Thiago Santos got a much needed win in the UFC Vegas 38 main event, although it probably wasn’t the statement he hoped to make.
Over the course of five rounds, Santos managed to land the better strikes against Johnny Walker, who spent the majority of the fight setting up feints but not actually unleashing any combinations. While the shots landed were few and far between, Santos did connect with a few hard kicks to the body and legs as well as the only true power punches, which helped him secure the victory.
When the fight was over, the judges all scored it 48-47 for Santos, who gets back in the win column after losing his last three bouts in a row.
“I’m fighting every single day to be here. I will not stop,” Santos said afterwards. “Was super hard to train for him. He’s unpredictable. I trained so hard. I understand, I try to do my best. I try to knock him out. He’s big but he moves fast.”
Santos and Walker were wary to overcommit to any strikes knowing that any error could result in a highlight reel knockout as both possess serious fight ending power. With time running out in the opening round, Santos got a little more aggressive but neither fighter was really willing to engage much.
The patience shown from Walker with leg kicks from the outside and staying out of range was frustrating Santos, who was hesitant to really let his hands go. Santos finally found an opening with a pair of blistering kicks to the body that crashed against Walker’s midsection with a sickening thud reverberating through the UFC APEX.
While Walker was still peppering away from the outside with some quick leg kicks and a counter right that did manage to find a home, Santos was still more offensive minded. Taking the center of the octagon, Santos was able to unleash his power shots without getting hit with much of anything in return.
The majority of the exchanges were trading one shot at a time with Walker throwing a kick and Santos countering with a punch but no combinations coming from either fighter. Walker did manage to get a little more active as time ticked away into the fourth round but overall the exchanges were still even.
A close fight heading into the final five minutes, Santos connected with arguably the best strike of the fight after he unleashed a monstrous counter left hand that clobbered Walker as stepped into the punch at the same time. While Walker was able to eat the shot and stay out of trouble, the impact from the punch was undeniable.
Not at lot happened beyond that punch in the fifth round but Santos was still effective enough to put himself in a position to earn the victory.
After falling in three consecutive fights, Santos needed a win more than anything else and now it appears he’ll head into contract negotiations with the UFC as he seeks to re-up with the promotion.
“Hey Dana [White], Mick [Maynard], let’s renew my contract,” Santos said. “It’s my last fight and give me a little bit more money please.”
While Santos will celebrate his win, Walker will go home with a third loss in his past four fights as the promising light heavyweight prospect continues to look for that signature performance to move him ahead in the division.