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MMA Preview: Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1) vs Johnny Walker (27-7-1)

The first UFC event of 2024 will be headlined by the second fight between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker

It’s no surprise the UFC decided to start the year with a fight between Magomed Ankalaev and Johhny Walker, two elite Light Heavyweights. Ankalaev is a former title challenger, while Johnny Walker is hoping to become one with a win on Saturday, January 13, 2024. Will he make this dream come true? Let’s find out!

In his most recent fight, the Dagestan-based fighter landed an accidental illegal knee that made Walker unable to continue fighting. It happened in the first round, and the fight was declared a no-contest.

Roughly a year before, Ankalaev fought Jan Blachowicz in a battle for the UFC Light Heavyweight title, but that bout too didn’t get a winner. After five rounds of hardcore fighting, the fight was declared a split draw, with Ankalaev getting media votes (23 out of 25).

The last time Ankalaev won a fight was in the summer of 2022 when we saw him beat Anthony Smith by a technical knockout. KO/TKO is his favorite method of finishing fights, while submissions aren’t his expertise.

Rather strangely for a fighter from Dagestan, Ankalaev isn’t much of a wrestler/grappler. He’s never won a fight by submission and his only career loss happened by this method. Is this something Johnny Walker can take advantage of?

This is a fight that can lift Johnny Walker’s career to a whole new level. He’s 27-1-1 overall with a 7-4-1 record since joining the UFC. He’s already fought many elite opponents, including Jamaal Hill and Nikita Krylov who beat him, but also Paul Craig and Anthony Smith, whom he defeated.

Johnny Walker is a well-rounded fighter whose No. 1 weapon is striking. When it comes to his ground game, he’s better than Ankalaev, but there’s a big question mark over whether he can take the fight to the floor.

The Brazilian has a 100% takedown success rate in the UFC, but the thing is that he’s only gone for a TD twice in his 12 fights in this promotion. Further, Ankalaev is almost exclusively using his wrestling skills for defense, which explains why his TD defense is 86%.

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