UFC Vegas 38 Main Card Predictions: Santos vs. Walker

The UFC had a massive showing last Saturday, with UFC 266, featuring two title fights and then the triumphant return of Stockton’s favorite son Nick Diaz.

This weekend, we kick off eight straight weeks of UFC action, with this card going down from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. In the main event, Light Heavyweight knockout artists collide as former title challenger Thiago Santos meets the electrifying Johnny Walker. In the co-main, fan favorite Kevin Holland returns to action opposite Kyle Daukaus.

Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker (LHW)

Image result for thiago santos jan błachowicz

In the infamous words of Joe Rogan, “You don’t get a hammer tattooed on your chest if you’re not serious”. Thiago Santos (21-9, 13-8 UFC) is a psychopath inside the cage. “Marreta”, which means sledgehammer, has power in everything he throws and comes in throwing hot from the very first bell. Santos started MMA with capoeira training, a Brazilian dance-fighting style that is populated by spinning kicks and the like. Very entertaining stuff. Santos uses those exact types of kicks to hammer (heh heh) home ruthless power shots and uses all sorts of kicks just as much as punches in order to get the job done. Though he is off a rough losing skid, Santos has competed against the best of the best, including scoring a knockout win over current champion Jan Blachowicz.

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After surging into the UFC with three straight knockout wins in a combined two minutes and 48 seconds of fight time, Johnny Walker (18-5, 4-2) had his hype train derailed by defeats to Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov. He got back on track in his last outing opposite Ryan Spann, where he came back from a knockdown to score a first round KO while defending a takedown. Walker is a Muay Thai striker who uses his gigantic 6’6″ frame to spike power shots at his opponents with explosiveness rarely seen in the cage. This is all set up with constant flurries of feints and quick, dramatic movement. All but two of Walker’s finishes have come inside the first round, usually because his fast twitch movements are not sustainable over the duration of fifteen minutes. Walker is a jiu black belt, which you would not guess by the paltry two subs on his record, but he primarily uses that grappling experience to limit the damage absorbed and keep the fight on the feet.

This is a furious striking battle that I honestly don’t see going out of the first round, either way. Walker blitzes early, with Santos also often an aggressor. The high amplitude striking of Walker draws eyes, but his defensive lapses have seen him compromised a number of times, even in his win over Spann. The punching power of Santos is going to be a serious problem for Walker if he cannot put him out with an early shot, as Santos has the counter-striking ability and durability to come away successful in any pocket exchanges. With that being said, this battle is going to be non-stop action on the feet in all likelihood, and Walker has more than a puncher’s chance with his frame and one-shot power. All said, I expect Santos to withstand an early rush and find success with his counter hooks, finishing Walker early.

My Pick: Thiago Santos via Knockout

Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus (MW)

Kevin Holland (21-7, 8-4 UFC) igot his first main event showing opposite Derek Brunson after a stellar run in 2020 that saw him capture five straight wins. Holland scored four straight wins in the calendar year, most recently scoring a knockout win over Jacare Souza from his back to earn himself the title of Breakout Fighter of the Year. He is since off two losses to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori, where he was overwhelmed on the mat in both outings. “Trailblazer” has slick Kung Fu based striking, using tight combinations as well as accuracy and power to finish ten of his opponents by knockout, while also using defensive submissions to finish the fight or keep it standing. He proved his skill as a BJJ artist in that match with GM3 by going toe-to-toe with the black belt all the way to a victorious decision, although his mediocre defensive wrestling and ability to be controlled remain a clear weakness.

Kyle Daukaus (10-2, 1-2 UFC) made his UFC debut through a late replacement showing, and though he dropped a decision to Brendan Allen, he got on the right track over Dustin Stolzfus. His next outing opposite fellow prospect Phil Hawes was a fun back-and-forth affair, though Daukaus ultimately lost the decision. He is a grappler by trade, with heavy top control and a penchant for quick submissions. Daukaus has surprisingly crisp striking for a grappler, using a lot of Muay Thai kicks and pressure, as he has no fear of the takedown. He’s a straight killer on the mat, throwing D’Arce chokes and very uncommon submissions out of nowhere. His striking defense is his biggest hole right now, but his 6’3 height helps him gain some range on most of his opposition to fire off his kicks.

While Holland has a clear striking advantage in this bout, his weaknesses have been made more than clear by now. While he has adept jiu-jitsu skills and is a clear threat off the bat (just look at Jacare). However, his takedown defense is a serious concern, and unless he has immune self improved in that department, Daukaus is just too much to handle on the mat. Not only is he capable of snatching up a D’arce choke from pretty much anywhere, but he also controls position well, which he can definitely utilize opposite Holland. That’s not to mention he holds a positive strike differential, and though I expect him to find success on the feet, I see Daukaus finding a submission from top position.

My Pick: Kyle Daukaus via Submission

Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveira (WW)

My Pick: Niko Price via Knockout

Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko (MW)

My Pick: Misha Cirkunov via Submission

Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson (BW)

My Pick: Aspen Ladd via Decision

Alexander Hernandez vs. Mike Breeden (LW)

My Pick: Alexander Hernandez via Decision

The card has six preliminary fight coming before the main card, all going down this Saturday!

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