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UFC Vegas 48: Walker vs. Hill - Unofficial Awards

Get a unique rundown on all the trophies that should have been handed out at UFC Vegas 48 with Dayne Fox’s Unofficial Awards.

Stephanie Egger punching Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Vegas 48
Stephanie Egger punching Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Vegas 48
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC Vegas 48 came in with little fanfare, but most certainly delivered the goods for those who decided to check in on the event. The main event didn’t last very long as Jamahal Hill found the right button on the temple of Johnny Walker to turn off his power switch as Walker animatedly crashed to the mat. It wasn’t a surprising result, but it did provide Hill with a platform to let less attentive fans know who he is as he looks to climb even higher up the 205 ladder. There were plenty of other fights on the evening, most of them coming from the lower levels of the roster. That left many potentially on the chopping block – a foreshadowing of a big chunk of the rest of the article – but it was ultimately a fantastic showing of combat. Here’s my Unofficial Awards.

For an alternate point of view, click here. For an audio rundown of the event, click here.

Biggest Jump in Stock: There are some interesting circumstances, but I think the obvious choice for this spot is Stephanie Egger. A sizeable underdog to Jessica-Rose Clark, Egger put her judo chops on display, tripping Clark to the mat a couple of times before snatching an armbar. No one is ready to start making comparisons to a former judoka-armbar specialist who used to dominate the bantamweight division, but the lack of depth means Egger is in prime position to begin making some serious noise. I realize some think that’s a stretch, but Egger has been adjusting to MMA rapidly since her UFC debut in 2020. Throw in her unique skillset makes her difficult to prepare for and she’s a name to watch rise up the ranks.

I know many expected Hill to be in this spot and I acknowledged his jump in the opening paragraph. However, given Hill’s win was largely expected and Egger’s was a complete surprise, I made my choice accordingly.

Biggest Fall in Stock: There is only one choice here: Walker. While the loss wasn’t a surprise, there were many who were hoping he could at least put up a greater fight. That didn’t happen. Instead, it looked like he didn’t learn anything from his loss to Thiago Santos. He continued to circle on the outside while launching a high volume of low kicks. I suppose the higher volume of kicks was an improvement, but given the aggression in which Hill was pursuing him, it was thought Walker would better be able to exploit Hill. Nope. He’s still young and capable of producing jaw-dropping moments, but the bandwagon singing about him challenging for the title someday is empty. It’ll take a hell of an effort for Walker to fill it back up.

Best Newcomer: While I respect the performance of Chad Anheliger, picking up a win over Jesse Strader, this spot goes to Christian Rodriguez in a loss to Jonathan Pearce. Rodriguez was not only facing a tougher opponent in Pearce, he was fighting up a weight class after taking the fight on short notice. Rodriguez came thisclose to getting a tap out of Pearce with a tight guillotine in the opening round and made every round of the fight competitive. Plus, at 35, Anheliger is likely past his physical prime already. At 24, Rodriguez is only getting started.

Start Typing a Resume: For whatever reason, the UFC seems to like Abdul Razak Alhassan. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep him around, but this was his fourth loss in his last five fights. Not even needing to cut 15 pounds less than he used to has been able to fix his serious stamina issues. I know the UFC appreciates car crash fights and Alhassan usually produces those, but there are plenty of youngsters capable of producing those contests who haven’t had an opportunity to join the roster.

Gabriel Benitez has been on the roster for eight years. In that time, he has quietly established himself as one of the better action fighters on the roster. His fight with David Onama was no exception to that. However, not only was his KO loss the fourth loss in the last five fights for Benitez, he missed weight after having his last scheduled contest cancelled due to a botched weight cut. If Benitez isn’t cut loose, he’ll have to move up to lightweight at the very least. Benitez is hardly ancient at 33, but he began his career as a teenager and has a lot of mileage under his belt. The guess here is he’s done.

The UFC has been giving fighters three opportunities more often than not if their first fight is as a short-notice injury replacement, but I’m hoping they don’t give that to Jesse Strader. Not that I have anything against, Strader, but he got his call up to the big show far too early. Yes, he gave Anheliger a hell of a fight, but Anheliger isn’t an established UFC fighter himself. Strader would be better off hitting the regionals, picking up a few wins, and gaining experience in the process.

Much like Strader, Diana Belbita is a green prospect herself. Unlike Strader, Belbita already has a lot of experience, so cutting her loose won’t have the same benefit it would for Strader. On the slip side, Belbita fights in a division that doesn’t have the same degree of depth that Strader does. I’m not sure what happens with Belbita, but she has lost three of her four UFC fights and that’s dangerous territory.

Like Strader, Mark Striegl only has two UFC appearances under his belt, which may allow him to return. I’m don’t think it’s going to happen given Striegl is deep into his career. He doesn’t have much of a ceiling to improve. Getting absolutely smoked in his first UFC fight doesn’t help. To be fair, Striegl hasn’t faced easy opposition in Said Nurmagomedov and Chas Skelly, but I can see his low ceiling being too much for the UFC to overlook.

Officially, Alan Baudot only has two UFC losses. However, that third appearance on his record was a no contest that erased what was a loss to Rodrigo Nascimento. Baudot did have his best showing in this most recent fight against Parker Porter, but I wouldn’t say it was enough to rope me in to having him come back into the UFC for another fight. Being training partners with Ciryl Gane might give him a bit more leeway, but Gane isn’t necessarily a draw. The guess here is Baudot is gone.

Saved Their Job(s): Despite the plethora of names that are likely on their way out of the organization following the event, there weren’t too many who appeared to definitively saved their jobs. A case could be made for Mario Bautista, but I only think he would have been gone with a brutally flat performance. The only one for sure was Gloria de Paula. I still think the young Brazilian would do better outside of the roster at this stage of her career, but it’s impossible to not be happy for her. There’s no doubt she’s got the talent to be a difference maker, but she’s still green. There were signs of that maturity in this win over Belbita, but she still has a long way to go.

Biggest WOW Moment: Taking sentimentality and stakes out of the situations, the moment that dropped my jaw the most was when David Onama put Benitez to sleep while Benitez was still standing. It was reminiscent of Phil Baroni’s standing KO of Dave Menne that used to be a staple of UFC highlight reels. Onama’s fast hands were readily apparent in his debut, but now that he has a highlight reel KO that will remind everyone just how fast his hands are on a regular basis. Onama couldn’t have picked up his win in a more impressive fashion.

No doubt Hill’s KO came in a close second, so at the very least, it deserves an honorable mention.

Best Callout: It didn’t end up being an official callout, but I can’t help but appreciate Jonathan Pearce pausing his interview with Paul Felder to ask his coach who it is he should have called out. I’m not upset with Pearce in the least. They guy just spent 15 grueling minutes going back and forth with a game Christian Rodriguez. But I feel like his coach may have let him down. Perhaps it was because the coach didn’t want the heat on him, but a coach is supposed to help guide a fighters career and there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with him filling Pearce in on a smart callout. I would have thought Charles Jourdain would have been a smart callout given the Canadian’s shortcomings on the mat, but that’s just me. Regardless, Pearce did what he was supposed to do. His coach is the one who dropped the ball.

Happy Trails: He didn’t say he’s definitively done – a smart thing to do given the history of MMA retirements – but Chas Skelly did say he’s largely done with the sport of MMA. On the UFC roster since 2014, Skelly has dealt with a wave of injuries and bad luck the last few years, making this fight with Mark Striegl his first in 29 months. The former collegiate wrestler made the most of his return, dominating Striegl from the opening bell, not giving the Philippine fighter room to breathe. I resulted in Skelly knocking Striegl silly with a knee before a few punches on the ground finished things off. I haven’t met Skelly, but I’ve never heard a cross word from anyone who has interacted with him. It sounds like the UFC is losing one of their good guys. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors. Contact him if you need a roof!

Worst Referee Call: The announcers didn’t need to say it. Jim Miller said it for them when he declared the referee stepped in late. Of course, he did it in a manner that only Jim Miller can, pointing out how difficult a referee’s job is – even stating he wouldn’t ever want their job – so it was a polite call out of the poor job done by Keith Peterson. Nikolas Motta ate a number of punches from Miller before Peterson stepped in, despite Motta clearly being knock for a loop. I hate to say it happens due to human error, but I still can’t help but think that Peterson stepping as late as he did was egregious.

Most Disappointing Outcome: The populace was promised someone was going to sleep between Alhassan and Joaquin Buckley. The promised goods weren’t delivered. It isn’t that the fight between them didn’t have entertaining moments, but the way both rolled to their backs out of breath at the end of the contest encapsulated the way the fight played out. I always do my best to remain impartial and maintained that for this contest in terms of who I would prefer to win. I just wanted someone to score a KO. Didn’t happen, leaving almost everyone who circled that contest unfulfilled.