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UFC Vegas 70: Unofficial Awards


Trevor Peek punching Erick Gonzalez at UFC Vegas 70
Trevor Peek punching Erick Gonzalez at UFC Vegas 70 | Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Get a unique rundown of all the trophies that should have been handed out at UFC Vegas 70 with Dayne Fox’s Unofficial Awards.

The action out of UFC Vegas 70 was good enough to give the event a passing grade; not great, but not too terrible. Or at least it would have got one if the main event didn’t fall apart roughly two hours before it was scheduled to take place.

Not that Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann was considered to be a can’t-miss contest, but it was a proper Fight Night main event. After Derrick Lewis pulled out of his scheduled main event against Serghei Spivac a couple months ago on the day it was supposed to go down, the question has to be asked: Is the UFC more comfortable pulling fights because these are Apex events without an audience to consider?

If that’s the case, it leaves fans a bit at a loss. I can’t make a judgement, given I don’t know what state the fighters were actually in, but I have a hard time believing the UFC would be as willing to upset a live audience in a packed arena as opposed to a few scattered spectators in the APEX. On the flip side, perhaps that’s a good thing, since fighters might be getting less pressure to compete when they really shouldn’t. I can’t say it’s good or bad, but it is on my mind after Saturday’s card.

Among more immediate thoughts, Brendan Allen put forth the best performance of his career—securing the upset over Andre Muniz in what proved to be the night’s main event. The loss for Muniz seems to end talks of him being the dark horse in a division starved for one. Perhaps Allen fills that role? Only time will tell…

For a different perspective, click here. For an audio recap of the event, click here.

Biggest Jump in Stock

Brendan Allen poses with his team after beating Andre Muniz. Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Now if we could just convince him to lose the hat.

I considered putting Tatiana Suarez in this spot, even though she was previously on the verge of a title shot before her extended hiatus. While I still believe there’s a valid argument for her here—nobody had her on the radar of the strawweight title picture—I’ll go with the safer choice and bestow this award upon Allen. The thing with Allen is it has never been a question of his talent. Many may be willing to agree that he’s got the skills to be champion. In my opinion it’s been more a matter of maturity.

I won’t go so far as to say Allen’s maturity has caught up to his talent, but it’s at least in the same neighborhood at this point. Personally, I’d like to see Allen pick up one more win over a ranked opponent before declaring him a contender, but he’s in a hell of a good spot given most expected him to lose to Muniz.

Biggest Fall in Stock

Lord Kong didn’t exactly look like a monster on Saturday. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Lord Kong didn’t exactly look like a monster on Saturday.

This was a hard award to figure. Nobody had a truly disastrous performance. Even in his loss, Muniz had some respectable spots (although his reputation as a grappling expert took a severe hit). It’s just that Allen finally started living up to his prodigious potential. To my mind, there isn’t anyone who truly crapped the bed.

If I’m forced to choose, I’d lean towards Don’Tale Mayes. Not that the big man has ever been considered to be a major player in the heavyweight division, but he entered the event slightly favored over Augusto Sakai on a few books. That’s coming off his defeat as the favorite to Hamdy Abdelwahad—before that fight was overturned to a ‘no contest’. I’m not sure what the best argument would be for Mayes to say his stock has fallen, but I think there’s a lot of people who’d feel his ceiling has been thoroughly exposed.

Best Newcomer

Nurullo Aliev celebrates his win over Rafael Alves. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
A huge step up for the newcomer.

I admit Trevor Peek had a more explosive debut, but there are so many holes in his performance that I can’t in good conscience say he’s the top newcomer on the card. Given there was only one other newcomer who secured a win, it more or less goes to Nurullo Aliev by default. That isn’t to say there aren’t any critiques of his game to be made (apparently, he bit his opponent)—but Aliev defeated a dangerous veteran in Rafael Alves fairly definitively. At the tender age of 23, the Tajik fighter still has a long way to go before he’s anywhere near his prime.

Saved Their Job(s)

There aren’t too many fighters who get a chance to snap a four-fight losing streak within the UFC. Typically, that kind of skid leaves an athlete on the outside looking in. Augusto Sakai is a rarity, but he made the most of the opportunity. The bulky Brazilian dirtied things up as much as possible against Don’Tale Mayes, fighting the majority of the contest in the clinch against the fence. Mayes didn’t seem ready for that grueling style of fight, and it wasn’t long before he was sucking wind. Credit to Mayes for going the distance, but he didn’t do nearly enough to avoid Sakai’s style of combat.

Augusto Sakai celebrates after his win over Don’Tale Mayes. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Sakai knew this one was do or die.

Was Jasmine Jasudavicius job on the line? Perhaps, perhaps not. What I do know is the Canadian was so thoroughly outclassed by Natalia Silva in her last outing, it drew questions as to whether she belonged in the UFC. Given how Jasudavicius dominated newcomer Gabriella Fernandes, it’s safe to say it was more of an indication of how good Silva is. Had Jasudavicius suffered a similar loss, it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility to see the UFC cut her loose. Instead, Jasudavicius proved she absolutely belongs.

I can’t say for sure Jordan Leavitt would have been on the chopping block, but his style of fighting in the past could easily have had the UFC looking for a reason to hand him a pink slip. Two straight losses might have been enough. Fortunately for ‘The Monkey King’, he showed he has been working on his standup. Well, his clinch at least. The knees Leavitt threw at Victor Martinez were nasty. I get the feeling Martinez was so worried about stopping any potential takedowns that he left his body wide open. Good on Leavitt for taking advantage of that. If he can continue to add a piece here and a piece there to complement his grappling, maybe he could even prove to be a (very unlikely) future contender.

Start Typing a Resume

No one was surprised to see Erick Gonzalez come up short against Peek. ‘The Ghost Pepper’ wasn’t particularly competitive in his first two UFC fights, with a crack-able chin to boot. He had some nice moments here and there, with some good takedowns and a few solid punches of his own. Unfortunately, despite some of the sloppiest fighting seen in the UFC in years from his opponent, Gonzalez couldn’t pull out the win. Now 0-3, it’ll be a shock if he makes it into the Octagon again.

Nurullo Aliev puts some leather on Rafael Alves on his way to a decision win. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Alves just can’t seem to keep it together for three rounds.

There’s no doubt Rafael Alves has the talent to be in the UFC, but he’s 1-3 with one of the worst blown weight cuts in the history of the organization under his belt. That’s a lot of baggage for the explosive Brazilian to overcome. Perhaps the UFC will keep him around for a bit and allow him the opportunity to step in on short notice should an injury occur in an upcoming bout? But lightweight is one of the most stacked divisions in the sport. There promotion won’t have issues finding qualifying bodies to replace Alves.

Biggest WOW Moment

Trevor Peek with the standing hammerfist to Erick Gonzalez. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Man fights like he’s in QWOP mode.

It was a moment that would make any coach cringe—I’ll touch on that in a bit—but Peek’s KO of Gonzalez was easily the most exciting moment of the evening. Gonzalez was stubborn to go down, eating an insane amount of punishment before finally getting stopped. Perhaps it would have been quicker had Peek thrown his punches with even adequate technique? But I’ll admit the sloppiness definitely added to the drama of the moment.

Biggest Need of Coaching

Trevor Peek’s got two left hands. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Yeah… none of that is good.

After his win, Peek declared he believes he has the best coaches in the world. If that’s true, then he’s ignoring everything they teach him. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a technically deficient fighter. Peek resembled a street brawler, throwing punches at the weirdest angles—which badly skews his accuracy, power, and stamina along the way. Despite that, the 28-year-old was able to secure the finish. He’s got a boatload of heart and power.

I’m not going to say the man’s coaches suck—I have a hard time believing anyone taught him to fight the way he does—but he desperately NEEDS to listen to what his striking coaches say if he wants to climb any higher. Right now, he’d get be picked apart by the majority of the lightweight roster if he can’t improve.

Most Surprising Fight

UFC Fight Night: Malott v Lainesse Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Canadian on Canadian action!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Canadian vs. Canadian contest in the UFC, but that’s what we got when Mike Malott and Yohan Lainesse squared off. There’s been no shortage of all-American bouts; I can also recall all-Russian and all-Brazilian contests. But all-Canadian? The last one I’m aware of was 2015, when Sarah Kaufman squared off with Alex Davis. Even Mike Malott seemed to feel it was a particularly rare event, mentioning the matchmaking in his post-fight interview. Perhaps it’s due to the lack of consistent talent coming out of the country, but the booking felt weirdly taboo. Kudos to Malott for the methodical manner in which he picked apart Lainesse.

Fight of the Night

Ode Osbourne and Charles Johnson exchange punches. Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Osbourne and Johnson got after it.

Given the UFC awarded all their Performance Bonuses to those fighters who picked up finishes, there wasn’t an official FOTN at UFC Vegas 70. This being an unofficial awards column, I feel it’s only fair for me to declare an unofficial Fight of the Night. The main event wasn’t bad, but it was a bit too one-sided for me to say it was the best. Some fans may point to Peek vs. Gonzalez, but I prefer to reward fighters for skill as well as brutality. Thus, there’s only one pick in my mind: Charles Johnson vs. Ode Osbourne. It was no surprise Johnson got off to a slow start, but once he adjusted to Osbourne’s strategy, he wasted little time in making the flyweight contest competitive.

Both men were exhausted down the stretch, but pursuing the win to the final bell. Ultimately, the judges felt it was Osbourne who put on the better performance. Regardless, of whether or not fans feel they got it right, neither man had any reason to be upset with their performance.

Bonus Numbers

I mentioned the UFC awarded bonuses to everyone who secured a finish. That meant a total of six $50k checks on the night. This wasn’t exactly the most high octane card that felt like it needed the extra incentive, but I’m all in favor of the UFC getting more generous with their Performance Bonuses.

That made UFC Vegas 70 the first Performance Bonuses for Peek, Malott, and Joe Solecki and the second for Leavitt, Suarez, and Allen. Out of those who were awarded one, Solecki had the longest drought, picking up his first in six UFC appearances. In terms of whose drought remains active, Augusto Sakai has yet to get FOTN or POTN through nine UFC appearances—dating back September 2018. Overall, especially with the elimination of the original main event, it was a card bereft of extensive UFC experience.

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