Tonight’s UFC main event is a light heavyweight bout between Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker. The exciting light heavyweight pair will battle in a five-round contest at the top of the UFC Fight Night 193 fight card.
Santos is on a three-fight losing streak and hasn’t won a fight since February 2019 when he defeated current champion Jan Blachowcicz by third-round TKO. Santos has most recently been defeated by Aleksander Rakic, Glover Teixeira, and Jon Jones.
Walker returned to form with a first-round knockout win against Ryan Spann in September last year. That victory helped break his streak of two defeats at the hands of Nikita Krylov and Corey Anderson.
Regardless of the recent performances, the battle between Santos and Walker is sure to be an exciting one for as long as it lasts. The Santos vs. Walker main event and all UFC Fight Night 193 fights will stream on ESPN+ tonight.
Santos vs. Walker betting odds
Santos vs. Walker predictions
Johnny Walker vs. Thiago Santos is a dangerous fight for both men. Santos will be the smaller, less rangy man in the octagon but he makes up for it in skill and experience, having already fought for the belt and among the highest levels of the division. While Johnny Walker has also fought tough competition, Santos is a big step up.
Santos has two very different looks about his game, sometimes he will come out aggressive, and as an explosive and powerful fighter this more than often pays off. He has a wide range of potential attacks, from powerful forward pressing boxing to spinning wheel kicks and everything in between, as well as a Jiu Jitsu black belt to top it off. This blitzing aggressive style has led to some of his most memorable KO’s, however, as a fighter formerly at 185lbs, running head-on into Walker might be a bit like running into a brick wall at points if he’s not careful.
The other look we have seen from Santos is the patient game, against current champ Jan Blachowicz, Santos stayed composed, got ahead on points, and forced Blachowicz to take risks in the third round, and he ended up running into Santos shot. This is a potential game plan for Santos and probably the smarter one against Walker. However, what we have seen since getting his knees blown out in the Jon Jones fight, is Santos sitting back and playing it too tentative, resulting in a lackluster loss to Rakic earlier this year. On the flip side, he came out aggressive against Glover Texiera before that and found himself on his back in the second round, so where Santos’ mind is at coming into this fight with either game plan remains to be seen.
Technically, he has very solid striking – he likes to fight orthodox when he is primarily boxing, and he will often lunge forward, stepping across the reverse straight and building on that combo. However he does favor the left leg, so watch for him to switch to southpaw and find the body kick, a good idea against Walker who utilizes upper body movement as a primary means of defense.
Walker is much wilder than Santos, you will often see him burst into range with a flurry, banking on his ability to win out in the chaos. What’s difficult about Walker is that he carries finishing ability in the most awkward of positions, he has been out grappled recently against Nikita Krylov, but if Santos wants to pursue that approach he risks elbows and knees in the clinch as he looks for a takedown. Walker will have a big reach advantage in this match-up, so if he can gain respect from Santos early, it’s very possible he can keep him on the end of his punches, that is assuming that Walker can stay disciplined enough to keep it there.
However, I think that Johnny Walker’s habit of blasting into range over such a great distance may actually play to Santos’ favor, if Santos can time his entry as Walker is moving in he can largely negate the reach factor, and we’ve already seen Santos’ ability to power counter when his opponents get overzealous.
Prediction: Thiago Santos by KO
Santos vs. Walker could end at any moment; so, when you tune in, don’t blink. Thiago “Marreta” Santos and Johnny Walker each have 15 career knockouts. Additionally, each man has been knocked out three times as well. These two light heavyweights take a kill or be killed approach in the octagon; but, only one man can come out victorious.
Santos is winless in his last 3 fights; but, that includes the infamous split decision loss to Jon Jones, a mauling of Teixeira before Teixeira rallied, and a solid fight against Rakic. Santos is often seen as a 205 version of a typical heavyweight: big, powerful, and lacking cardio. Those are true but he has some subtle aspects to his game as well. Despite his worsening gas tank, Santos averages 4.3 significant strikes per minute and absorbs only 2.3. This indicates he can keep a respectable pace on offense while protecting himself in the process. Further, Santos isn’t just a head-hunting power puncher, he mixes shots to the body and legs of his opponent as well. Against Rakic, Santos landed more significant shots to the body than the head. Lastly, while criticizing his cardio is historically fair, in his last fight, he landed nearly twice as many strikes in round 3 compared to any other round. Santos is far from flawless, his gaps have been documented and exposed; but, he has shown some improvement recently while still keeping that devastating power.
Walker is 1-2 in his last 3 fights but against less pedigreed competition. He was finished by Corey Anderson, lost a decision to Krylov, and responded with a quick finish of Spann in 2020. Walker performed similarly in these three fights as compared to his career; he came out fast and aggressive early, and either got the finish or lost. In fact, Walker has only seen round 3 in a victory twice in his career. To be fair though, most of the time, he has gotten the finish with his thundering power before round 3 started. The concerning statistic though is that if round 2 gets deep or round 3 starts, Walker’s output significantly drops. Because he attacks so aggressively and with such ferocious power early, the game plan to beat him is to withstand the early rush and let Walker punch himself out of the fight. Though, with his power and speed, that is easier said than done.
With both fighters equally powerful and athletic, this fight really might come down to who can eat a shot better than the other. Either man could get the finish. However, what I’ve seen from Santos lately has me picking him. He lost to Teixeira because of Teixeira’s insane chin. Then lost to Rakic because of a gap in technique. But, when Santos faces someone he can knockout and who is willing to stand and bang, he often wins. Walker will be there to throw and does not have the chin necessary for a rally.
Prediction: Santos by TKO/KO
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.