As hoped, UFC Vegas 48 may not have had high stakes, but it still delivered some fantastic action. Jamahal Hill picked up a memeworthy highlight reel KO in the main event against Johnny Walker, Kyle Daukaus snapped up a fantastic D’Arce win in the co-main, and Jim Miller kept himself well on pace to make it to UFC 300 sometime in 2025.
So, is Hill ready to throw his name in among the top contenders in the light heavyweight division? Is Daukaus a darkhorse talent at 185? And when is Joaquin Buckley gonna show us some of that Detroit DUST inside the Octagon.
To answer those questions – but almost nothing else – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
After this victory Jamahal Hill told Paul Felder that it was time to change the conversation around his MMA career. And whether or not he’s 100% prepared to answer queries like, ‘Can you become light heavyweight champion?’ I suspect he’ll find himself facing the idea sooner rather than later. Hill’s game still doesn’t feel deep or complicated. But he’s huge and powerful, and he’s learned the necessary patience to be opportunistic and make the best use of his speed. That kind of combination tends to rocket fighters into quick contention at 205. Staying there for long, though, is another matter.
To figure out just how far away a shot at gold truly lies, fights with Anthony Smith, Dominick Reyes, or Aleksandar Rakic all seem like promising matchups. And it seems to me like the Smith fight is both the most forgiving and natural booking among those. After a few recent struggles of his own, Smith has put himself on a 3-bout win streak. Had he not been waylaid by injury, a rematch against Rakic was even on the horizon. Still, I like the potential for ‘Lionheart’’s ground game to cause trouble with Hill a lot more than it did on the mat against the ‘Rocket’ back in 2020. Besides, it feels like Rakic should be on the contender short list at the moment anyway. Smith vs. Hill seems like a great next test to see if Hill can compete for the belt.
At this point it’s worth asking if Johnny Walker is ever going to be able to cash in on his obvious physical gifts. He’s got all the size, power, and speed to be a perennial top contender at light heavyweight, but with 9 years of fighting under his belt already, it feels like the technical gaps in his game are as wide as they’ve ever been. Given all that, he was having a very even fight with Hill (doubling up on Hill for landed strikes) right up until the moment of the KO. He’ll always have the physicality to make fights difficult. But with two brutal KO losses in the UFC now, it’s hard to look at the top 10 and not see a lot of guys who could replicate those problems.
That means it’s time for a serious step back. Fights with Alonzo Menifield, Devin Clark, or Ovince St. Preux would all be good measuring sticks at the moment. Of those, I’ll go with the OSP vs. Walker option, since it feels like it has the most cache to take advantage of what interest Walker still might hold—and OSP’s slow paced style should give him a lot of opportunities to be creative. Johnny Walker vs. Ovince St. Preux feels like a good step down right now.
Jamie Pickett had the look of a stylistic layup for Daukaus going into this fight, and that’s exactly how it played out in the cage. The ‘D’Arce Knight’ was able to constantly initiate and control the clinch, landing clean shots whenever Pickett separated, and stringing together several takedowns. Eventually, Pickett’s struggles to get up from bottom led him straight into a submission. Pure dominance from the younger Daukaus inside the cage.
Despite a couple UFC setbacks he’s clearly a fun and dangerous fighter, so another quality action-fight booking feels like the right way to go. How about a fight with Roman Dolidze? The Georgian can be a bit of a stalling grappler at times, but loves weird striking setups and creative sub attempts. With Daukaus pushing the pace on him, can he find a path to victory, or will Daukaus carve him up like he did Pickett. Daukaus vs. Dolidze seems like a decent chance for Daukaus to build some momentum.
Jim Miller has settled into a pretty comfortable position as the gatekeeper of the lightweight division. Fighters looking to stake their claim to a spot on the roster at 155 lbs may very well find their path going through ‘A-10’. For Motta, he went out and tried to keep an even paced standup bout with Miller—which ended up being exactly the wrong option. Miller consistently kicked the leg, and used that to start setting up harder shots upstairs as Motta’s attention got diverted. The result? A fantastic second round finish.
That could lead to fights with Guram Kutateladze, Steve Garcia Jr., Rafael Alves, or Mason Jones. I really like the idea of the Alves fight, but unfortunately he’s been booked against Jared Gordon. So, how about Steve Garcia Jr? The ‘Mean Machine’ put an absolute whooping on Charlie Ontiveros last time around, but also got controlled by Luis Pena on the floor. A fight with Miller seems like a good litmus test for his combination of offensive potency and defensive gaps. Miller vs. Garcia should be another scrappy lightweight battle.
Not the highlight war everyone expected when the UFC first announced Joaquin Buckley vs. Abudl Razak Alhassan. Both men had strong, clear rounds, which meant the whole thing came down to a first frame that didn’t have a real clear winner. Still that takes Buckley to 4-2 overall in the Octagon and will have him nipping at the edges of the top 15 before long. At the moment, he just needs more mid-card middleweight action bouts. Chances to show off the highlights that have made him must see TV. Fights with Rodolfo Vieira, Brendan Allen, Eryk Anders, or the winner of Alex Pereira vs. Bruno Silva would all fit that bill well. The Allen fight is right there, so it’s hard to ignore that, but... c’mon... Joaquin Buckley vs. the Pereira/Silva winner is the kind of must-make slugfest that’s too good to pass up. Book that.
Gabriel Benitez came out of the gate bombing on David Onama. He landed hard punches and powerful low kicks from the jump, hurt him early, and was causing the James Krause product all kinds of problems straight out the gate. But, Onama collected himself wonderfully, kept the pressure on Benitez, and never stopped working behind his jab. The payoff? A huge comeback KO late in the first round, and the feeling that Onama could be a pretty special talent to watch. That could mean bouts with Shayilan, Josh Culibao, Danny Chavez, or TJ Brown. I really like the feel of the Chavez fight, another fast, powerful kickboxer with some veteran craft and a tough chin. But also a fighter who struggles to control the cage and maintain momentum. Seems like a great recipe for another high octane firefight. Onama vs. Chavez should be a thriller at 145.
A nice win for Egger, who got exactly the right fight out of Jessica-Rose Clark’s clinch-heavy gameplan and used her Judo to excellent effect. Once she had top position on the mat, she immediately isolated Clark’s arm and used the ensuing scramble to get a perfect armbar. That win puts her on two straight victories after dropping her debutm and puts her in good position to work her way up the division. Fights with Julia Avila or Alexis Davis seem like reasonable options to keep the momentum moving. Between them, I’ll say Egger vs. Davis is the way to go. Davis is an incredibly experienced vet who should be able to challenge Egger with her pace and fight IQ. If Egger can get by her, then it’s time to throw her into some ranked bouts to see if she can put a real run together.
OTHER BOUTS: Jamie Pickett vs. Andreas Michailidis, Parker Porter vs. Don’Tale Mayes, Alan Baudot vs. Harry Hunsucker, Nikolas Motta vs. Uros Medic, Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Abu Azaitar, Gabriel Benitez vs. Kyle Nelson, Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Bea Malecki, Mark Striegl vs. Joanderson Brito, Gloria de Paula vs. Vanessa Demopoulos, Diana Belbita vs. Sam Hughes, Chad Anheliger vs. Ricky Turcios, Jesse Strader vs. Mana Martinez, Jonathan Pierce vs. Sean Woodson, Christian Rodriguez vs. Aaron Phillips, Mario Bautista vs. Tony Gravely, Jay Perrin vs. JP Buys