This weekend sees the UFC present its latest Fight Night event. While the card is unsurprisingly not as star-studded as last weekend’s UFC 266 pay-per-view, it still looks like an interesting one to watch.
UFC Fight Night: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker features high-level contenders, hot prospects and exciting action fighters competing across multiple weight divisions.
So with plenty on the line and some of the UFC’s wildest fighters in action, this should be an event that UFC fans won’t want to miss.
With that considered, here are five reasons to watch UFC Fight Night: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker.
#5. Aspen Ladd could be a future threat to UFC women's bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes
One intriguing main card clash set for this weekend's UFC main card will see Aspen Ladd take on Macy Chiasson in a women's bantamweight clash. While Chiasson is a decent prospect in her own right, the spotlight will likely be on Ladd when it comes to fight time.
That’s because Ladd is one of the few fighters on the UFC’s roster who looks capable of becoming a threat to current bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes at some point in the future. Ladd is 9-1 in MMA overall, although she does have an extensive amateur record to add to that professional ledger. In the UFC, she’s 4-1, with her only loss coming against Germaine de Randamie in 2019 in a fight that saw a somewhat questionable referee stoppage.
Her major strength is on the ground. She looks to take her opponents down and maul them once she gets them there. For the most part, she’s been able to do just that, unleashing truly ferocious ground-and-pound like few other fighters have demonstrated in the division.
Ladd hasn’t fought since December 2019. So, whether she’ll be at her best this weekend is a fair question to ask. However, if she comes in as good as new, then Chiasson is likely to be in trouble.
A big win here could move Ladd directly into title contention, particularly given the thin nature of the women's bantamweight division. That means this weekend’s show might act as a spotlight for this prospect. Therefore, this fight is a can’t miss for UFC fans.
#4. It should be interesting to see Misha Cirkunov at 185 pounds
A few years ago, Misha Cirkunov looked like a can’t miss prospect in the UFC light heavyweight division. Built like a superhero, the Latvian-Canadian fighter exploded onto the scene and quickly dominated opponents like Ion Cutelaba and Nikita Krylov to move into the top-10.
However, a loss to Volkan Oezdemir exposed a major weakness, a somewhat questionable chin. Since then, Cirkunov has had an up-and-down time in the UFC, beating the likes of Jimmy Crute, while falling at the hands of Johnny Walker and Ryan Spann.
This weekend sees Cirkunov attempt to write a new chapter in his UFC career as he moves to middleweight for the first time to take on Krzysztof Jotko, but how successful will the move be?
It’s a massively interesting question. Cirkunov was never a small 205lber, so how he’ll make 185 pounds safely is anyone’s guess. If he can do so, though, he could well make some noise. Naturally, most 185lbers don’t hit quite as hard as their light heavyweight counterparts. With that in mind, perhaps his chin won’t be quite so much of a liability at his new weight class.
It’s a winnable fight for an athlete as powerful as Cirkunov. However, Jotko is no mug, even if he doesn’t quite have the knockout power of Oezdemir or Walker. Either way, this should be a fascinating fight that’ll be well worth watching to tell us exactly what Cirkunov has to offer as a middleweight.
#3. Kevin Holland will attempt to re-establish himself as a UFC middleweight title contender
When 2021 began, few fighters in the UFC were on as hot a streak as Kevin Holland. ‘Trailblazer’ had gone 5-0 in 2020 and ended the year with a stunning knockout of perennial contender Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza.
However, 2021 has not been quite so good for Holland. He’s lost back-to-back fights against Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori. The nature of those losses not only knocked him out of title contention, but also asked questions about whether he’d ever be able to get there again. Simply put, if Holland wants to get to the top of the UFC, his takedown defense needs to improve quickly.
This weekend sees him fight Kyle Daukaus. While Daukaus isn’t as good a wrestler as Brunson, he’s definitely got the takedowns to test whether Holland has been able to close that hole in his game. If he has done so, then he could easily be seen as a threat again. He’s got heavy strikes, a long and rangy frame and excellent cardio. If he can show better wrestling, then why couldn’t he be a genuine contender?
But if Daukaus takes him down with ease, then UFC fans may want to count ‘Big Mouth’ out altogether. There are plenty of fights with high stakes this weekend, but for Holland, the stakes don’t get higher than this. As he’s one of the UFC’s more recognizable fighters right now, that makes this fight well worth checking out.
#2. Niko Price might be the UFC’s most exciting fighter
While this fight isn’t as important as some of the others on this weekend’s UFC card, any time that Niko Price is in action in the octagon, it’s well worth watching.
Simply put, ‘The Hybrid’ might be the most exciting fighter to watch in the entire UFC right now. Not only is Price aggressive to a fault, but his finish rate, whether that’s him coming out on top, or losing violently, is truly astonishing.
Price has been on the UFC’s roster now for almost five years, during which time he’s stepped into the octagon on 13 occasions. And on eleven of those occasions, his fight has failed to reach the final buzzer.
We’ve seen Price knock opponents out and be knocked out himself and submit opponents and tap out too. He’s never produced anything but fireworks. Even his draw with Donald Cerrone and the decision loss to Michel Pereira were wildly exciting. This weekend shouldn’t be an exception to that rule, as opponent Alex Oliveira is also wildly aggressive and will almost certainly bring the fight to Price.
So, whether ‘The Hybrid’ wins or loses this weekend doesn’t really matter. The only shock would be if he fails to earn one of the UFC’s $50k bonus cheques. If it’s excitement you’re after, this fight is a must-see.
#1. Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker should produce fireworks
Niko Price might be the UFC’s most exciting fighter right now, but there’s still a chance he will get outshone this weekend by this Fight Night’s headline bout. That’s because light heavyweight contenders Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker are equally as wild and exciting to watch as he is.
This one should essentially be a battle of mirror images. Neither Santos nor Walker look to ground their opponents and on the feet, neither man knows how to back down an inch. Sure, they’re both technically proficient strikers, Santos in particular, but both prefer to swing heavy leather at their opponents until someone falls down.
It’s arguable that Walker is the more exciting of the two to watch, as he’s only been the distance once in his UFC career thus far. He’s also finished opponents with low-percentage strikes, including a standing elbow, spinning backfist and flying knee.
However, ‘Marreta’ probably has even more wars under his belt, with his fights with Jimi Manuwa, Anthony Smith and Jan Blachowicz all producing incredible spectacles.
It’d probably be better for the UFC if Walker were to come out on top here, as he’s a new and viable title contender at 205 pounds. Either way, this fight might turn out to be one of the most exciting of 2021. Simply put, nobody who calls themselves a UFC fan should look to miss this one.