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

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

Along with the headliner, 33-year-old Chidi Njokuani will make his third UFC look towards Gregory Rodrigues. Njokuani is much from a newbie in combined 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 improbable rookie season. He has two first-round finishes already below his belt, over Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic. The middleweight division is primed for brand spanking new blood, and if Njokuani can preserve racking up the wins, he may quickly discover himself in a giant combat towards 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



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

  • UFC debut: First-round TKO towards Danilo Marques on Feb. 5

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

  • 2022 report: 3-0

Almeida is a possible drawback — in two divisions. The 31-year-old lands in a candy spot between mild heavyweight and heavyweight, however that is perhaps an excellent drawback as a result of it seems like he can win in each. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Almeida has stable wrestling and athleticism to accompany his submission expertise 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 come back in and make an announcement.



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

  • UFC debut: First-round submission towards Cody Durden on Mar. 19

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

  • 2022 report: 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 report, it must also be famous he spent his time within the minors. Mokaev’s novice report 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 report of 12 takedowns in a three-round combat in his second UFC look. Mokaev is mature past his 22 years and has already mentioned he would not anticipate combating for lengthy. However one objective he has set is to grow to be the youngest champion in UFC historical past, a distinction at the moment held by Jon Jones (23).



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

  • UFC debut: First-round knockout towards Pete Rodriguez on Jan. 22

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

  • 2022 report: 2-0

There is no motive for the UFC to hurry Della Maddalena by its welterweight ranks, aside from that he is actually good and is perhaps prepared for it at age 26. Representing Perth, Australia, a area far lesser identified within the MMA world than the jap a part of that nation, Della Maddalena thrives as a standup fighter who’s a slick striker. Since dropping the primary two bouts of his skilled profession, he’s 12-0 with 11 finishes. All however a type of finishes have come by way of knockout. The one victory of his profession that has gone the gap was towards one other UFC 2022 rookie, Ange Loosa, in a Contender Collection combat final 12 months. Della Maddalena has confidence, energy and about as a lot momentum as one can have using into the top of 2022.



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 towards Trevin Giles on Jan. 22

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

  • 2022 report: 2-0

Morales is a 23-year-old Ecuadorian prospect combating out of Tijuana, Mexico. He isn’t as polished as a number of the different names on this record, 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 fairly vital underdog towards Kazakhstan’s Nikolay Veretennikov. He confirmed off his punching energy in a fast end towards Giles, earlier than exhibiting off his resolve and perseverance in a back-and-forth combat towards late substitute Adam Fugitt in July. Do not mistake Morales as a completed product, however he has loads of untapped potential. Lots.



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

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

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

  • 2022 report: 2-2

Fialho’s .500 report this 12 months will not bounce off the web page, however let’s put it into context. On brief discover, he made his debut towards 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 combat which may have been ill-advised. Staying energetic is one factor, however the Matthews combat was Fialho’s fourth in six months — and it was the second combat he took in 35 days. Whether or not fatigue performed into that outcome 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 combat ceaselessly.