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 three newcomers from UFC 175.

Bubba Bush — first-round knockout loss to Kevin Casey

The last time fight fans saw Kevin Casey and Bubba Bush, the fighters were picking up impressive wins under the Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Legacy FC banners, respectively. That made Bush’s UFC debut against Casey, who has fought in the Octagon once before, a virtual battle between two of the UFC’s feeder leagues, and the RFA prevailed in spectacular fashion when Casey connected with a left hook to drop Bush and landed a series of ground-and-pound elbows that left the Legacy middleweight champion unconscious on the mat.

This marked Bush’s first outside of the Legacy promotion and its former incarnations, and he didn’t exactly prove his worth as an UFC prospect. Bush rushed forward, right into Casey’s counter. Once on the mat, he wasn’t able to do anything to tie Casey up or escape from bottom position before the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt used a barrage of elbows to end the fight.

Bush’s forward surge to open the fight turned out to be an ill-advised move. Casey might be known for his grappling skills, but his recent wins over Eddie Mendez and Andrew Sanchez proved that he knows how to use his fists as well. This isn’t Bush’s first loss, either. The Legacy champ, who entered the contest on a four-fight winning streak, fell to Andrew Craig, who went on to fight in the UFC, and suffered a disqualification loss to Artenas Young. The Young loss aside, Bush has now suffered two defeats at the hands of fighters who project to be low- to mid-level UFC fighters. Bush is quite capable of dominating a show like Legacy FC, but the step up in competition that comes with a move to the Octagon will leave Bush hard-pressed to find wins.

Potential: Low

Guilherme Vasconcelos — unanimous decision loss to Luke Zachrich

The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 middleweight competitor Guilherme Vasconcelos was one half of the “Fight of the Season,” along with Ricardo Abreu. In that fight, Vasconcelos ended up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision. On Saturday night, at UFC 175, he made his official Octagon debut and once more came out on the wrong end of the scorecards, this time against Luke Zachrich.

Vasconcelos is a decorated grappler—a world champion, in fact—but he was content to stand with Zachrich for a lengthy stretch of time before even attempting his first takedown. Zachrich was able to get the better of the Brazilian in the striking exchanges, largely due to the fact that Vasconcelos was seeking to throw one big punch rather than two- or three-punch combinations. The few times Vasconcelos did attempt a takedown, he did so with little setup, and Zachrich was able to effortlessly stuff those attempts. Vasconcelos did throw some good kicks, and he was able connect on a few of his punches when he finally did throw combinations and move forward.

Vasconcelos now stands at 3-2 over his brief MMA career. The 28-year-old could turn things around, but he’ll have to overcome his tendency to stand and bang while also working to improve his wrestling. The Brazilian has to learn to throw combinations and kicks with more frequency to set up his takedown attempts. If he can do that and get his opponents to the mat, he can start winning fights via submission. However, he has a long way to go to get there. Until he does, don’t expect to see Vasconcelos winning fights inside the Octagon.

Potential: Low

Rob Font — first-round knockout victory over George Roop

The only Octagon newcomer to pick up a win on Saturday night, Rob Font, made sure everyone took notice. In George Roop, Font was arguably facing the toughest competition of any of the UFC 175 newcomers, but he came through with a spectacular knockout finish at the 2:19 mark of the first round.

The Team Sityodtong product lost his second pro fight, which took place in April 2012, but has been perfect since then, including a lengthy run under the CES MMA banner. His biggest challenge against Roop came in overcoming an experienced UFC veteran who enjoyed a sizable reach advantage. Font, who possesses an excellent combination of power and speed, solved the riddle by rushing in to throw combinations and immediately scrambling out of reach of Roop’s counters. The approach could have gotten Font in trouble, but it paid off in the form of an impressive, highlight-reel finish.

Font’s power display was a great way to introduce himself to fans, but his resume, which contains four wins by some form of knockout and three via submission, shows that Font is a balanced fighter who can get the job done standing or on the mat. With a well-rounded game, surprising power and plenty of speed, Font has the tools to become a fixture in the UFC’s bantamweight division.

Potential: Medium

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.