This weekend Johnny Walker will take on Magomed Ankalaev for the second time at UFC Vegas 84. In their first fight at UFC 294 in October, an Ankalaev illegal knee rendered Walker unable to continue. Now that the dust has settled and the controversy surrounding that bout has died down, it’s time to discuss Walker’s chances in the rematch and admire his arduous journey to this point.
Johnny Walker vs Magomed Ankalaev Take 2 at UFC Vegas 84
The ending to the first fight was undeniably strange. Walker ate the illegal knee from Ankalaev, but didn’t seem overly phased. Although this might have been the case, Walker was deemed unable to continue by the doctor. Pandemonium ensued as the Brazilian tried to get to Ankalaev after the fight was waved off.
Whether you believe it was the right call or not, a decision was made and here we are again. Walker has another chance to climb into the light heavyweight top 5 with a win over Ankalaev who currently sits at number three.
The eccentric 31-year-old has always had the ability to pull off the spectacular. In the first meeting, Ankalaev landed a left hand to the body of his opponent. Walker acted as if the shot was damaging, and Ankalaev pressed forward. Walker then threw a flying knee which partially landed. He can hit you with anything from anywhere, and Ankalaev will need to be mindful of this at UFC Vegas 84.
Keys to Victory
Since joining Straight Blast Gym, Johnny Walker is more measured. He will have to be in the rematch with Ankalaev, but this doesn’t mean he has to neglect his unpredictability. Walker’s reach advantage should be taken into account here. He may look to close the distance quickly with unorthodox strikes and be aggressive at times. This will put Ankalaev on the back foot and possibly make him more susceptible to Walker’s striking. To counter this, Ankalaev will need to pressure Walker, but the Brazilian will utilise his leg kicks in this situation.
Ankalaev is a good wrestler so we should expect to see some of this as he tries to stifle Walker’s attacks. He does not have a submission win on his record though, so if Walker can counteract this then we may have an interesting fight on our hands.
The Rise, Fall and Rise of Johnny Walker
Walker’s UFC rise was meteoric. In the space of four months he secured three knockout wins over Khalil Rountree, Justin Ledet and Misha Cirkunov. He quickly made a name for himself as a dangerous newcomer in the light heavyweight division with three performance of the night bonuses.
Just as quickly as he came up, Walker experienced a collapse in form. He went on to lose four out of his next five fights including a vicious knockout loss to Jamahal Hill. In between the four eye-opening losses he knocked out Ryan Spann in a wild first round affair, but an uninspired decision loss to Thiago Santos brought back the questions as to who Walker really was.
At UFC 279, Walker would answer those questions with a first round submission win over Ion Cuţelaba. The resurgence with SGB was on. Next he dispatched Paul Craig with another TKO win, then beat the ever present Anthony Smith via decision in May last year. That decision win wasn’t a thrilling performance, but Walker had put together an impressive three fight winning streak.
Walker has rounded out his game with his coaches at SBG. He may be more cautious and measured in his approach, but he hasn’t lost his edge. He is capable of winning a mature decision, but that threat of a stunning knockout is still there. Walker now has the opportunity to become a title challenger and put the light heavyweight division on notice once again.
Will Johnny Walker beat Magomed Ankalaev and challenge for a title in the near future? Let us know in the comments.
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images