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UFC Predictions - UFC Fight Night: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker

An all-Brazilian clash headlines this weekend's UFC show as Thiago Santos faces Johnny Walker
An all-Brazilian clash headlines this weekend's UFC show as Thiago Santos faces Johnny Walker
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST

After a blockbuster UFC 266 pay-per-view, this weekend sees the UFC return to its Fight Night series for its latest event.

UFC Fight Night: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker features a major light heavyweight clash between two Brazilians in the headliner, while the rest of the card features plenty of solid fights.

The action continues this Saturday with one helluva LHW banger 🔥[ #UFCVegas38 | THIS SATURDAY | Live on #ESPNPlus ] https://t.co/I7GxMX5oEM

With plenty of high-level contenders in action this weekend, this should be a watchable card for any UFC fan.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker.


#1. UFC light heavyweight division: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker

Can Johnny Walker secure a UFC title shot with a win this weekend?
Can Johnny Walker secure a UFC title shot with a win this weekend?

This all-Brazilian clash could well see the next challenger for the UFC light heavyweight title decided, depending on which way it goes of course.

It’s highly unlikely that Thiago Santos could find himself next in line for a title shot. He’s on a three-fight skid and a win here would be his first since February 2019.

However, Johnny Walker is another matter entirely. Sure, he’s 2-2 in his last four fights, but he is coming off a knockout win over Ryan Spann, has a wildly entertaining style and is the kind of fighter that the UFC would love to push into a major spot on the roster.

After landing several punches while pressed up against the cage, @JohnnyWalker hit a final elbow that put Ryan Spann out 😳 #UFCVegas11 https://t.co/oc2jf0Y0BS

So can Walker do it, or will ‘Marreta’ play the role of spoiler and send him crashing down the card again?

Interestingly, you could perhaps argue that this represents a fight of mirror images. Santos is probably the cleaner, more technical striker. However, on the face of it, this should be two wild strikers with semi-questionable chins going at it.

Will either man want this fight on the ground? It seems unlikely. We’ve seen Santos use ground-and-pound to great effect at times, but only against either already beaten foes or smaller opponents like Kevin Holland or Eryk Anders. Really, it should come down to the question of which man can land first and which man can land hardest. In that sense, it’s a tricky one to call.

Santos is obviously the more proven fighter inside the UFC. He took Jon Jones the distance in their fight and has wins over Anthony Smith, Jack Hermansson and even current UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. However, he’s also 37 years old and, worryingly, hasn’t looked like the same fighter since suffering a severe knee injury during his fight with Jones. His loss to Aleksandar Rakic, for instance, wasn’t totally damning, but he certainly didn’t appear to be as explosive as he once was.

Explosive is the word that probably sums up Walker best. Everything he throws is designed to knock his opponent out, and he’s more than willing to throw low-percentage shots like spinning backfists and flying knees in those attempts too.

The fact that none of his UFC wins have gone past the three-minute mark in the first round tells its own story. Essentially, Walker is remarkably dangerous in the early going of a fight and if an opponent allows him to start quickly, it’s probably curtains.

He has lost twice in the UFC, though, and one of those losses stands out more than the other. Nikita Krylov beat him largely on the ground in a war of attrition, but Corey Anderson turned his aggression against him and ended up knocking him out after dodging his early attacks.

So can Santos replicate that result? It’s possible. ‘Marreta’ hits remarkably hard and has been known to land heavy shots on the counter before. However, that was also before his serious knee injury. Since then, he’s looked slower than he once did and that could signal trouble against someone as quick and as explosive as Walker. The younger Brazilian will have to be careful not to leave himself too wide open. However, if he comes out quickly and looks for a quick finish, he may well be able to get it.

The Pick: Walker via first round TKO

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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