Fight | Half-Year Awards – The Newcomers

2 – Cynthia Calvillo
In a non-Oezdemir year, we might be seeing Cynthia Calvillo on top of this list, and she still has a chance to surge ahead in the second half, which wouldn’t be a surprise given that the strawweight standout has fought her entire six-fight pro career in the last 12 months. That’s not a typo. Three of those fights were in the UFC this year, as she submitted Amanda Cooper and Pearl Gonzalez and decisioned Joanne Calderwood. That Octagon run put Calvillo in the 115-pound top ten, and the sky is the limit for her.

3 – Justin Gaethje
Spoiler alert…Justin Gaethje’s first UFC fight against Michael Johnson is going to be named the best fight of the first half of 2017 and will likely be the best fight of the entire year unless something very special happens between now and December 31. Gaethje is also my reason for extending the cutoff date for this piece, just so I could get him on the list. That’s the kind of impression he made on me and the fight world in July. Now anyone who follows the sport knows how good he is, but the skeptics wondered if he could deliver his usual action-packed performances in the UFC. He did, he won, and now he’s coaching TUF against Eddie Alvarez. Gaethje vs. Alvarez? Well, we might have found the fight that can knock Gaethje-Johnson out of the top spot.

4 – Paulo Borrachinha
Many fighters have come into the UFC with a lot of hype and glossy records, only to get a rude awakening once the Octagon gate shuts. Brazil’s Paulo Borrachinha looked the part before his March debut against Garreth McLellan, and then he lived up to the hype with a 77-second knockout win. In his second bout, the 185-pound prospect halted Oluwale Bamgbose in two frames, showing off the same power but a little more patience. As he continues to evolve, Borrachinha will only get scarier. Watch out middleweights.

5 (Tie) – Alexandre Pantoja
A semifinalist on TUF 24, where he was the number one seed, Alexandre Pantoja made a seamless transition into the UFC in 2017, beating two legitimate foes in Eric Shelton and Neil Seery. Those victories earned him a spot in the flyweight top 15 that is only going to go higher in the future, as the Brazilian looks like he’s the real deal at 125 pounds.

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