clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC Vegas 38 card: Johnny Walker vs Thiago Santos full fight preview

UFC 235: Cirkunov v Walker Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight knockout artists Johnny Walker and Thiago Santos will throw down TONIGHT (Sat., Oct. 2, 2021) at UFC Vegas 38 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The main event this evening is likely to end up a competition of who can do the craziest thing without getting knocked out in the process. On one hand, we have Santos, the human hammer who rotates fight-to-fight from tactical range kicker to barbarian trying to tenderize his meat with a wooden club. Then, there’s Walker, who is equally as likely to land a flying knee as he is to be dazed by a glancing blow and once injured himself doing the worm following a knockout win.

Someone is almost certainly going to sleep in an unpleasant manner. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 41 On ESPN+

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Oct. 23, 2021, with a highly-anticipated match up in the Middleweight division, as No. 2-ranked contender Paulo Costa returns to action against No. 5-seeded Marvin Vettori. In UFC Vegas 41’s Lightweight co-main event, Grant Dawson looks to remain undefeated in UFC when he locks horns with Ricky Glenn

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Johnny Walker

Record: 18-5
Key Wins: Misha Cirkunov (UFC 235), Ryan Spann (UFC Vegas 11), Khalil Rountree Jr (UFC Fight Night 140), Justin Ledet (UFC Fight Night 144)
Key Losses: Corey Anderson (UFC 244), Nikita Krylov (UFC Fight Night 170)
Keys to Victory: Walker is an explosive athlete who does his best work at the kicking distance and inside the clinch. At his best, Walker confounds his opponent with funky movement and long kicks, forces them into uncomfortable positions, then lands one-shot stoppages.

Fifteen of his wins come via knockout.

In this bout, Walker should look to stalk Santos. He’s one of the rare men who has the kicking prowess to keep up with Santos at distance, but still, trading kicks with “Marreta” sounds awful. Instead, Walker should be looking to take advantage of a historical Santos’ weakness: defense along the fence.

In general, Walker does really great work with his feints. If he can cut off the Octagon and trap Santos, his opponent will already be a bit uncomfortable. Add in Walker’s unorthodox movement and feints, and there’s a real chance Santos’ freezes up for a moment or lunges into something obvious — just the opportunity Walker needs for a highlight-reel knockout.


Thiago Santos

Record: 21-9
Key Wins: Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 145), Jimi Manuwa (UFC 231), Anthony Smith (UFC Fight Night 125), Jack Hermansson (UFC Fight Night 119), Eryk Anders (UFC Fight Night 137)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 239), Glover Teixeira (UFC Vegas 13), Aleksandr Rakic (UFC 259), Gegard Mousasi (UFC 200), David Branch (UFC Fight Night 128)
Keys to Victory: Santos does not throw anything without power. Whether he’s trying to melt opponents with a singular kick, flurry forward with a wild swarm of punches, or whip check hooks like he’s flinging a frisbee, Santos is hunting for the knockout.

Like Walker, Santos has also stopped 15 foes via strikes.

Santos’ long-standing problem has been that he struggles to balance his aggression and technique. At times, Santos will hang back and remain too patient in an extremely close fight (like in his recent loss to Rakic). In other bouts (numerous), Santos has thrown away potential victories by going absolutely bonkers in pursuit of big shots.

While there’s always a chance it backfires, this seems like the match up to swing big.

It is becoming fairly clear that Walker is not the most durable fighter; he’s been at least wobbled in all of his UFC fights that have made it passed the two minute mark. Santos, meanwhile, carried a similar reputation at 185 lbs., but he’s been rock solid since jumping up to Light Heavyweight.

To explain the strategy simply, it does not appear that Walker could survive long in a wild brawl like the one Santos threw at Jimi Manuwa a few fights ago. Santos is better off immediately introducing chaos and trusting himself than trying to poke-and-prod at Walker, who again is quite good at lining up single shot finishes.


Bottom Line

One of these exciting Light Heavyweights is back in the mix.

There was a moment where Johnny Walker was the talk of the town, hyped up as the potential Jon Jones dethroner after his quick trio of knockout wins. Of course, Corey Anderson put a stop to all that, but people want Walker to succeed! He’s talented, fun, and still young. If the Top 10-ranked Brazilian can start a new win streak in impressive fashion here opposite a former title challenger, expect another high-profile fight next.

Santos, alternatively, is 35 years old and looking for the first victory since his knee exploded in the Jones bout. Again, his performances in his last two bouts haven’t been bad necessarily; small adjustments could have resulted in victory vs. both Teixeira and Rakic. Still, if he’s to remain a top-ranked contender and title threat — and seeing as he’s the last man to defeat the current champion, now is the time — Santos absolutely must return to the win column in this fight.

At UFC Vegas 38, Johnny Walker and Thiago Santos will go to war in the main event. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 38 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 38: “Santos vs. Walker” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.