At UFC 90 in Chicago we witnessed one of the greatest heavyweight debuts in UFC history when 8 to 1 underdog Junior De Santos knocked out title contender Fabricio Werdum in just over a minute. At UFC 91 two more UFC rookies will attempt to match that performance on the main card when Nick Catone and Josh Hendricks step into the cage for the first time. MMATraining.com decided to count down some of the best debuts in the 15 year history of UFC.
Shamrock was a 24 year old cocky kid who already had 14 professional MMA wins by 1997. He had been a Pancrase champion and was entering his first fight inside the Octagon. He was facing the 1992 Gold Medalist in Freestyle wrestling Kevin Jackson. Jackson was no push over, as he had won UFC 14’s middleweight tournament and had never lost in MMA. Shamrock proved Olympic Gold Medal experience can’t match years of MMA experience. Frank ended up on the bottom and quickly put Jackson into an armbar causing Jackson to tap out just 16 seconds into the fight. That debut win propelled Shamrock to 5 more UFC wins with no losses, and he has become one of the most well known martial artists in the world today.
In case you forgot, it was by mere chance that Houston Alexander ended up fighting at UFC 71. Keith Jardine’s original opponent was David Heath, but when Forrest Griffin went down with a staph infection, Heath was moved up to UFC 70 to face Griffin’s original opponent Lyoto Machida. Jardine was left without an opponent 3 weeks before the show, until they found Houston fighting lesser competition on a small card in Iowa. Jardine and his camp knew little about Alexander, other than he was 6-1 and making his UFC debut – but what a debut it became. Alexander knocked Jardine down and out cold in the very first round with punches and knees. It took him all of 48 seconds to dispose of Jardine and plant his name into the crowded 205 lbs pack.
Today some regard Silva as the greatest fighter on the planet. But prior to his UFC debut at Ultimate Fight Night 5 Silva had lost 3 of his last 9 and had bounced around a large number of organizations. His made his debut against Chris Leben. Rumor was that the winner of that fight was to fight for the middleweight title and with Leben’s TUF experience combined with his 5-0 UFC record he was the perfect opponent. It took Silva 49 seconds to make it clear he would be the next in line for Rich Franklin’s title. Leben had never been knocked out, but was brutalized by Silva’s perfect striking that resulted in a first round KO. Less than 4 months later Silva would become the new UFC Middleweight champion.
UFC 63 was the return of former UFC champ Jens Pulver. Pulver was scheduled to be the next coach of The Ultimate Fighter so the UFC brought in an unknown fighter from Massachusetts as their sacrificial lamb. Lauzon was having none of it and he knocked the Pride Fighting vet out cold 48 seconds into Round 1. Lauzon climbed up on the cage in celebration and looked almost as shocked as everyone else. That win won him a spot on The Ultimate Fighter under Coach BJ Penn against Coach Pulver. Lauzon has gone on to become one of the youngest stars in the UFC and it all began at UFC 63 with a shocking knock out.
Georges St. Pierre
Outside of the fans in Montreal, little was known of St. Pierre when he took on Pete Spratt at TKO 14 in November 2003. As the story goes, this was to be a tune up fight for Spratt before heading right back to the UFC. GSP messed up those the plans and beat Spratt via Rear Naked Choke in Round 1. The UFC decided to give GSP a chance and matched him up against UFC vet Karo Parisyan. Parisyan already had 10 pro wins and was being groomed to be the next title challenger but GSP controlled Karo from bell to bell to win a dominant decision. Next to nothing was known of GSP before his arrival, but he made it clear who he was and that he was there to stay.
The greatest UFC debut and something that will never be matched, was Royce Gracie entering the inaugural UFC 1. He submitted his way to beat 3 others in one night and win the first ever UFC tournament. His three fights lasted a total of 5 minutes and 54 seconds, and he hardly broke a sweat. The Gracie name has been synonymous with MMA for decades, but it was the name Royce Gracie that first introduced North American audiences to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts