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UFC Vegas 73 awards: Chase Hooper and Michael Johnson earn honors following Saturday’s card

UFC Vegas 73 provided its fair share of exciting moments. To commemorate the promotions return to the UFC’s Apex Center, let’s recognize some of the more interesting revelations with a round of special awards for the most notable performers from the event.

Also read: UFC 290 Will Bring Out ‘Warrior’ In Dricus Du Plessis

The Anti-Gracie Evolution Award – Chase Hooper

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Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of weeks ago when Kron Gracie did his best to replicate the infamous Gracie challenge videos that eventually led to the formation of the UFC, it was hard to ignore how the stubborn devotion to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu played into his underwhelming performance. Today we offer the flip side of that coin. 

When Chase Hooper first made a blip on the radar, the then-teenager was rough around the edges but had an undeniable talent for the submission game. Taking full advantage of the developmental deal he signed after a win on The Contender Series, we’ve watched Hooper try to find his way under the bright lights.

Hooper looks to have matured well in his unanimous decision win over Nick Fiore. Instead of relying solely on his ability to force taps and win positional battles, he did something essential to excelling in mixed martial arts: He mixed the martial arts.

Of course, Fiore’s own BJJ prowess contributed to Hooper’s success. His willingness to engage and ability in that range prevented the juvenile Pan-American champion from completely dominating that aspect of the fight. 

Hooper’s response was to let his hands and feet fly. But not in the way that traps many grapplers who make a point to emphasize the new skills they’ve picked up in training. Instead, his stand-up game played the perfect transition in and out of the ground. 

Strikes led to clinches, Clinches to close-range weapons, clinches to trips, trip attempts back to elbows, and it all fit perfectly with an already chaotic and active ground game. 

Did Hooper throw everything with textbook technique? No, at times the lanky lightweight looked awkward and sloppy. But that doesn’t matter. What does is his willingness to do something different and grow.

The Consistently Inconsistent Award – Michael Johnson

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Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

In an alternative universe, Michael Johnson was a dominant lightweight champion who had a fantastic run at featherweight. However here in the 616 universe, Johnson has the dubious distinction of being one of the most frustrating fighters to watch.

That frustration is not born out of an endless list of slow-paced decisions. On the contrary, “The Menace” is one of the most reliable action fighters on the roster. However, his results haven’t been nearly as dependable. 

In his strong opening round against Diego Ferriera, Michael Johnson’s blinding hand speed and aggression were on full display. We were then reminded of the many times Johnson snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as Ferriera landed a perfect punch in the second to put him down and out.

The final result was eerily reminiscent of two of Johnson’s most crushing defeats. Against both Nate Diaz and Justin Gaethje, he was able to win the first round before stepping into quicksand. Now with his record nearing .500 and his losses just under 20, it’s hard to not think about what could’ve been as the veteran nears the end of his career.

Tekken Award – Natalia Silva

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Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world, Taekwondo is typically an afterthought in MMA. Even though there is an endless list of high-level fighters who have spent their time practicing the art, such as Anderson Silva and Benson Henderson, we’re simply not used to seeing a full display of it in a cage. That’s exactly what Natalia Silva gave us in her first-round standing TKO of Victoria Leonardo.  

Natalia Silva had just about everything. The low lead hand, the bladed stance, the switchless lead leg kicks, it was beautiful. To add the cherry on top, she punctuated her unblemished UFC run with a series of expertly timed head kicks. The only thing missing was a clean white dobok.

Ant Walker is a native of the Washington DC area that now lives in Los Angeles. He has been... More about Anthony Walker

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