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 187 event marked that special moment in their career.

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.

Gloria de Paula

Division: Strawweight
Result: Jinh Yu Frey def. Gloria de Paula via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Record: 5-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC
Grade: D

Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Gloria de Paula faced a stern test of her credentials on her octagon debut, and while she looked sharp on the feet, her skills on the ground weren’t good enough to prevent her from falling to defeat to former Invicta FC atomweight champion Jinh Yu Frey.

A strong right hand appeared to signal de Paula’s intention to strike, but Frey closed the distance on the Brazilian, initiated the clinch, then dragged the debutant to the mat. Once there, de Paula appeared to have little for the former Invicta FC atomweight champion on the ground, as she seemed content to just keep the action inside her guard in an attempt to stifle her opponent’s work – a tactic that was only partially successful.

In Round 2, de Paula opened up with her striking and started to find a home for her kicks as she connected to Frey’s legs and body, before switching up to the head. de Paula controlled the range much more successfully to keep Frey on the outside, and used her straight punches to good effect to clip Frey on her way in.

While De Paula’s striking ensured she had a much better round, arguably the most crucial success came when Frey attempted a late takedown in the final minute of the round. Despite Frey grabbing her left leg, De Paula did a superb job of staying on her feet as she defended the attempt to keep the fight on the feet and ensure she took the round to draw level on the cards.

It meant it was all to play for in the final round, and de Paula was forced onto the back foot immediately when she was taken down early, but her attempt at a Kimura didn’t help make the space she needed to escape. Instead, Frey took the debutant’s back and locked up a body triangle that left the Brazilian trapped and forced to defend. De Paula survived a one-armed choke attempt, but was powerless to prevent the American from dominating the crucial final frame.

It meant that the Brazilian’s first appearance in the octagon ended in defeat. All three judges scored the fight 29-28 in Frey’s favor.

It showed that while de Paula’s striking offered plenty of promise, there’s still room for improvement in her defensive skills on the mat at the top level if she’s to make a real impression in a talent-rich women’s 115-pound division.

Rafa Garcia

Division: Lightweight
Result: Nasrat Haqparast def. Rafa Garcia via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Record: 12-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC
Grade: D+

Rafa Garcia’s UFC debut saw him take to the octagon against the biggest betting favorite on the card, and he showed the sort of grit and toughness that will make him a tough test for anyone at 155 pounds. But, on the flip side, he also appeared to ignore the advice of his corner as he opted to bypass his wrestling and grappling in favor of a slugfest that he lost on the scorecards.

The Mexican newcomer had already scored victories over former UFC athletes Estevan Payan and Humberto Bandanay, but in Haqparast he was facing the highest-rated opponent of his career. That fact appeared to have no effect on the debutant, who pushed the pace on Haqparast in Round 1 and briefly stunned his man midway through the round.

After a first round spent entirely on the feet, Garcia’s UFC veteran cornerman Cub Swanson gave him a telling off, asking him, “Are you done proving a point?” and told him to switch up his game and take the action to the mat in Round 2. But Garcia continued to stand and bang with Haqparast. He was competitive in the standup, but was second best to the German prospect in most of the exchanges. Despite that fact, the Mexican continued to push forward and load up on his strikes before finally attempting a takedown as the horn sounded to end the round.

Garcia came out for Round 3 and bit down on his mouthpiece as he stepped into the pocket and threw down with Haqparast in search of a final-round finish. His work wasn’t as clean and eye-catching as Haqparast’s, but his shots carried power when they connected and, after one notable combination, he forced his man to cover up and back himself against the fence. But as the round continued, Haqparast’s superior kickboxing left Garcia on the receiving end for the majority of the round as the Mexican ended up losing a unanimous decision.

Had Garcia switched things up and taken the action to the mat, he may well have had a better shot of victory. But he showed plenty to suggest that, with a few technical, and tactical, tweaks, he’ll be in a good place to bounce back next time out.

Marcelo Rojo

Division: Featherweight
Result: Charles Jourdain def. Marcelo Rojo via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 4:31
Record: 16-7 MMA, 0-1 UFC
Grade: C-

Former Combate Americas bantamweight Marcelo Rojo may have ended up being on the wrong end of a TKO finish, but he delivered the best debut performance of the night as he showcased a fun, aggressive fighting style that gave highly rated Charles Jourdain all he could handle for two rounds in their featherweight preliminary card bout.

Rojo started out looking sharp and confident and found his range with a couple of well-timed shots before connecting with knees from the clinch and landing a takedown. The Argentinian switched stances and looked equally comfortable from both orthodox and southpaw as he held the center of the cage. He arguably took the opening round, too, as he connected more frequently, pushed the pace and even managed to sweep his man to the mat.

Rojo took more punishment in Round 2 as Jourdain started the faster of the pair before an accidental eye poke left the debutant nursing a sore right eye. The temporary halt in proceedings seemed to inspire Rojo, who came back firing and forced the Canadian against the fence as he unloaded a barrage of strikes. Jourdain connected with a salvo of shots late on, but Rojo fired back with big shots of his own to take the bout into the final round.

Things got tougher for Rojo in Round 3 as Jordain came out of the corner and loaded up with big shots. The debutant was then dropped by a big shot from the Canadian, who landed some heavy ground strikes as he hunted the finish. Eventually, Rojo got back to his feet and swung for the fences in response, but Jourdain’s onslaught continued until Rojo hit the deck again and referee Mark Smith stepped in.

To put Rojo’s performance in context, he stepped in on two weeks’ notice and moved up a weight class to take on a man who looks like a future contender at 145 pounds, and he looked very competitive through the first two rounds. That all bodes well for success if Rojo gets the chance to return to his usual weight class and fight on a full camp for his next outing.

In pictures: UFC Fight Night 187

In pictures: UFC Fight Night 187 scorecards