Former light heavyweight championship challenger Thiago Santos will try to end his skid and slow the momentum of a rising contender when he faces Johnny Walker in the main event of UFC Fight Night 193 in Las Vegas on Saturday.
The two Brazilians have each faced adversity in recent fights, though they come in on very different career trajectories.
Santos, Walker both look to recapture momentum
Santos (21-9) has lost his last three fights, though that statistic is a bit misleading. His losing streak began in 2019 when he dropped a split decision to Jon Jones in a fight for the light heavyweight title. Glover Teixeira submitted Santos last November, and Aleksandar Rakic scored a unanimous decision victory over Santos in March.
So while Santos has indeed lost three straight, those come against one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, as well as the No. 1 and No. 3 contenders in the light heavyweight division. Still, the No. 5 ranked Santos knows he needs wins to get some momentum back.
“I’m so excited because I need to come back with a win and I need to improve, not for anyone but just for me,” Santos said, via UFC.com. “I need to show that I deserve to be in the top five. It can be a knockout or a submission, it doesn’t matter, I just want to finish this fight as early as possible.”
The 29-year-old Walker (18-5) won his last fight over Ryan Spann, though that came back in September 2020. Walker was heading towards light heavyweight stardom until UFC 244, when Corey Anderson knocked him out. That marked Walker’s first loss in the UFC, with his second coming four months later to Nikita Krylov.
Knockout artists likely to produce finish
Those defeats took some of the shine off of Walker’s fast UFC start, as he had previously won his first three fights in under two minutes each. But the win over Spann left Walker with the No. 10 contender ranking, and he believes a new approach will bring him success moving forward.
“I’ve learned how to be more professional and how to use all of my skills,” Walker told Yahoo Sports. “I am dedicated to my condition. I am now, finally, giving 100 percent of myself and it’s making a tremendous difference in everything I do.”
|Santos vs. Walker Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Thiago Santos: -158||Johnny Walker: +134|
|Method of Victory|
|Santos by KO/TKO: +105||Walker by KO/TKO: +195|
|Santos by Submission: +2200||Walker by Submission: +2000|
|Santos by Decision: +600||Walker by Decision: +900|
Despite the three-fight losing streak, Santos comes in as the -158 favorite over Walker (+134), according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Oddsmakers don’t expect this one to go the distance, with both Santos (+105) and Walker (+195) likely to finish the bout via knockout or TKO. Both men have specialized in finishing opponents: 15 of Walker’s 18 wins have come by knockout, as have 15 of Santos’ 21 career victories.
Santos says he expects one of those trends to continue – preferably, his.
“He’s a tough guy, but in this division, there are a lot of tough guys, and he won’t be different,” Santos said. “He can surprise and do different punches and kicks and spinning attacks, but I’m ready for that. I feel like I’m going to knock him out.”