clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ion Cutelaba vs. Johnny Walker full fight preview | UFC 279

TUF Finale Weigh-in Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight sluggers Ion Cutelaba and Johnny Walker will throw down this weekend (Sat., Sept. 10, 2022) at UFC 279 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Both of these men have long prioritized offense and action over defense, and their recent outcomes have been mixed as a result. Cutelaba enters this match up as the unranked man, 1-1-1 in his previous three contests. “The Hulk” is clearly talented, but we’ve been speculating about whether or not the 28-year-old puncher can put it all together now for, what, five years? Cutelaba has just never been able to build a true win streak inside the Octagon. Walker, conversely, started very hot and climbed into the Top 15 quickly. Once there, however, opposition started touching his chin, and things have largely fallen apart. Though still ranked at No. 13, Walker has lost four of his last five bouts and is in major need of a win here.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

LIVE! Watch UFC 298 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

WORLD FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Sat., Feb. 17, 2024, for the first time in more than two years with its latest pay-per-view (PPV) show. In the ESPN+-streamed PPV main event, reigning Featherweight roost-ruler, Alexander Volkanovski, will defend his 145-pound strap against undefeated surging Spanish contender, Ilia Topuria. In addition, former Middleweight kingpin, Robert Whittaker, will finally square off with mercurial mauler, Paulo Costa, in UFC 298’s co-feature. UFC 298 will also feature the returns of Ian Garry, Geoff Neal, Henry Cejudo, Merab Dvalishvili and so much more!

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

Ion Cutelaba

Record: 16-7-1 (1)
Key Wins: Khalil Rountree Jr (UFC Fight Night 160), Devin Clark (UFC Vegas 37), Henrique da Silva (UFC Fight Night 110), Gadzhimurad Antigulov (UFC 217)
Key Losses: Magomed Ankalaev (UFC 254, UFC Fight Night 169), Ryan Spann (UFC Vegas 54), Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 150), Misha Cirkunov (UFC Fight Night 89)
Keys to Victory: Cutelaba can never seem to fully decide if he’d like to be a brawler or wrestler. As it stands, he’ll switch strategies almost at random, and his gas tank can be an issue in either case. Fortunately, Cutelaba hits hard enough that conditioning is sometimes a non-issue.

This feels like a very reasonable, if dangerous, match up for Cutelaba. Walker has consistently struggled with forward pressure and takedowns, and Cutelaba absolutely has the skill and aggression to make that happen. Of course, walking into a flying knee would derail that plan, so keeping his hands up while pressuring would be wise.

Cutelaba tends to start fast, and that works in this match up. If he forces Walker to wrestle hard right away, Walker’s early explosiveness will be wasted on something other than punching “The Hulk” in the face. Plus, if both men are a bit tired, I like Cutelaba’s chances of catching Walker’s chin with a big swing.

Johnny Walker

Record: 18-7
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: Jamahal Hill (UFC Vegas 48), Corey Anderson (UFC 244), Nikita Krylov (UFC Fight Night 170), Thiago Santos (UFC Vegas 38)
Keys to Victory: Walker genuinely has some real skill and incredible athleticism. The problem is that he’s not the best at winning minutes of fights, relying on singular big moments to end the bout. In addition, his defense/durability simply isn’t the best — perhaps a result of his intense weight cut?

In this match up, range is really key for Walker. Both men hit hard and can be hurt, so in the pocket, it’s a crapshoot at best for the Brazilian. At worst, he may even be at a disadvantage in a one-for-one punch exchange.

Fortunately, Cutelaba is a puncher and wrestler with no considerable distance game outside of flurrying forward. Walker’s recent strategy has been to move more and make the most of his kicking game, which sounds like a good fit against Cutelaba. However, Walker still has to commit to throwing hard punches, otherwise Cutelaba will be able to bully his way forward after kicks.

It’s a fine line to walk.

Bottom Line

Both men are in rather dire need of a victory.

Cutelaba is still young. He has the wrestling prowess and physical talent to go far at 205 pounds! The problem still remains: Cutelaba hasn’t figured out how to properly balance his aggression, gas tank, wrestling, and striking. If he can storm out of the gates and stop Walker, I don’t know that it proves any real development, but he at least breaks into the rankings!

If not, Cutelaba remains stuck on the outside looking in.

Walker cannot afford another loss, which really could see him released. Three losses in a row and five in six fights just isn’t a great look, even when a fighter is well-liked and exciting. Walker has to defend his spot in the rankings and position on the roster alike this weekend, and victory could at least prove that Walker still has something to offer inside the Octagon.

At UFC 279, Ion Cutelaba and Johnny Walker will open the main card. Which man will earn the victory?

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 279 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 279: “Khamzat vs. Diaz” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania