The UFC returned to its Apex Center in Las Vegas this weekend for the bantamweight main event between Corey Sandhagen and Son Yadong.

In addition to headlining, 33-year-old Chidi Njokuani will fight his third fight in the UFC against Gregory Rodriguez. Njokuani is far from new to mixed martial arts. He made his professional MMA debut in 2007, and his older brother Anthony competed in the WEC and UFC for many years.

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However, technically speaking, Njokuani (22-7) is UFC rookie this year and he is enjoying a fantastic rookie season. He already has two finishes in the first round, over Marc-Andre Barrio and Dusko Todorovic. The middleweight division is poised for new blood and if Njokuani can keep winning, he could soon find himself in a big fight with a title contender.

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Aside from Njokuani, what other UFC rookies have a great 2022 coming up? Here are five names that have already garnered attention in their first calendar year in the UFC.


Jailton Almeida Light Heavyweight/Heavyweight

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    UFC debut: TKO in the first round against Danilo Marquez on February 5.

  • MMA record: 17-2-0, 6-1 KO, 11-0 sub

  • Record 2022: 3-0

Almeida is a potential problem – in two divisions. The 31-year-old occupies an intermediate position between light heavyweight and heavyweight, but that could be a good problem because it looks like he can win both. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Almeida has a solid grappling and athleticism that complements his ground submission skills. He is a proven finisher and most of his career ends in the first round. Right now, he says he will compete in the heavyweight division, but we’ll see. There are two fairly wide-open divisions in the UFC that are ripe for a newcomer to come in and make a name for themselves.


Muhammad Mokaev, flyweight

  • UFC debut: Submission in the first round against Cody Durden, March 19.

  • MMA record: 8-0, 2-0 KO (T), 3-0 sub

  • Record 2022: 2-0

If you need someone more suitable for the definition of “newbie”, then this is Mokaev. But while this 22-year-old rookie has a professional record of just 8-0, it should also be noted that he spent his time in junior high. Mokaev’s amateur record is 22-0, dates back to 2015. A dominant wrestler from Dagestan, the same Russian republic as the Nurmagomedov family, Mokaev set a division record with 12 takedowns in a three-round bout in his second UFC appearance. Mokaev is an adult for his 22 years and has already said that he is not going to fight for a long time. But one goal he has set for himself is to become the youngest champion in UFC history, a title currently held by Jon Jones (23).


Jack Della Maddalena Welterweight

  • UFC debut: KO in the first round against Pete Rodriguez on January 22.

  • MMA record: 12-2, 10-1 KO, 1-1 sub

  • Record 2022: 2-0

The UFC has no reason to rush Della Maddalena at welterweight other than he is really good and could be ready for it at 26. Represents Perth, Australia, a region much less known in the MMA world than the eastern part. In this country, Della Maddalena excels as a stand-up fighter and agile striker. After losing the first two fights of his professional career, he is 12-0 with 11 finishes. All but one of these finishes were knocked out. The only win of his career to go the distance was against another UFC 2022 rookie, Ange Lusa, in a Contender Series fight last year. Della Maddalena has confidence, strength and about the same momentum that can be at the end of 2022.


Michael Morales welterweight

  • UFC debut: KO in the first round against Trevin Giles on 22 January.

  • MMA record: 14-0, 11-0 by KO (T), 1-0 sub

  • Record 2022: 2-0

Morales is a 23 year old Ecuadorian prospect who performs in Tijuana, Mexico. He’s not as perfect as some of the other names on this list, but the UFC may have found a hidden gem here. He received a contract as a member of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, being a fairly significant underdog against Nikolai Veretennikov of Kazakhstan. He showed his punching power in a fast finish against Giles and then showed his determination and tenacity in a back and forth fight with Adam Fugitt, who came on as a substitute in July. Don’t confuse Morales with a finished product, but he has a lot of untapped potential. Lots of.


André Fialho, Welterweight

  • UFC debut: Lost by unanimous decision to Michel Pereira on January 22.

  • MMA record: 16-5, 13-3 (L)KO, 1-0 NOTE

  • Record 2022: 2-2

Fialho’s record of .500 this year won’t jump the page, but let’s put it in context. He soon made his debut against one of the top 15 talents in Pereira. Then he knocked out in the first round of good opponents in the face of Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp. He was defeated by TKO by Jake Matthews in a fight that may have been ill-advised. Staying active is one thing, but the Matthews fight was Fialho’s fourth in six months, and it was the second fight he had in 35 days. Whether fatigue played a role or not, the 28-year-old Fialho was dropped. Correctly into the mix for 170 lbs. He is experienced, comprehensively developed and knows how to finish blows. And obviously he likes to fight often.