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Another year is in the books, and while it didn’t go according to plan, UFC provided a number of memorable moments in 2020.
Numerous prospects, Dana White’s Contender Series signees, and highly touted fighters brought in from other promotions made their UFC debuts in 2020 – but some were more memorable than others.
Here are the 10 UFC debut performances that stood out above the rest.
Note: Factors in determining the ranking included skills displayed, flare, by how much expectations were exceeded, potential ceiling of athlete, and level of statement made.
Adrian Yanez def. Victor Rodriguez via knockout (head kick), Round 1 | UFC Fight Night 181
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 31: (R-L) Adrian Yanez knocks out Victor Rodriguez with a kick in a bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 31, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
[autotag]Adrian Yanez[/autotag] punched his ticket into the UFC – literally – on Dana White's Contender Series with a vicious combination against Brady Huang. Weeks later, he competed in his first UFC fight against fellow newcomer Victor Rodriguez. In a near seemingly impossible feat, Yanez topped his DWCS beatdown when he floored Rodriguez with a hellacious head-kick knockout in walk-off fashion.
Khaos Williams def. Alex Morono via knockout (punches), Round 1 | UFC 247
Feb 8, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Alex Morono (red gloves) fights Khaos Williams (blue gloves) during UFC 247 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
[autotag]Khaos Williams[/autotag] was a short-notice replacement at UFC 247, and as a result, was perhaps overlooked as an average promotional newcomer. In 27 seconds, Williams proved to be anything but average. Taking on gritty veteran Alex Morono, Williams finished his opponent with punches in blitzing fashion. The performance set Williams up for a fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan, who he would defeat in a violent fashion, 30 seconds into Round 1. The two knockouts elevated Williams' status and put him on the radar of fight fans everywhere.
Jordan Leavitt def. Matt Wiman via knockout (slam), Round 1 | UFC on ESPN 19
Photo by Josh Hedges-DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC
Slam knockouts are rare. They're even rarer when they're pulled off in a UFC debut. In one of the final UFC events of 2020, [autotag]Jordan Leavitt[/autotag] added his first professional knockout to his resume in an emphatic fashion. When his opponent, longtime UFC fighter Matt Wiman, attempted to pull a jumping guard, Leavitt drove him into the mat and knocked him unconscious. The impressive debut was followed by an arguably more impressive dance performance which included the split and a "Dirty Dancing" lift.
Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira via submission, Round 1 | UFC 254
[autotag]Shavkat Rakhmonov[/autotag] signed with the UFC in mid-2019. Three fight cancellations later, Rakhmonov finally made his promotional debut at UFC 254 in October. Faced with a tough first challenge, Alex Oliveira, Rakhmonov passed the test with flying colors. Showcasing his well-rounded game, Khazakhstan's Rakhmonov turned defense into offense into a victory. When Oliveira went for a takedown against the cage, Rakhmonov locked in a guillotine and submitted the Brazilian "Cowboy" in Round 1.
Kevin Croom def. Roosevelt Roberts via submission (standing guillotine choke), Round 1* | UFC Fight Night 177
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 12: Kevin Croom reacts after his submission victory over Roosevelt Roberts in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 12, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
When UFC Fight Night 177 fight week began, [autotag]Kevin Croom[/autotag] wasn't even on the UFC roster. Two days before the event, Croom stepped in to replace Matt Frevola. A heavy underdog, Croom proved the bookmakers wrong when he floored and choked out Roberts in 32 seconds. The performance was praised by UFC president Dana White on social media and at the post-fight news conference. Unfortunately for Croom, the result was later overturned to a no contest by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) when he tested positive for marijuana. * = Result was later overturned to no contest by NAC
Daniel Rodriguez def. Tim Means via submission (standing guillotine choke), Round 2 | UFC Fight Night 167
[autotag]Daniel Rodriguez[/autotag] didn't score a quick finish – but his performance as a whole was as flawless as it gets. Snubbed from getting a contract for his win on Dana White's Contender Series, Rodriguez was picked up by the UFC months later. Given an all-around badass for his initial assignment, Rodriguez displayed slick technical striking and power. After he hurt Means with a series of punches, Rodriguez grabbed hold of his opponent's neck and submitted "The Dirty Bird."
Jimmy Flick def. Cody Durden via submission (flying triangle choke), Round 1 | UFC Fight Night 183
Jimmy Flick submits Cody Durden at UFC Fight Night 183. (Photo courtesy of the UFC)
In the final UFC event of 2020, [autotag]Jimmy Flick[/autotag] threw his name into the "Submission of the Year" categorical hat. Flick's jiu-jitsu is his bread and butter, and he wasted no time showing that on the big stage. When opponent Cody Durden caught a kick, Flick leaped up and wrapped his legs around him. From there, Flick made a few technical adjustments and locked in a triangle choke. The tap came moments later.
Mounir Lazzez def. Abdul Razak Alhassan via unanimous decision | UFC on ESPN 13
[autotag]Mounir Lazzez[/autotag] didn't get into the UFC through a typical entryway. Lazzez was signed after a friend pitched him to UFC president Dana White at a party. During the UFC's first stint on "Fight Island," Lazzez proved his signing wasn't just a sideshow when he defeated Abdul Razak Alhassan by unanimous decision. The back-and-forth fight later earned "Fight of the Night" honors, but Alhassan was not given a bonus due to missing weight. Lazzez's performance was praised by White on multiple occasions.
Khamzat Chimaev def. John Phillips via submission (D'Arce choke), Round 2 | UFC on ESPN 13
Few fighters in UFC history have created the level of instant-buzz [autotag]Khamzat Chimaev[/autotag] did in 2020. Kicking off his 3-0 year, Chimaev took a short-notice fight against Conor McGregor teammate John Phillips. The lopsided affair saw Chimaev repeatedly take Phillips down and pummel him with ground-and-pound. Although Phillips survived the opening round, he was submitted at 1:12 of Round 2.
Jiri Prochazka def. Volkan Oezdemir via knockout (punches), Round 2 | UFC 251
Perhaps [autotag]Jiri Prochazka[/autotag] didn't generate the buzz of Khamzat Chimaev in 2020. However, there's something to be said about finishing a contender in your UFC debut rather than a fighter at the bottom of the division. A RIZIN champion, Prochazka entered his first UFC fight against former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. As he mixed flash with substance, Prochazka displayed a funky attack of power strikes for as long as the fight lasted. In Round 2, Prochazka tagged Oezdemir on the feet before finishing him off with a brutal punch. The win marked only the second time Oezdemir had been finished with strikes in his career. With the victory, Prochazka set himself up for a headlining bout against Dominick Reyes this February.