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Why this 12 months’s class impresses with poise and potential

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The UFC is again at its Apex facility in Las Vegas this weekend, with a bantamweight principal occasion between Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong.

Along with the headliner, 33-year-old Chidi Njokuani will make his third UFC look in opposition to Gregory Rodrigues. Njokuani is way from a newbie in blended martial arts. He made his skilled MMA debut in 2007, and his older brother, Anthony, was a fixture of the WEC and UFC for a few years.

Nonetheless, technically talking, Njokuani (22-7) is a UFC rookie this 12 months — and he is having fun with a unbelievable rookie season. He has two first-round finishes already underneath his belt, over Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic. The middleweight division is primed for brand new blood, and if Njokuani can maintain racking up the wins, he may quickly discover himself in a giant struggle in opposition to a title contender.

Along with Njokuani, what different “UFC rookies” are placing collectively a fantastic 2022? Listed below are 5 names who’ve already turned heads of their first calendar 12 months with the UFC.


Jailton Almeida, mild heavyweight/heavyweight

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Jailton Almeida pulls out the dominant victory at UFC 279 with a submission of Anton Turkalj.

  • UFC debut: First-round TKO in opposition to Danilo Marques on Feb. 5

  • MMA document: 17-2-0, 6-1 by (T)KO, 11-0 by SUB

  • 2022 document: 3-0

Almeida is a possible downside — in two divisions. The 31-year-old lands in a candy spot between mild heavyweight and heavyweight, however that is likely to be downside as a result of it appears to be like like he can win in each. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Almeida has strong wrestling and athleticism to accompany his submission abilities on the bottom. He is a confirmed finisher, with most of his profession finishes coming contained in the opening spherical. Proper now, he is saying he’ll compete at heavyweight, however we’ll see. The UFC has two fairly wide-open divisions which are ripe for a newcomer to return in and make an announcement.


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Muhammad Mokaev suplex-slams Charles Johnson to stay undefeated within the UFC.

  • UFC debut: First-round submission in opposition to Cody Durden on Mar. 19

  • MMA document: 8-0, 2-0 by (T)KO, 3-0 by SUB

  • 2022 document: 2-0

If you would like somebody extra becoming of the “rookie” definition, it is Mokaev. However whereas this 22-year-old is a rookie with simply an 8-0 skilled document, it also needs to be famous he spent his time within the minors. Mokaev’s beginner document is 22-0 and dates again to 2015. A dominant wrestler from Dagestan, the identical Russian republic because the Nurmagomedov household, Mokaev set a divisional document of 12 takedowns in a three-round struggle in his second UFC look. Mokaev is mature past his 22 years and has already mentioned he would not anticipate preventing for lengthy. However one aim he has set is to grow to be the youngest champion in UFC historical past, a distinction at present held by Jon Jones (23).


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Jack Della Maddalena defeats Pete Rodriguez in his UFC debut with a pleasant left hook at UFC 270.

  • UFC debut: First-round knockout in opposition to Pete Rodriguez on Jan. 22

  • MMA document: 12-2, 10-1 by (T)KO, 1-1 by SUB

  • 2022 document: 2-0

There is not any cause for the UFC to hurry Della Maddalena by its welterweight ranks, aside from that he is actually good and is likely to be prepared for it at age 26. Representing Perth, Australia, a area far lesser identified within the MMA world than the japanese a part of that nation, Della Maddalena thrives as a standup fighter who’s a slick striker. Since shedding the primary two bouts of his skilled profession, he’s 12-0 with 11 finishes. All however a kind of finishes have come through knockout. The one victory of his profession that has gone the space was in opposition to one other UFC 2022 rookie, Ange Loosa, in a Contender Collection struggle final 12 months. Della Maddalena has confidence, energy and about as a lot momentum as one can have driving into the top of 2022.


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Michael Morales delivers a robust blow to Adam Fugitt within the third spherical to drop him to the canvas and choose up the TKO win.

  • UFC debut: First-round knockout in opposition to Trevin Giles on Jan. 22

  • MMA document: 14-0, 11-0 by (T)KO, 1-0 by SUB

  • 2022 document: 2-0

Morales is a 23-year-old Ecuadorian prospect preventing out of Tijuana, Mexico. He isn’t as polished as among the different names on this checklist, however the UFC may need found a hidden gem right here. He earned a contract as a contestant on Dana White’s Contender Collection in 2021, as a reasonably vital underdog in opposition to Kazakhstan’s Nikolay Veretennikov. He confirmed off his punching energy in a fast end in opposition to Giles, earlier than exhibiting off his resolve and perseverance in a back-and-forth struggle in opposition to late substitute Adam Fugitt in July. Do not mistake Morales as a completed product, however he has loads of untapped potential. Lots.


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Andre Fialho manages to land a left hand that drops Cameron VanCamp to safe the knockout win.

  • UFC debut: Unanimous choice loss to Michel Pereira on Jan. 22

  • MMA document: 16-5, 13-3 by (T)KO, 1-0 by SUB

  • 2022 document: 2-2

Fialho’s .500 document this 12 months will not leap off the web page, however let’s put it into context. On brief discover, he made his debut in opposition to a top-15 expertise in Pereira. He then racked up back-to-back first-round knockouts over high quality opponents in Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp. He is coming off a TKO loss to Jake Matthews in a struggle which may have been ill-advised. Staying lively is one factor, however the Matthews struggle was Fialho’s fourth in six months — and it was the second struggle he took in 35 days. Whether or not fatigue performed into that consequence or not, the 28-year-old Fialho has been thrown proper into the combination at 170 kilos. He is skilled, well-rounded and carries ending potential. And clearly, he likes to struggle steadily.


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