Of the 35 fighters making their UFC debuts thus far in 2010, the big names were undoubtedly international stars Takanori Gomi, Renzo Gracie, and Gilbert Yvel. Yet the newcomers who truly made an impact in the Octagon were the fighters you may not have even heard of before the New Year began, but that you certainly know now.
5 (tie) - Joey Beltran
Brought in on short notice to face highly-touted Rolles Gracie, Joey Beltran was expected to be the welcome mat for the latest unbeaten prospect from the first family of MMA. Beltran didn’t get the memo though, and he rebounded from a slow start to stop Gracie in the second round. Three months later, ‘The Mexecutioner’ traveled to Montreal to take on home country favorite Tim Hague and again he overturned the apple cart with an entertaining three round win.
5 (tie) - Court McGee
A fighter whose inspirational comeback from the throes of drug addiction overshadowed his fighting ability slightly during the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Utah’s McGee reminded the world just what he could do in the Octagon with his dominating second round submission win over Kris McCray. It was a victory that opened up the door to what should be an interesting run through the UFC’s middleweight division.
4 - Cyrille Diabate
Best remembered by UFC fans for his stint as Team USA’s assistant coach on the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter, Cyrille Diabate nonetheless paid his dues in the fight game, first as a kickboxer, and then as an MMA fighter, before getting the call to the Octagon. And he got no easy pickings in his debut, getting matched up with Brazilian bomber Luiz Cane at UFC 114. But “The Snake” delivered, shaking off some hard shots to stop Cane in the first round.
3 - Rory MacDonald
The UFC’s own baby-faced assassin, 20-year old Rory MacDonald announced his arrival in the Octagon with a first round submission of veteran Mike Guymon in January, and his stock rose even higher in his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 115 in June, where he roared out to an early lead before getting stopped in the final round. It was in that fight that MacDonald showed the warrior’s heart that will serve him well throughout the rest of his career.
2 - Phil Davis
With his wrestling pedigree as a four-time All-American and 2008 National Champion, Penn State alum Phil Davis was expected to be good when he arrived in the UFC with a 4-0 record in 2010, but you know how expectations go. “Mr. Wonderful” hasn’t disappointed anyone in two UFC bouts yet though, defeating Brian Stann and Alex Gustafsson in two Octagon appearances. Add in a Spartan work ethic, youth (25 years old), and an affable personality, and Davis is someone who has ‘star’ written all over him.
1 - Gerald Harris
Seen as an early favorite on season seven of The Ultimate Fighter, Harris crashed and burned against eventual winner Amir Sadollah and didn’t get an immediate callback to the UFC. Undeterred, Harris went back to the woodshed and has since reeled off ten straight wins, with the last three coming in the Octagon in 2010 via knockout over John Salter, Mario Miranda, and David Branch. The Salter and Branch victories even earned Harris Knockout of the Night honors.
Honorable mention – Ricardo Romero, Claude Patrick, Travis Browne, Mario Miranda, John Gunderson, Daniel Roberts, Chris Camozzi, Kyle Noke, Rich Attonito