They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and that couldn't be more true in the world of mixed martial arts. On a stage as big as the UFC, an impressive and/or entertaining debut could mean the difference between being asked back a second time and being forever exiled from the sport's premier organization.
Joe Lauzon, for instance, could lose 13 fights in a row and it would do nothing to soil his reputation as the unassuming killer who knocked out former lightweight champion, Jens Pulver at UFC 63. On the contrary, Rolles Gracie could KO Jon Jones tomorrow and would still be known as the guy who stunk up the joint against Joey Beltran at UFC 109 forevermore. It's a give and take sport.
When it comes to UFC debuts that define a fighter's reputation, you can't do much better than Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch's destructive win over David Heath at UFC 81: Breaking Point.
While not exactly what you'd call a world-beater, David Heath had proven himself to be a decently well-rounded fighter in his first two UFC appearances, scoring a submission win over Cory Walmsley in his debut at UFC 62 and notching a split decision victory over Victor Valimaki in his sophomore appearance at Fight Night 7 in December of 2006. His next two outings, on the other hand, saw him outpointed by an up-and-coming karate fighter named #LyotoMachida at UFC 70 and, let's call it excessively beaten down by Renato Sobral at UFC 74 (so excessively, in fact, that Sobral was then blacklisted from the organization for life).
In any case, Heath was then given one last shot to turn things around against Tomasz Drwal.
Just 10 days out from that meeting, however, Drawl was forced out of the bout with a knee injury. Short on options and even shorter on time, the UFC called upon #TimBoetsch -- a #JeetKuneDo practitioner and four-time state wrestling champion in Maine whose only "mainstream" appearance resulted in a unanimous decision loss to Vladimir Matyushenko at an IFL event -- to step in as a last-minute replacement. Despite having finished all six of his previous victories in emphatic fashion, "The Barbarian" entered his debut as a complete unknown and a heavy underdog to the more experienced Heath.
Boetsch proceeded to beat the brakes off him.
From the get-go, it was apparent that Boetsch was not going to be intimidated by the bright lights of the UFC, nor the gameplan of his opponent. He waded through Heath's punches in the early going, returning with some of his own, keeping "The Headhunter" consistently off guard with a series of teep kicks, while displaying the discipline of a far more experienced fighter for the majority of the opening round.
It wasn't until the final minute that Boetsch really began to find his groove, though, landing a nasty series of knees to Heath's skull that left him with no other option than to cover up and ride out the storm. Unfortunately for Heath, Boetsch was not content to let him ride out the round.
In what remains one of the meanest throws in UFC history, Boetsch used Heath's moment of weakness to channel the grim, unforgiving rage of Crom, and absolutely ragdoll him into the fence. It was as if Boetsch had spotted a loose nail sticking out of the canvas and decided then and there to use Heath's forehead as the hammer with which to drive it back into place. It was, in a word, barbaric.
Having recently bounced back from the first three-fight skid of his career with a TKO win over #JoshSamman in July, Boetsch will look to get back to his savage ways against #RafaelNatal at UFC 205. For Natal's sake, I pray he isn't overlooking Boetsch, lest he desires to learn what a sweat and blood-soaked canvas looks like up close.