Fighters from around the globe dream of the day they’ll step into the UFC octagon for the first time. For three athletes, Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 185 event marked that special moment in their careers.
Check out this week’s rookie report to see what kind of first impression they made on the sport’s biggest stage from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Result: Serghei Spivac def. Jared Vanderaa via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:32
Record: 11-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC
As the old phrase goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”
When Jared Vanderaa earned his UFC contract at Dana White’s Contender Series, he had a callout already planned. But his wish to face Serghei Spivac didn’t pan out quite as he would have hoped as he was dominated by the Moldovan heavyweight prospect en route to a second-round TKO defeat.
Vanderaa attempted to push the pace from the start, but Spivac was able to weather the early storm and take the debutant to the mat. Vanderaa battled back to his feet, but it was only a temporary reprieve as he was taken to the mat before being battered with ground and pound.
Unfortunately for Vanderaa, things went from bad to worse in Round 2 as Spivac took matters to the mat again and loaded up with his ground strikes to bust open the debutant and, with Vanderaa seemingly without an answer to Spivac’s ground and pound, the bout was eventually waved off.
In the end, it was a nightmare debut for Vanderaa, who was left nursing some nasty cuts to his face and, quite possibly, regretting his callout of Spivac for his octagon debut.
Result: Aiemann Zahabi def. Drako Rodriguez via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 3:05
Record: 7-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC
Every debutant steps into the octagon hoping to pick up an eye-catching finish on their maiden UFC appearance. But, unfortunately for Drako Rodriguez, he ended up on the wrong end of one of the most impressive finishes of the night, courtesy of Aiemann Zahabi.
Taking his performance in its entirety, there was a lot for Rodriguez to be encouraged about. He controlled the center of the cage, got his strikes off, and appeared to be winning the exchanges on the feet. Everything seemed to be comfortable.
But then Zahabi perfectly countered a Rodriguez uppercut attempt with a thumping overhand right and knocked out the debutant with a combination of his punch power, timing and Rodriguez’s own forward momentum.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Rodriguez, who looked to be settling into his work after looking a little tense in the early exchanges. But there’s still much to be optimistic about, despite his abrupt KO defeat.
Division: Women’s flyweight
Result: Casey O’Neill def. Shana Dobson via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:41
Record: 6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC
Casey O’Neill showed that the only thing she was lacking from her resume was seasoned UFC experience as she took to the octagon like a duck to water and claimed an impressive TKO victory over Shana Dobson.
O’Neill pushed the pace from the very start, and showcased a sharp jab as she worked well from the stand-up. But, when the fight ended up against the cage, she excelled from the clinch as she dominated the exchanges and eventually dragged the action to the mat, where she showcased impressive control from top position to maintain a dominant posture and land effective offense. Eventually, that dominance on the mat saw her score a second-round TKO, with the stoppage arguably coming later than it could have.
With a willingness to strike on the feet, a dominant top game on the mat and seemingly a deep gas tank, O’Neill looks like an exciting, dangerous newcomer to the UFC’s 125-pound division.