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The 10 Best Newcomers Of 2021

See Which 10 Fighters Made A Big Splash In Their First Year In The UFC.

With 2021 producing perhaps the strongest UFC rookie class in a while, picking the top newcomers of the year was a tough task for the UFC squad, but when all the votes were tallied, we are proud to announce that the highly unofficial awards season kicks off today with the following standouts:

10 - Pat Sabatini

Pat Sabatini reacts after defeating Tristan Connelly in their featherweight bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Pat Sabatini reacts after defeating Tristan Connelly in their featherweight bout during the UFC 261 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 24, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Keeping the hits coming from the UFC’s Philly contingent, Pat Sabatini paid his dues on the regional scene to the tune of 16 fights before getting the call to the big show. And once here, he fought like a seasoned vet in his trio of wins over Tristan Connelly, Jamall Emmers and Tucker Lutz, earning Performance of the Night honors for his submission of Emmers in August.

Watch Sabatini Submit Emmers On UFC Fight Pass

9 - Paddy Pimblett

Paddy Pimblett Octagon Interview | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till
Paddy Pimblett Octagon Interview | UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs Till
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If you didn’t know who Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett was when he was signed to the UFC, the hype train kicked into high gear to take care of that problem in the lead-up to his September debut against Luigi Vendramini. And while he had some rocky moments early on, the Liverpool star ended matters at 4:25 of the first round, earning a bonus and the unofficial title of “Next Big Thing” in the UFC.

Watch Pimblett's Debut On UFC Fight Pass

8 - Bruno Silva

Bruno Silva celebrates in the Octagon following his UFC 269 win
Bruno Silva of Brazil celebrates his knockout victory over Jordan Wright during their middleweight fight in the UFC 269 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

A long-delayed UFC debut had fight fans wondering just what they would get from Brazilian middleweight Bruno Silva. Well, what they got was an exciting finisher who ended each of his three Octagon bouts with Wellington Turman, Andrew Sanchez and Jordan Wright by knockout, with each one more impressive than the last. In 2022, expect Silva to step up the competition even more as he makes his move on the 185-pound elite.

Watch Bruno Silva's KO Win at UFC 269

7 - Terrance McKinney

Terrance McKinney celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola in their lightweight fight during the UFC 263 event at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Terrance McKinney celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola in their lightweight fight during the UFC 263 event at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Like Pimblett, it takes a special fighter to get on this list with just one fight, but when that one fight ends in seven seconds, it’s no surprise that Terrance McKinney landed here after his knockout of Matt Frevola in June. Add in an affable personality and a compelling (and often harrowing) backstory, and it’s guaranteed that fight fans will be watching to see where “T.Wrecks” goes next.

Watch McKinney's Stunning Debut On UFC Fight Pass

6 - Loopy Godinez

Loopy Godinez training for UFC Vegas 43

With four fights in seven months, including two in the space of a week, Loopy Godinez quickly became the female version of Donald Cerrone in a rookie year that had everyone cheering the Mexican-born Canadian on. And while she went 2-2 in 2021, many believed she deserved to beat Jessica Penne in their April bout, and her loss to Luana Carolina came a week after her win over Silvana Gomez Juarez one division up from her usual spot at strawweight. In other words, we’ll be seeing more of Loopy in 2022.

View Godinez's Fight Against Juarez On UFC Fight Pass

5 - Erin Blanchfield

Erin Blanchfield exits the cage after her unanimous decision victory over Miranda Maverick in their women's flyweight fight during the UFC 269 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Erin Blanchfield exits the cage after her unanimous decision victory over Miranda Maverick in their women's flyweight fight during the UFC 269 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

New Jersey’s Erin Blanchfield had to wait a bit for her UFC debut, but once she arrived in September, it was on for the 22-year-old phenom, who didn’t lose a round in a pair of dominant victories over Sarah Alpar and Miranda Maverick. The Maverick win was particularly impressive, and while she won’t be facing flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko anytime soon, a few more big wins and she may give “Bullet” a run for her money.

View Blanchfield's Big Win Over Maverick On UFC Fight Pass

4 - Chris Curtis

Highlight: Chris Curtis Stuns Phil Hawes In The First Round | UFC 268
Highlight: Chris Curtis Stuns Phil Hawes In The First Round | UFC 268
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After not getting a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018, Chris Curtis actually walked away from the sport on two occasions, only to return to chase his dream of competing in the Octagon. In 2021, he got his shot and more than made the most of it, knocking out top middleweight prospects Phil Hawes and Brendan Allen to cement his place on the roster and let the world know that he belonged.

Watch Curtis' KO Win Over Brendan Allen On UFC Fight Pass

3 - Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler reacts after his knockout victory over Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Michael Chandler reacts after his knockout victory over Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, UAE (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Michael Chandler certainly knows how to make an entrance. One of the top stars not on the UFC roster, Chandler needed less than three minutes to halt Dan Hooker when he did make his debut in January, and while he lost his next two in a lightweight title fight against Charles Oliveira and a November classic with Justin Gaethje, everyone is eagerly awaiting the next bout featuring the all-action battler.

Watch Chandler Knockout Hooker

2 - Manon Fiorot

Manon Fiorot training for UFC 266

Few outside of the hardcore fanbase knew of France’s Manon Fiorot when she debuted in the Octagon in January, but that changed after she stopped Victoria Leonardo in two rounds. A second TKO victory – this one over Tabatha Ricci – increased her visibility in the flyweight division, and “The Beast” ended the year with a third win, as she decisioned Mayra Bueno Silva in October, making her way into the Top 15 in the process.

Watch Fiorot KO Ricci 

1 - Casey O’Neill

Casey O'Neill of Australia celebrates her TKO victory over Antonina Shevchenko of Kyrgyzstan in their women's flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night

Another fighter making sure that the flyweight division will remain in the headlines in 2022 is Casey O’Neill. Unbeaten in eight fights, O’Neill earned three of those victories in 2021, finishing Shana Dobson, Lara Procopio and Antonina Shevchenko while showing off a well-rounded game and a solid mean streak in the Octagon. Next up is veteran contender Roxanne Modafferi in early 2022, a win there might have O’Neill closing in on the Top 5 at 125 pounds.

Watch O'Neill's Win Over Antonina Shevchenko On UFC Fight Pass

 

HONORABLE MENTION - Manel Kape, Alex Pereira, Jeff Molina

 

VOTERS – Juan Cardenas, Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, McKenzie Pavacich