The Best UFC Rookies of 2022

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The UFC is back at its Apex facility in Las Vegas this weekend, with a bantamweight main event between Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong.

In addition to the headliner, 33-year-old Chidi Njokuanic will make his third UFC appearance against Gregory Rodrigues. Njokuani is far from a beginner in mixed martial arts. He made his professional MMA debut in 2007, and his older brother, Anthonywas a fixture in the WEC and UFC for many years.

Still, technically, Njokuani (22-7) is a UFC rookie this year — and he’s enjoying a stellar rookie season. He already has two first round finishes to his name, over Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic. The middleweight division is poised for new blood, and if Njokuani can continue to take the wins, he could soon find himself in a big fight against a title contender.

What other “UFC rookies” besides Njokuani are putting together a great 2022? Here are five names that have already captured attention in their first calendar year with the UFC.


Jailton Almeidalight heavyweight/heavyweight

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Jailton Almeida takes the dominant victory at UFC 279 with an entry from Anton Turkalj.

  • UFC Debut: TKO first round against Danilo Marques on February 5

  • MMA record: 17-2-0, 6-1 by (T)KO, 11-0 by SUB

  • 2022 record: 3-0

Almeida is a potential problem — in two divisions. The 31-year-old lands in a sweet spot between light heavyweight and heavyweight, but that could be a good problem as it looks like he could win in both. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Almeida has solid wrestling and athleticism to accompany his submission skills on the ground. He is a proven finisher, with most of his career finishing within the opening lap. At the moment he says he will compete in the heavyweight, but we will see. The UFC has two pretty wide open divisions that are ripe for a newcomer to come in and make a statement.


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Muhammad Mokaev suplex slams Charles Johnson to remain undefeated in the UFC.

  • UFC Debut: First round submission against Cody Durden on March 19

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

  • 2022 record: 2-0

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


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Jack Della Maddalena defeats Pete Rodriguez in his UFC debut with a nice left hook at UFC 270.

  • UFC Debut: First round knockout against Pete Rodriguez on January 22

  • MMA record: 12-2, 10-1 by (T)KO, 1-1 by SUB

  • 2022 record: 2-0

There’s no reason for the UFC to push Della Maddalena through his welterweight, other than that he’s really good and might be ready at 26. Representing Perth, Australia, a region far less known in the MMA world than the eastern part of that country, Della Maddalena thrives as a stand-up fighter who is a slick striker. Since losing the first two bouts of his professional career, he is 12-0 with 11 finishes. All but one of those finishes have come via knockout. The only win in his career to go this far was against another UFC 2022 rookie, Ange Loos, in a Contender Series fight last year. Della Maddalena has confidence, power and about as much momentum as you can have as you drive towards the end of 2022.


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Michael Morales gives Adam Fugitt a powerful punch in the third round to knock him to the canvas and take the TKO win.

  • UFC Debut: First round knockout against Trevin Giles on January 22

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

  • 2022 record: 2-0

Morales is a 23-year-old Ecuadorian prospect fighting from Tijuana, Mexico. He’s not as polished as some of the other names on this list, but the UFC may have discovered a hidden gem here. He earned a contract as a participant in Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, as a pretty significant underdog against Kazakhstan’s Nikolay Veretennikov. He showed his punch in a quick finish against Giles, before showing off his determination and perseverance in a back-and-forth battle against late replacement Adam Fugitt in July. Don’t confuse Morales as a finished product, but it has a lot of untapped potential. A lot.


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Andre Fialho manages to land a left hand dropping Cameron VanCamp to secure the knockout win.

  • UFC Debut: Unanimous decision to lose Michel Pereira on January 22

  • MMA record: 16-5, 13-3 by (T)KO, 1-0 by SUB

  • 2022 record: 2-2

Fialho’s .500 record this year isn’t going to jump off the page, but let’s put it in context. On short notice, he made his debut against a top-15 talent in Pereira. He then took back-to-back knockouts in the first round over quality opponents in Miguel Baezac and Cameron Van Camp. He comes from a TKO loss to 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 in 35 days. Whether fatigue played a part in that result or not, 28-year-old Fialho has been thrown Turn right in the mix at 170 pounds. He is experienced, well-rounded and has finishing ability. And of course he likes to fight often.



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