Can Thiago Santos stop Johnny Walker from injecting new blood into UFC light heavyweight division?

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In the UFC’s light heavyweight division, 40 is the new 30.

The present-day champion, Jan Blachowicz, turns 39 many years old in February. No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira, who will obstacle Blachowicz for the title at UFC 267 on Oct. 30, is 41.

Blachowicz and Teixeira both have exhibited longevity and perseverance. Blachowicz was virtually slash from the UFC earlier in his vocation, right before successful the title a year ago. Teixeira was prepared off amid an up-and-down spell subsequent an unsuccessful title obstacle in 2014 — and here he is once again. That title matchup is a terrific tale for the division, but it also does make just one speculate: Is there any new blood coming?

Thiago Santos looks to transform all around a three-fight skid that commenced with a break up final decision loss in a title problem versus Jon Jones. He usually takes on Johnny Walker in Saturday’s main event.

UFC Struggle Night: Santos vs. Walker
Saturday, Oct. 2, UFC Apex, Las Vegas
• Main card: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+
• Prelims: 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+

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The answer to that query is … possibly. And Saturday’s UFC Fight Night key event among Thiago Santos (21-9) and Johnny Walker (18-5) will explain to us additional. Santos is 37, and has by now fought for the title after, a loss to Jon Jones. He’s an enjoyable fighter with, presumably, a lot of decades continue to in the tank.

But if we are speaking about opportunity new blood, that would be 29-yr-previous Walker. He signed with the UFC in 2018 at age 26. His athleticism and threat issue are enticing, but he is experienced hurdles by now. Soon after cruising to a 3- document with three very first-round stoppages, he endured challenging losses to Corey Anderson and Nikita Krylov.

Walker is element of a new wave of mild heavyweights you can see on the horizon, but will they make it to land? Dominick Reyes, 31, seemed like an individual who could get the division’s helm, but he’s now lost three straight. Magomed Ankalaev, 29, has seemed solid and has a huge examination coming next thirty day period in opposition to Volkan Oezdemir. Ryan Spann, 30, has assure, but he just lost to veteran Anthony Smith. As did 25-yr-aged Jimmy Crute. Jamahill Hill, 30, just endured his to start with defeat to veteran Paul Craig.

There is absolutely expertise in this 205-pound division. But will new names arise, or will the names by now at the best remain huddled there? Jiri Prochazka and Aleksandar Rakic are two thrilling contenders who have not nevertheless fought for the title, but other than that, the leading of the division is occupied by a ton of familiar figures.

Will this new wave come into its personal above the next calendar year, or will the outdated guard maintain it off? A person of these battles will participate in out on Saturday.

Saturday’s fights are on ESPN+, with the primary card setting up at 7 p.m. ET and prelims at 4 p.m.

Johnny Walker aims to stay a mounting contender in the UFC mild heavyweight division. Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Numbers that could make a big difference: 3 vs. 3:46

3- to -3: The quantity 3 figures prominently in Santos’ UFC occupation. Following moving from middleweight to gentle heavyweight in 2018, he rolled off three straight wins — all knockouts, together with 1 about now-winner Jan Blachowicz. That put him in a title battle with then-champ Jon Jones. Santos lost that fight and hurt both of those his knees, which place him out of motion for a year. Now Santos enters this fight on a three-fight shedding streak.

Short perform: Walker has the shortest regular fight time amid lively UFC fighters: 3 minutes, 46 seconds. He has 4 1st-round finishes, the 2nd most of any fighter throughout the time given that Walker’s 2018 debut.

Resources: ESPN Stats & Facts and UFC Stats

ESPN Stats & Details

And the winner is …

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“[Santos is] a excellent specialized striker. He has to retain it technical, not get way too energized if he does harm him or if he receives harm,” claimed Tyson Chartier, mentor of the New England Cartel. “[Walker] has to go initial and go challenging and consider to convert it into a small messier of a brawl. He will not likely defeat Santos in a straight up technological Muay Thai fight and he most likely has to try out to get him early.”

Check out how Chartier and other specialists crack down the struggle and forecast a winner.

And the very best to make is ….

Since his loss to Jones, we have noticed a distinctive Santos. It looks that due to his injuries, Santos, who when was an aggressive striker, has now turn out to be a very hesitant and lower volume counter striker. We saw this in his final outing towards Rakic, which resulted in his 3rd loss in a row.

In get for Santos to get again to his profitable approaches, he has to use his kicks and let his palms go although going ahead and dictating the pace. Even so, I just you should not see this occurring. I imagine the pace and athleticism of Walker could be too a great deal for Santos. For Walker, he has to remain on the outside and stay away from brawling with Santos. Walker also has the solution of getting this combat to the ground as Santos will not be a risk off of his back (and would also choose absent the electric power of Santos in that place).

Coming off a KO get above Ryan Spann, I believe Walker is obtaining Santos at the appropriate time in his career. Select: Walker at +135

— Ian Parker

How to enjoy the fights

Enjoy all of the fights on ESPN+. Down load the ESPN App

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You will find also FightCenter, which gives stay updates for each UFC card.

Saturday’s struggle card

ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET
Mild heavyweight: Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker
Middleweight: Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus
Welterweight: Alex Oliveira vs. Niko Price
Middleweight: Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Lightweight: Alexander Hernandez vs. Mike Breeden
ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET
Lightweight: Joe Solecki vs. Jared Gordon
Women’s flyweight: Antonina Shevchenko vs. Casey O’Neill
Women’s bantamweight: Bethe Correia vs. Karol Rosa
Lightweight: Jamie Mullarkey vs. Devonte Smith
Men’s featherweight: Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Gaetano Pirrello
Women’s bantamweight: Shanna Younger vs. Stephanie Egger
Men’s bantamweight: Alejandro Perez vs. Johnny Eduardo

4 much more items to know (from ESPN Stats & Information and facts)

1. Kevin Holland returns to the Octagon for the 3rd time in 2021, hunting for his 1st acquire of the year right after losses to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori. Saturday’s middleweight battle with Kyle Daukaus will be Holland’s eighth because the get started of 2020, additional than any other fighter in the UFC.

Monday as a result of Friday, host Pablo Torre brings you an inside of search at the most attention-grabbing tales at ESPN, as explained to by the top rated reporters and insiders on the world. Hear

2. Daukaus is one of two fighters on the card whose siblings won at UFC 266 a week back. Daukaus’ brother, Chris, knocked out rated heavyweight Shamil Abdurakhimov, and Antonina Shevchenko, sister of flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko, faces the only undefeated fighter on the card, 7- Casey O’Neill.

3. In what has the opportunity to be the struggle of the night, Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira and Niko Price satisfy at welterweight. Rate lands 5.29 considerable strikes for each moment, fourth optimum among active welterweights.

4. Krzysztof Jotko will be battling for the 15th time in the UFC when he faces Misha Cirkunov, who will be producing his middleweight debut just after competing at light heavyweight. Jotko has nine UFC wins, just one shy of signing up for Jan Blachowicz (11) and Joanna Jedrejczyk (10) as the only Polish fighters in UFC background with double-digit wins.

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim also contributed to this struggle preview.