The first fight is one of the most important fights of a UFC fighter’s career. While it’s possible to lose your first octagon appearance and be fine, it’s important to show some skills and abilities to show you’ve earned your place in the promotion. It is not excluded that a competitor is dropped after a bad first outing.
With that in mind, not everyone makes a great start indeed. Instead, fans have been treated to terrible fighter debuts over the years. Everyone from future Hall of Famers to CM Punk struggled in their first UFC fight.
ten Mark Hunt
Mark Hunt notably refused the UFC’s offer to buy out his contract after PRIDE closed. He really wanted to fight in the UFC. He would eventually prove his place in the promotion over time, but that didn’t happen in his early days.
Hunt’s debut at UFC 119 came against Sean McCorkle. The New Zealander was taken down and submitted by an armbar just a minute into the contest, it would be McCorkle’s only UFC victory.
9 Max Holloway
Max Holloway cemented his place in UFC history as arguably the greatest featherweight of all time. However, the skills he has showcased over the past decade were not on display in his first fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 143.
Holloway seemed to have no answer for Poirier’s slick boxing on the feet. The Louisiana native took down his opponent soon after and dominated him on the mat en route to a triangle win.
8 mike jackson
Houston’s Mike Jackson has one of the weirdest careers in UFC history. His journey began in 2016 when he was named as a short-notice fight for prospect Mickey Gall. It would be Jackson’s professional debut, after a 3-6 amateur career.
Gall proved he was on Jackson’s level, and it took about 45 seconds. He knocked his foe down almost immediately and subdued him with a rear choke.
7 Joe Son
Later known as Random Task to Austin Powers, as well as being a convicted felon, Joe Son was an MMA fighter in the early 90s. His UFC debut came against Keith Hackney at UFC 4 , in what was one of the toughest fights to watch.
Hackney had the stand-up advantage, but the fight quickly hit the ground. Hackney then decided to land a swarm of groin shots (which were legal at the time), which quickly forced a blood choking victory over Son.
6 Sean Ganon
In 2005, the UFC decided to experiment. They didn’t want to bring in Kimbo Slice, but they wanted to bring in the only man to defeat him in a street fight, which was Sean Gannon. The heavyweight had a 2-0 pro record, so they gave him a fight at UFC 55.
His opponent Brandon Lee Hinkle fought to the mat and brutalized his opponent. This one was tough to watch, as Gannon was beaten to the ground for four minutes en route to a first-round TKO loss.
5 Dean Barry
Irishman Dean Barry was an intriguing prospect when he was signed to the UFC in 2022. Sporting a 4-1 professional record, he was a former kickboxing champ who had a dynamic punch. It is normal that he was the first adversary who was none other than Mike Jackson.
Barry came out nervous early, hitting “The Truth” with two groin shots in the opening minutes. Jackson was able to continue and was knocked down after the break, but survived. Shortly after regaining his senses, Barry landed one of the most vicious eyeballs seen in the octagon, to be lost by disqualification. In less than four minutes in the cage, the Irish hopeful picked up three devastating fouls to force disqualification.
4 Rolles Gracie Jr.
Rolls Gracie’s son, Rolles Gracie Jr. has been fired from the UFC after just three professional fights. The jiu-jitsu ace took on veteran Joey Beltran in his first octagon appearance at UFC 109 in February 2010.
He quickly proved he didn’t belong in the UFC. After ignoring his first-round takedowns, it looked like he was going to die of exhaustion in the second frame. He eventually got a second-round TKO and was released afterwards.
3 James Tonney
Another UFC experiment came when the promotion decided to give former boxing champion James Toney a shot in 2010. “Lights Out” was soon given to former UFC champion Randy Couture in a bit of cross-sport superfighting.
Toney showed almost immediately that his boxing skills didn’t translate to the cage. He was taken down seconds later and beaten to the ground, showing no knowledge of jiu-jitsu en route to a submission loss.
2 CM Punk
CM Punk was signed by the UFC in 2014 as a somewhat controversial move. The company decided to give the former WWE Champion all the time in the world to train and tried not to rush his development while he trained at Rufussport. In all likelihood, Punk was brought in due to its box office appeal at the time.
His highly anticipated debut came against Mickey Gall at UFC 203. Although he did better than Mike Jackson, he was still taken down and maimed in the first round. The AEW star ended up losing via submission in the first round. Punk would go winless in the UFC before eventually quitting the sport and returning to professional wrestling.
1 Wanderlei Silva
It’s easy to forget, but Wanderlei Silva fought Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut. The two Brazilian hopefuls faced off in a battle of future Hall of Famers, but it wasn’t even close.
Seconds later, Belfort blitzed Silva and landed a massive combination. He ended up knocking down and knocking out his opponent in just 44 seconds.
10 UFC fighters who stepped in on short notice (and won)
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