The main event features Santos, the No. 8 ranked fighter in the MMA Fighting Global MMA Rankings, against the unranked Walker. Santos is trying to rebound from the longest skid of his career, a three-fight slide that began with a failed big for the title against then-champ Jon Jones and most recently resulted in a decision loss to Aleksandar Rakic. The Brazilian needs a win to stay relevant in the light heavyweight division, but looking to reboot his career is Walker, who recently rebounded from his own two-fight skid with a knockout win against Ryan Spann.
Once one of the UFC’s fastest-rising prospects, Walker is still looking for traction after an impressive three-fight knockout streak was stopped by current Bellator star and No. 9 ranked Corey Anderson.
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Round 1: Johnny Walker, per usual, putting on a show during his entrance to the octagon. Much more focused and intense approach for Thiago Santos, who has Yana Kunitskaya in his corner. They touch gloves and meet in the center. Both guys feeling each other out and Walker lands first strike of the fight with a leg kick. Santos throws a high kick, blocked by Walker. Spinning high kick comes up short by Walker as the fighters are content throwing a strike at a time through the first two minutes. Leg kick from Walker connects, Santos gets another high kick blocked. Santos feeling comfortable with his movement from the outside, and Walker landing the occasional leg kick. Not a ton of action here, but mostly out of respect for one another’s power. Santos lands a front kick to the chest of Walker with 35 seconds to go. Santos starting to open up a little bit more, but the horn sounds after a feeling out process type of round.
MMAFighting scores it 10-9 for Walker
Round 2: Walker’s corner seems confident he had done enough in the first. Walker begins with another hard leg kick. After a takedown attempt from Santos, Walker gets back up and they start trading big shots. Santos lands a thumping leg kick and has a body kick nearly caught. Head kick misses from Santos, leg kick from Walker and those seem to be adding up as Santos is switching stances quite a bit. Halfway through the round and both men throw hard shots, Walker partially grazes with his before landing another hard leg kick. Body kick drills Walker, followed by a short left hook and another hard kick to the stomach of Walker. Santos lands a big left hand as well before they trade leg kicks. Final minute of the round and Walker has a head kick blocked, Santos fires back with an outside leg kick, checked by Walker. They circle away, Walker shuffles backwards and the horn sounds.
MMAFighting scores it 10-9 for Santos, 19-19 overall
Round 3: The Raiders of the NFL are in the building as the third round begins. Santos pushing forward a bit more but still not a ton of volume from either side. Walker constantly feinting, Santos lands a high kick. Leg kick from Walker and Santos eats a right hand as well. Hard left hand from Santos gets Walker’s attention, body kick lands 30 seconds later. Leg kick from Santos, left hand from Walker connects with two minutes to go. Santos now starting to be the more aggressive leg kicker in this fight. Santos just misses a left hand, but he lands a hard body kick to follow it up. Final 35 seconds of the third and Walker is certainly more defensive minded as he partially blocks a high kick. Short right from Walker ends the round.
MMAFighting scores it 10-9 for Santos, 29-28 Santos overall
Round 4: John Kavanagh telling Walker to outpoint Santos. We’ll see how that works. Santos lands another hard body kick, Walker tries to answer with a right hand. Nice movement from Walker leads to a kick to the chest of Santos, who throws a jumping knee that comes up short. They collide legs and Walker wings a right hand that misses. Oblique kick partially lands from Walker. Not a ton of action in this fourth, but Walker comes up with a body kick that lands and is caught, but lands a hard right hand behind it. Leg kick from Walker, counter left hook from Santos scores as we have hit the final minute of the round. Santos lands a combination, Walker checks a leg kick and follows up with a hard kick to the ribs of Santos. Body kicks land from both fighters to end the round.
MMAFighting scores it 10-9 for Walker, 38-38 overall
Round 5: Kavanagh believes Walker is winning, which has seemingly surprised absolutely everybody. Final round has begun with both fighters still somewhat tentative. Santos lands a right kick, Santos lands a left, clean right hook counter from Walker. Huge left hand lands from Santos — by far the biggest strike of the fight — and Walker ate it like a champion. Walker needs to answer and tries with a left hand. Halfway through the final round and Walker needs try and get himself a significant moment or he’s going to lose this fight more than likely, but he’s content moving and feinting, even occasionally spinning. Final minute and Walker lands a left, Santos buries a foot into the midsection. Santos switches stances and lands a big body kick. Final 15 seconds and Walker misses with a spin kick, Santos short on a head kick and this fight ends. Could go either way, honestly, but leaning Santos.
MMAFighting scores the round 10-9 and the fight 48-47 for Santos
OFFICIAL RESULT: Thiago Santos def. Johnny Walker via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)