09 Jun - 
UFC 238 rookie report: Grading the newcomer in Chicago

Fighters from around the globe dream of the day they’ll step into the UFC octagon for the first time. For one athlete, Saturday’s UFC 238 event marked that special moment in his career.

Check out this week’s rookie report to see what kind of first impression those fighters made on the sport’s biggest stage from UFC 238 in Chicago.

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Grigorii Popov

Eddie Wineland and Grigorii Popov

Division: Bantamweight
Result: Eddie Wineland def. Grigorii Popov via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 4:47
Record: (14-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Grade: C+

If UFC officials expected much from Grigorii Popov, they sure didn’t make it seem that way. After all, the fight with Wineland never even made it to the UFC 238 lineup post on the promotion’s official website. A relative unknown to most MMA fans, Popov did make a great impression at media day earlier in the week, breaking the mold of the stoic Russian in favor of a much more happy-go-lucky vibe.

Fight night didn’t prove quite as fun for Popov, who faced the most experienced opponent of his career to date in former WEC champ Wineland, who was aggressive and accurate from the outset. Popov was under duress from the start, and he was tagged a bit before he really knew what was happening.

To his credit, Popov seemed to settle into a rhythm as the fight wore on, smiling despite taking damage and actually flashing out a bit of his muay Thai prowess with snapping kicks and impressive striking in close quarters. But just as Popov seemed to be enjoying himself, smiling and touching gloves, Wineland was able to crack him clean and then finish the fight on the floor in the second frame.

Popov showed durability in the contest and ability to make adjustments while battling adversity. His striking showed flashes of real skill, as well. If paired up with a less seasoned veteran in his sophomore outing, he may find himself with more of a chance to shine,

For more on UFC 238, check out the UFC Events section of the site.