- Date & Location: Saturday, October 2 @ UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Odds: Thiago Santos (-172) vs. Johnny Walker (+147) via BetOnline
- Prediction: Santos via knockout
A scrap between top-10 ranked UFC light heavyweights, Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker headlines UFC Vegas 38. The fight card kicks off a five event month of October for the UFC, which wraps up on October 30 with UFC 267, which is headlined by a title fight between light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and former title challenger Glover Teixeira.
Santos, who is the No. 5 ranked fighter in the UFC’s 205-pound division, is on a three-fight losing skid. Santos was on a 8-1 tear before Jon Jones defeated him via split decision in 2019. Serious knee surgery kept Santos out of action until November 2020, when Teixeira submitted him in the third-round of their scrap. Santos most recently dropped a decision to Aleksandar Rakic. That bout took place in March.
Walker opened his UFC run with a great deal of fanfare. Three straight first-round knockout wins had Walker riding high, but a TKO loss to Corey Anderson in the first stanza and a decision setback to Nikita Krylov cooled the talk of Walker as a future champion. Today, Walker is the No. 10 ranked fighter in the UFC light heavyweight division. He is coming off a knockout win over Ryan Spann in September of last year.
SANTOS vs. WALKER PREDICTION & PICK
In a perfect world, it would be easy to pick Santos to win this fight, but Santos is living in a world that is far from perfect. He’s 37. He’s lost three straight fights. There are enormous concerns about his legs and there is a worry about his mindset headed into this fight.
I don’t think age is as much of a concern for Santos as the damage he sustained in the Jon Jones fight. He left that bout with a torn left ACL, PCL, MCL, meniscus, and cracked tibia along with a partially torn right meniscus. That’s a lot of repair work for two legs and Santos has not looked the same since that surgery.
I think Santos might overextend himself in this fight and be a lot more reckless than he needs to be against someone like Walker. Walker does not have the technical skills of Santos, but he possesses power and if Santos leaves an opening, Walker, he of the 15 knockout wins, could turn off the lights for Santos.
Despite my reservations, I think Santos is just the better fighter and that he will be exploit the deficiencies in Walker’s game.
Prediction: Santos -172 at SportsBetting
BETTING VALUE WITH SANTOS
First, there is an obvious value in Walker as the underdog. He has a lot of power and the reckless style that could earn him a knockout finish. I don’t see him getting that finish, but if one feels strongly that Walker will pull the upset a bet on him to win and win by knockout has value.
Santos is a decent value at -175 to win, but a bettor could improve that value if they wanted to put something down on Santos to win by knockout and pick the over/under of the round of the finish. I think Santos will get the knockout because of his fight IQ and power combined with Walker’s willingness to leave his chin available to be hit. Of Walker’s three knockout losses, two have come in the first round and one in the second.
Pick: Santos -175 via knockout via Bookmaker.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
I would say that both of these men are powerful, but outside of that, which I would call a draw, Santos has all the technical advantages in this fight. He’s more skilled, he has a higher fight IQ and a higher upside as well. The one thing that Walker might have an advantage in is confidence, but against someone like Santos, that confidence could quickly become an issue, especially if he leaves his chin out in the open.
FIGHT STATS: SANTOS vs. WALKER
|Thiago Santos||Category||Johnny Walker|
|4.27||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||4.41|
|2.33||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||3.51|
|0.70||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.40|
|0.1||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||1.2|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
For the older Santos, this fight is a chance to get back in the win column and remain at the top of the light heavyweight rankings. If Santos loses to the younger and not as talented Walker, the likelihood of him earning another title shot is very slim.
For Walker, this matchup is a chance for him to show that his early days in the UFC were not a fluke. He can show that he has actual talent and not just power. A win over Santos will go a long way toward establishing Walker as a legit title threat.
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