For the first time ever, we’ve introduced a Newcomer of the Year category to our year-end awards. And there were a whole lot of fighters freshly drafted to the big leagues who made an impact in 2022. From teenage sensation Raul Rosas Jr. to two-division wrecking machine Jailton Alemida, here’s who stood out over the past twelve months.
Jay Anderson: Recency bias be damned. I’m having a hard time not choosing Raul Rosas Jr. here. Yes, he made his debut just a few weeks ago. But, as a 17-year old, he went on the Contender Series and won a UFC deal. Then, freshly 18, he dominated Jay Perrin at UFC 282. At the very least, he’s going to win fights in the UFC. Will he someday become the UFC’s youngest-ever champion, as he desires? Wouldn’t that be something.
Gabriel Gonzalez: Dilano Taylor. While Taylor faced stiff competition from super prospect Raul Rosas Jr, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the Cinderella run the Florida native had this year. Building experience in the likes of Titan FC, Taylor entered the PFL through the Challenger Series earlier this year to earn a place on the main roster. When a late-notice spot in the semifinals opened up, Taylor completed his breakout year with a first round finish of UFC veteran and former Bellator champion Rory MacDonald to become an unexpected finalist.
Eddie Law: Jailton Almeida. When your style is compared to UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov that’s saying something, but when you’re a big guy jumping from light heavyweight to heavyweight and still dominating that’s special.
Jailton Almeida has the 205ers nervous and the heavyweights wary as he brought his smothering style to the octagon in 2022 and looks to dominate even more in 2023.
Alex Behunin: Jack Della Maddalena. Three fights, three knockouts and Jack Della looked absolutely amazing doing it. He is probably looking at a top 15 match-up in early 2023 and put the entire division on notice.
Jamie Theodosi: Muhammad Mokaev. What a year for Mok. Came into the UFC and utterly blitzed a tough opponent in Cody Durden in his first fight. Went on to fight twice more and now finds himself in the picture of people talking about possible title fights at the backend of next year. He is frighteningly good at such a young age.
Val Dewar: Jack Della Maddalena. Aussie Jack Della Maddalena showed the level he can fight at in 2021 when he won a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in a three round war with Ange Loosa, but it was not until 2022 that he showed the wider fanbase who he was, as he got three first round knockouts in a row, something usually only heavyweights and light-heavyweights do. Jack showed his prodigious boxing ability as he brutalized Pete Rodriguez and Danny Roberts before they succumbed to his hands, but he also showed he can deal with adversity and keep his eyes on the prize when he escaped a tight d’Arce choke from Ramazan Emeev before stopping the Russian with a hellacious hook to the body. The highly aggressive nature of Jack’s style makes him one of the most exciting prospects in recent years and fans will be sure to look out for him when the UFC comes to his hometown of Perth, Australia for UFC 284.
Michael Lynch: Jailton Almeida. 3-0 since joining UFC with three finishes. In my opinion one of the most exciting prospects in the UFC leading into 2023.
End result: It’s a tie between Jailton Almeida and Jack Della Maddalena for Newcomer of the Year. A frankly well-deserved one. Both fighters went 3-0 with three stoppages, and both put their respective division (or divisions) on notice. Look for a big 2023 from these two.