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Jack Della Maddalena reacts after his unanimous-decision victory over Ange Loosa in a welterweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season five week three at UFC APEX on September 14, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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The Newcomers | 2022 Half-Year Awards

Who were the top rookies to make their way to the Octagon in the first half of 2022? Read on to find out as the highly unofficial half-year awards season begins…

1 – Jack Della Maddalena

Jack Della Maddalena | Dana White's Contender Series: Next Level
Jack Della Maddalena | Dana White's Contender Series: Next Level
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Just 25 years old, Jack Della Maddalena is the definition of a rising star in the UFC. A September 2021 graduate of Dana White’s Contender Series, the welterweight from Western Australia was impressive in his debut knockout of Pete Rodriguez in January, but it was in his June TKO of Ramazan Emeev that he really showed his potential, as he weathered some adversity and then defeated a 26-fight veteran known for being a rugged and tough out in a little over half a round.

2 – Andre Fialho

Andre Fialho: A Full-Time Fighter | UFC 275
Andre Fialho: A Full-Time Fighter | UFC 275
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Usually, we like to keep these lists to those who have competed more than once in the first six months of the year. Andre Fialho showed up in the Octagon on short notice in January for the first of FOUR fights. And while he went 2-2 in those four, the Portugal native was spectacular in knockouts of Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp, competitive in a decision loss to Michel Pereira, and in his June defeat to Jake Matthews, he fought a fighter who has looked better than he ever has before. We’ll be hearing more from Andre Fialho.

3 – Muhammad Mokaev

Muhammad Mokaev's Quick Round 1 Submission | UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall
Muhammad Mokaev's Quick Round 1 Submission | UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall
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Probably the most heavily hyped of the quintet featured here, England-based Russian Muhammad Mokaev was cool under pressure as he lived up to all his advance notices with a 58-second submission win over Cody Durden in March. How good was he and how much potential does he have? He’s the only fighter on this Top 5 list that made it on the strength of just one UFC fight.

UFC 276 REWIND: Final ResultsVolkanovski Post-Fight Press Conference | Performance Bonuses

4 – Chidi Njokuani

Chidi Njokuani Gets 16 Second KO in His UFC Debut | UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Strickland
Chidi Njokuani Gets 16 Second KO in His UFC Debut | UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Strickland
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I always feel funny about calling veteran fighters like Chidi Njokuani “newcomers,” but it is technically true, even though his first UFC fight in February 2022 was his 29th walk as a pro. And in that debut, Njokuani didn’t stay long, as he halted Marc-Andre Barriault in 16 seconds, then knocked out Dusko Todorovic at 4:48 of the first round three months later. We call that better late than never.

5 – Jailton Almeida

Jailton Almeida Submits Porter In Round 1 | UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Vieira
Jailton Almeida Submits Porter In Round 1 | UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Vieira
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After earning a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series last September, Brazil’s Jailton Almeida secured a pair of UFC victories, stopping Danilo Marques at 205 pounds before a brief move to the heavyweight division, where he submitted Parker Porter in less than a round. So obviously he can fight, but he also has confidence and charisma and that intangible that makes you want to see him in the Octagon as often as possible.

Others receiving votes – Maheshate, Michael Morales, Natalia Silva, Tatsuto Taira