of Combat and Cage Fury Fighting Championships veteran George Sullivan a total of eight years, 17 fights and 14 victories before he received an invite to the big show. On Saturday night at UFC on Fox 10, though, Sullivan finally stepped into the Octagon and took advantage of that opportunity by emerging with a unanimous decision victory over Mike Rhodes.

The win, which came in a fight that was announced less than two weeks out from the event, guarantees that Sullivan will stick around for at least a little while longer, but it didn’t demonstrate that he has what it takes to climb the ladder in the UFC’s welterweight division.

Sullivan was the aggressor in the bout and landed strikes at a much higher volume than his opponent, but his efforts never really placed him in position to end the contest. Furthermore, despite the stats that reveal Sullivan’s higher accuracy, Rhodes was able to keep the fight extremely close throughout the 15-minute duration. Sullivan did score one big takedown, but he also wasn’t able to establish an overwhelming ground game.

Sullivan has picked up 10 of his wins via strikes, but his showing against Rhodes hardly classifies him as an overwhelming striker. His most significant wins, prior to the decision over Rhodes, came against Julian Lane and Greg Soto. Meanwhile, he has suffered three losses in his career, including two by submission.

Rhodes wasn’t able to present a threat to Sullivan in any particular area or test his vulnerability on the ground. Other UFC welterweights, many of whom have the wrestling skills to plant Sullivan on the mat, will change that. If Sullivan can keep fights standing, he’ll have the chance to engage in more striking battles like the one he had against Rhodes and he might even win a healthy portion of them. However, he’ll face setbacks any time he tests himself against all but the lowest tier of UFC fighters. Sullivan could prove to be a gatekeeper to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva’s latest signings, but it’s just as likely that he’ll be headed back to the regional circuit after a few UFC outings.

Potential: Low

Mike Rhodes — unanimous decision loss to George Sullivan

The 24-year-old “Biggie” Rhodes entered the Octagon against George Sullivan on the momentum of just a two-fight winning streak. The previous loss? It came against rising UFC star Brandon Thatch in the headlining bout of Resurrection Fighting Alliance’s seventh event, and it came in less than two and a half minutes.

Rhodes may train at Roufusport with the Pettis brothers, but his track record doesn’t hint at the same levels of potential future success. He was able to stuff some of Sullivan’s takedown attempts, but he failed to get his own offense going, delivered a smaller volume of strikes with less accuracy and didn’t show the same dynamic skills as his teammates. Rhodes kept the fight close, but he didn’t do enough to win. If that’s the result against another UFC newcomer who doesn’t project very highly, what can be expected of Rhodes in the future?

First and foremost, expect another trip to the regional circuit. Rhodes didn’t do anything to impress the UFC brass against Sullivan, and the UFC isn’t shy about cutting fighters. There is a chance that the short-notice nature of the fight could buy Rhodes a reprieve, but he’ll have to amp it up in his next fight in order to seize on any second chance the UFC is willing to afford him. Rhodes has a resume that includes a number of first-round stoppages, but he was too tentative in his UFC debut. That’s forgivable, but it’s also an obstacle he must overcome if he is invited back.

The biggest factor working in Rhodes’ favor is his fight camp. “Biggie” is still a young, developing prospect who could benefit from more time at Roufusport. There is the possibility that his game matures over another stint on the regional circuit and that his second go-around in the UFC, should he earn one, provides a much different and more positive result. Right now, however, Rhodes’ future inside the Octagon doesn’t look promising.

Potential: Low

About The Author

The MMA Corner Staff

Your home for all things MMA. News, Interviews, Event Coverage, Editorials. If it is MMA related, you will find it on The MMA Corner.