UFC 48 was dubbed "Payback." An appropriate tagline as four of the event's five main card bouts were either re-matches of previous encounters; Ken Shamrock versus Kimo, Evan Tanner versus Phil Baroni and Frank Trigg versus Dennis Hallman or in the case of Matt Hughes versus Renato Verissimo, a bout versus the stablemate of someone where payback was yearned for.
In the main event, Shamrock made his first appearance inside the Octagon for 18 months, since his one-sided loss to Tito Ortiz at UFC 40 in November 2002. Shamrock had blamed his loss to Ortiz on a torn ACL and underwent surgery soon after which ruled him out of a planned clash with Ian Freeman that was tentatively scheduled for UFC 43.
At UFC 48, in June 2004, Shamrock was paired with the man he had submitted at UFC 8 in the defence of his "Superfight" Championship.
The headline clash between the two veterans was brief. The main event lasted a mere 86 seconds as Shamrock withstood a charge by Kimo, locking him into a headlock and unleashing a huge knee to the chin which sent the Hawaiian crashing to the canvas. Shamrock finished Kimo with punches to earn the Knockout win.
It was a moment to savour for Shamrock. It would be his last in UFC as he would never again have his hand raised in victory inside the Octagon.
The other big re-match on the show was between Evan Tanner and Phil Baroni. This stemmed from their bout the previous year at UFC 45 when Tanner won in controversial fashion. In brief, the issue was that Baroni was dominating Tanner with punches and seemed set for a KO or TKO win, However, the referee called a halt to the bout wanting to check on a cut sustained by Tanner during Baroni's assault. The break allowed Tanner to turn the tables somewhat and while he had Baroni in the mount, the referee asked Baroni whether he wanted to continue. Baroni did but the referee misheard and awarded the fight to Tanner. Baroni was incensed and therefore "payback" was what he was looking for here. He didn't get it.
Baroni was noticeably leaner here than he had been at UFC 45 and the indication was that he had attempted to improve his cardiovascular conditioning. This came at the expense of all of his other fighting skills as he just seemed to not be there for this fight and Tanner picked him apart with his usual patient skill to earn a straightforward decision victory.
Another fight with the "payback" theme was Matt Hughes versus BJ Penn stablemate, Renato Verissimo. Despite this being the case, the UFC did not promote it as such.
Penn had defeated long-reigning Welterweight Champion, Hughes for the crown at UFC 46 but subsequently signed an exclusive deal to fight for K-1. UFC was furious and booked Hughes against his buddy instead. However, so annoyed were they with Penn that his name was never mentioned on the broadcast, meaning that this bout to the casual observer had little reason to exist. The fight had it's own fair of controversy as well. To most onlookers, it appeared as if Verrissimo had done enough to win but Hughes was awarded the Unanimous Decision, with two of the judges scoring it 30-27. There is no way that Hughes won round one and Verrissimo likely came closer to finishing the fight but the former Welterweight Champion probably did do enough to win rounds two and three. The scorecard though should have been closer.
The Heavyweight title was on the line when Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir clashed for the vacant strap. Sylvia had been stripped of the title after testing positive for anabolic steroids following his title defence versus Gan McGee at UFC 44 in September 2003. He was favoured to win versus Mir, who had raced up the ranks with big wins over the likes of Tank Abbott and Wes Sims. The contest lasted less than a minute and boos rained down on the Octagon when referee Herb Dean called for the stoppage with Sylvia locked in a Mir armbar. The replays though showed Dean was absolutely correct as Sylvia's right arm literally snapped in the hold. Post-fight it was confirmed he had suffered multiple fractures. Sylvia, ever the tough guy wanted to fight on, even with his arm dangling uselessly by his side. Mir was the new UFC Heavyweight Champion. Unfortunately for him, the reign would be short-lived as a motorcycle accident forced him to relinquish the Championship.
The co-main event was a grudge match dating back 18 months. In their bout for the WFA Welterweight Championship, Trigg low blew Dennis Hallman, taking advantage to rain down punches for the TKO win. Hallman was looking for revenge but didn't get it. Trigg was all over Hallman in this one, mounting his opponent and punching away until the referee stepped in. Trigg was the winner one more and flipped off Hallman for good measure after the stoppage. What a wild encounter this was.
UFC 48 wasn't as stacked a show as some of the other UFC pay per view cards of this era but Shamrock's drawing power, even at the age of 40 was still huge. His nostalgia driven main event of ageing veterans impressively outdrew the first time dream bout between young guns Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz at UFC's previous pay per view attraction. UFC 48 attracted 110,000 orders compared to 105,000 buys for UFC 47.
Shamrock would bring his pay per view magic to the Octagon once more, two years later at UFC 61.