Originally published at UFC Fight Night: Thiago Santos defeats Johnny Walker by unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night Report: Thiago Santos defeats Johnny Walker by unanimous decision
By: Eric Marcotte
The UFC returned on Saturday evening with a Fight Night event from the Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card was headlined by a bout between two of the most entertaining light heavyweight fighters on the roster, Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker. Santos, who unsuccessfully challenged for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in 2019, has had a rough return since recovering from his numerous knee injuries, losing his last two fights. Regardless of his recent losses, Santos remains a significant threat to any light heavyweight, and with a knockout win over the division’s current champion, Jan Błachowicz, on his record, it would not take much for Santos to return to title contention. Johnny Walker on the other hand had just broken a recent string of losses with a first-round knockout victory over Ryan Spann. Walker has certainly had moments in which he has looked like a dangerous fighter at 205lbs, but Santos marked the toughest test of his career thus far, and the result of this fight could very well be telling in regards to Walker’s ceiling. In the co-main event, Kevin Holland faced Kyle Daukaus as Holland looked to rebound from his recent high-profile losses.
The commentary team for this card consisted of Brendan Fitzgerald and Daniel Cormier. Performance of the Night bonuses went out to Alejandro Perez, Douglas Silva de Andrade, Jamie Mullarkey, and Casey O’Neill.
*Alejandro Perez def. Johnny Eduardo by armbar at 4:13 of Round 2
*Stephanie Egger def. Shanna Young by TKO at 2:22 of Round 2
*Douglas Silva de Andrade def. Gaetano Pirrello by KO at 2:04 of Round 1
*Jamie Mullarkey def. Devonte Smith by TKO at 2:51 of Round 2
*Karol Rosa def. Bethe Correia by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
*Casey O’Neill def. Antonina Shevchenko by TKO at 4:47 of Round 2
*Jared Gordon def. Joe Solecki by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Alexander Hernandez def. Mike Breeden by KO at 1:20 of Round 1
*Krzysztof Jotko def. Misha Cirkunov by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Niko Price def. Alex Oliveira by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus results in a no contest due to accidental headbutt at 3:43 of Round 1
*Thiago Santos def. Johnny Walker by unanimous decision (48-47 all)
ALEJANDRO PEREZ (21-8-1, 136) VS JOHNNY EDUARDO (28-12, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Eduardo was very active with his leg kicks early. Perez dug into the body but was falling behind on the scorecards due to his lack of activity. He did catch Eduardo with a pair of left hooks, however, and I would say that those shots were the most impactful ones of this opening round. It was a close five minutes, but I gave the slightest of edges to Perez, mainly for those left hooks.
Eduardo continued to attack the lead leg of Perez in round two, although it is worth noting that Perez was checking a decent amount of them. Eduardo caught a knee and dragged Perez to the ground, where he began to work from the guard of Perez. He was unable to do much from the position, and Perez began swinging after making it back to his feet. Perez secured a takedown of his own, and did some excellent work in maintaining a dominant position throughout a series of scrambles. Perez ended up locking in this very impressive straight armbar, and Eduardo was forced to submit.
WINNER: Alejandro Perez by armbar at 4:13 of Round 2
I can’t recall many instances of an armbar being applied quite like this in an MMA fight, so I would definitely recommend going back to look at this finish if you’re a fan of the grappling aspects of the sport. This was Perez’s first bout since July of 2019, and while he got off to a bit of a slow start, the finish will be all that’s remembered, and this was certainly an impressive finish to cap off his octagon return. Perez’s UFC record now stands at 8-3-1.
STEPHANIE EGGER (5-2, 135) VS SHANNA YOUNG (7-3, 134.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Young was the aggressor early in this fight, but that aggression allowed Egger to secure a fairly easy takedown. Young worked for a heel hook, and while she didn’t secure the submission, she prevented Egger from advancing for some time. Egger was eventually able to sort of stack Young before moving into half guard, and she landed a great deal of ground and pound before the round ended. 10-9 Egger.
Egger took Young back to the ground, in a quicker fashion this time. She worked her way into the same position as the first round. Egger postured up and landed a hard elbow, and I suppose referee Mark Smith didn’t like what he was seeing from Young, because he jumped in and stopped the fight.
WINNER: Stephanie Egger by TKO at 2:22 of Round 2
I really wasn’t sure about the stoppage here. I don’t want to take too much away from Mark Smith here, because he very well could have seen or heard something I didn’t hear, but all I could think of watching this finish was that a men’s fight would never be stopped at this same moment. Regardless, that is a discussion that warrants far more than a sentence in this short recap. Egger was clearly the stronger grappler and got the job done in her comfort zone here. Egger is now 1-1 in the UFC.
DOUGLAS SILVA DE ANDRADE (26-4, 1 NC, 135) VS GAETANO PIRRELLO (15-6-1, 134.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Silva de Andrade landed a strong left hook as Pirrello went for a head kick, and Pirrello’s entire body practically flew into the air, before he fell to the ground hard, and Silva de Andrade landed a pair of follow up shots leading to the fight’s stoppage.
WINNER: Douglas Silva de Andrade by KO at 2:04 of Round 1
This was definitely a highlight-reel knockout for Douglas Silva de Andrade, who landed that left hook at just the perfect moment to finish this fight early. Despite being a fighter with a ton of knockouts on his record, he hasn’t been able to get many finishes nine fights into his UFC run, and this was exactly the type of finish that he needed to get his name out there. Silva de Andrade is now 5-4 in the UFC, and that’s a record that is a bit deceptive because he has been in there with some very high-level fighters.
DEVONTE SMITH (11-2, 155.5) VS JAMIE MULLARKEY (13-4, 155.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Both men found early success on the feet, but it was Smith who was landing the more impactful strikes. His hands had some serious power behind them, and there were a couple of moments early where Mullarkey appeared to be wobbled a bit from their impact. Smith caught Mullarkey with a knee up the middle, as well as a head kick moments later. Mullarkey had his moments, but I scored the opening round for Devonte Smith.
Mullarkey’s best weapons throughout round one were his leg kicks, and he got right back to it in round two. He began to apply intense pressure while attacking the body, resulting in Smith shelling up against the cage. A body shot from Mullarkey dropped Smith, and he finished things with a number of ground and pound strikes.
WINNER: Jamie Mullarkey by TKO at 2:51 of Round 2
It was a rough opening round for Jamie Mullarkey, but he bounced back strong in round two. Those legs kick’s he landed throughout the first round had piled up by round two, and when he realized that, he began to move forward with an intense level of aggression. The body shots he landed throughout the final minute of the fight were brutal, and it wasn’t shocking when one finally crumbled Smith. Mullarkey is now 2-2 in the UFC.
BETHE CORREIA (11-5-1, 138.5) VS KAROL ROSA (14-3, 135.5) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Correia missed weight by 2.5lbs and was fined 20% of her purse. She was very emotional making her way out to the cage for her final fight.
Rosa attacked the body with knees to begin the fight. Neither fighter was terribly active, but Rosa was definitely landing the better shots early while avoiding the vast majority of Correia’s offense. Correia defended a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Rosa.
Rosa continued to control the fight on the feet in the second round. She was very accurate with her shots and was able to continuously put Correia on the backfoot. Her knees continued to be very effective, tiring Correia out quickly. By the end of the round, Correia was in serious trouble, but she was able to wrap Rosa up and make it to the end of the round. 20-18 Rosa.
The third round was more of the same. Rosa was just several steps ahead on the feet, and Correia really had nothing to offer her offensively. Rosa was not as close to finishing Correia here as she was in round two, but it was just as one-sided of a round, and there was no question who won this fight when it ultimately went the distance. 30-27 all.
WINNER: Karol Rosa by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
This fight was not competitive in the slightest. Rosa was several steps ahead from the opening round onwards, and it felt as though she could have gotten the finish if she ever really stepped on the gas pedal so to speak. Rosa is now 4-0 in the UFC, with two of those wins coming against opponents who missed weight. Bethe Correia announced that this fight would be her last, and was emotional before and after the fight, reflecting on her career. Her biggest moment was undoubtedly headlining UFC 190 in Brazil, where she unsuccessfully challenged Ronda Rousey for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. She retires with a professional record of 11-6-1.
ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO (9-3, 125.5) VS CASEY O’NEILL (7-0, 125) – FLYWEIGHT
Shevchenko was issued a warning for outstretched fingers almost immediately. A somewhat strange takedown attempt resulted in Shevchenko taking side control, and she trapped an arm in the crucifix, landing a number of right hands before O’Neill made it back to her feet. Shevchenko landed several knees to the body in the clinch. O’Neill proceeded to secure a much better takedown, smothering Shevchenko near the cage. Shevchenko was able to limit the damage and create some space, returning to her feet before the end of the round. 10-9 Shevchenko on my scorecard, although you could easily give it to O’Neill as well.
The second round began fairly evenly on the feet, and O’Neill took Shevchenko back down to pull ahead in the round. She moved into top mount, where she landed numerous ground and pound strikes, forcing Shevchenko to cover up. O’Neill just kept pouring it on, and with Shevchenko unable to escape, the fight was eventually stopped.
WINNER: Casey O’Neill by TKO at 4:47 of Round 2
While Shevchenko had a moment of success on the ground early, O’Neill dominated the grappling later in the bout, and she did a ton of damage throughout the finishing sequence. O’Neill has been very impressive three fights into her UFC career, finishing each of those wins. She is going to be fast-tracked to the top at 125lbs, so I don’t think she’ll be looking at any more unranked fighters in her future. A fight against any of the fighters ranked 10-15 at flyweight would be a logical next step for her, in my opinion.
JOE SOLECKI (11-2, 155.5) VS JARED GORDON (17-4, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Solecki wasted little time in taking Gordon to the ground. He was able to take the back of Gordon, and he spent the next couple minutes hunting for a rear-naked choke to no success. Gordon was able to take top control with thirty seconds remaining in the round, following a failed guillotine attempt from Solecki. 10-9 Solecki.
Solecki immediately took Gordon back down, but couldn’t keep him there this time, as they began to wrestle against the cage. He was eventually successful, but it was Gordon who quickly turned into top position, as Gordon began to work from Solecki’s guard. Solecki landed a shot off of his back that cut Gordon open, but I didn’t think that was enough to earn him the round, 19-19.
The third round began very differently from the first two rounds, with the fighters’ exchanging blows on the feet. After a fairly even striking match, Gordon shot for a takedown to no success. There seemed to be an accidental clash of heads that really caused Gordon to start leaking, but regardless, I thought he took this round, largely based on his activity. 29-28 Gordon.
WINNER: Jared Gordon by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
The fight was very competitive throughout each round, but I did think that it was a clear 29-28 for Gordon, and was surprised by the judge that saw it for Solecki. With this win, Gordon has won his last three bouts, the longest win streak of his UFC career thus far. In his post-fight interview, Gordon called out Paddy Pimblett.
ALEXANDER HERNANDEZ (12-4, 154.5) VS MIKE BREEDEN (10-3, 158.5) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Breeden missed weight by 2.5lbs and was fined 20% of his purse.
The fight began at a frantic pace on the feet, and it was Hernandez who landed a right hand that wobbled Breeden. Hernandez gave Breeden no room to recover, connecting with a wild overhand right that knocked Breeden out cold.
WINNER: Alexander Hernandez by KO at 1:20 of Round 1
You can never be sure what Alexander Hernandez you’re going to get, but we got the best version of him here tonight. His entire run in the UFC has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but this was unquestionably one of the highs. The man is at his best when fighting aggressively, and that seems to be a fact that Hernandez has recognized, coming out guns blazing here. Hernandez is now 5-3 in the UFC.
MISHA CIRKUNOV (15-6, 185.5) VS KRZYSZTOF JOTKO (22-5, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
This was a very even opening round, with neither man pulling ahead in the grappling or striking until late in the round. Jotko had moments in the latter half of the round where he landed some heavy combinations on Cirkunov, and he was able to defend each of Cirkunov’s attempts to bring the fight to the ground. The round was about as close as it gets, and while you can certainly make the case for this being a 10-10 round, the judges would never actually hand that score out, so just for the sake of realism here, I gave the edge to Jotko. 10-9 Jotko.
The commentary team noted that this was the first Misha Cirkunov fight to go past the first round since 2016. Jotko defended a takedown attempt with the help of the cage, and Cirkunov proceeded to catch him with a knee that landed low. Jotko landed a nice combination as the action resumed. The rest of the round was fairly uneventful, but once again, I gave the edge to Jotko. 20-18 Jotko.
Cirkunov was finally able to (partially) complete a takedown, as he proceeded to grind Jotko against the cage. Jotko was able to keep Cirkunov from doing any damage or advancing his position, but the first half of this round was all control time for Cirkunov. An eye poke to Cirkunov paused the fight momentarily. Jotko came alive late in the round, possibly stealing this one on the scorecards. 30-27 Jotko.
WINNER: Krzysztof Jotko by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
There isn’t too much to say about this one. It was an uneventful fight, that was fairly even throughout every round. I think the second round is the only truly clear one, with Cirkunov barely landing a thing, but all in all, this was a pretty forgettable fifteen minutes. Cirkunov looked like a different human being at 185lbs, but I really wouldn’t be opposed to him giving middleweight another shot in the future. Jotko is now 10-5 in the UFC.
ALEX OLIVEIRA (22-10-1, 2 NC, 169.5) VS NIKO PRICE (14-5, 2 NC, 170.5) – WELTERWEIGHT
Oliveira was very emotional making his way to the cage. They swapped leg kicks throughout the opening minute while threatening their respective powerful right hands. Price shot for a takedown, but he was unsuccessful, and it was Oliveira who tossed Price to the ground. Regardless, Price was quickly able to transition to top position, where he began to work from the guard of Oliveira. Oliveira did a good job of keeping Price from getting too much off, but he still lost this round, spending so much of it inactive from the bottom. 10-9 Price.
Oliveira’s corner was very unhappy with his first-round performance. He caught a kick from Price about halfway through the second round, and began to work from top position. Price was far more active off of his back than Oliveira was in the previous round, and this kept Oliveira from getting much off early in this exchange. Tough round to score, but I thought Oliveira did enough damage with his late ground and pound to secure round two. 19-19.
They were trading to begin this final round, with both fighters knowing that they needed this round on the scorecards. They exchanged massive hooks, and this was beginning to look like the fight that was expected on paper. A right hand from Price caught Oliveira off-balance, prompting Price to look for a takedown. Oliveira was able to defend and threw a spinning back fist after they separated. They continued to exchange wild shots, and it felt to me as though Oliveira got the better of these late exchanges. A razor-close round, but I gave it to Oliveira, despite a late takedown from Price. 29-28 Oliveira.
WINNER: Niko Price by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
The first two rounds were fairly clear cut, with Price winning the first round with his grappling, and Oliveira taking round two in the same fashion. The fight became more of the expected brawl in round three, and despite seeing it for Oliveira, this was a well-earned victory for Niko Price. I was definitely in the minority with my scorecard, and perhaps I will have to rewatch the final twenty seconds of this fight and see if I weigh the damage done by Price here differently. Regardless, neither of these men are ever in boring fights, and this was no exception. Price expressed his interest in a future fight against Nick Diaz.
KEVIN HOLLAND (21-7, 183.5) VS KYLE DAUKAUS (5-2, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Daukaus immediately went for the takedown, trying to capitalize on Holland’s greatest weakness. Holland defended the attempt and asked Daniel Cormier if he was looking a little better. He practically just started talking to Cormier at one point, agreeing with Cormier’s thoughts on Daukaus’s size. They were eventually broken apart after two minutes of inactivity, and as they reengaged, a clash of heads practically knocked Holland out, and Daukaus jumped on him on the ground. As Holland attempted to pick himself up, Daukaus locked in a rear-naked choke, and he forced Holland to tap out. The headbutt naturally caused this result to be immediately called into question, and Dan Miragliotta (along with about twenty other people) reviewed the footage and discussed the correct action to take in determining the result of this fight. Eventually, it was ruled a no contest.
Result: No contest due to accidental headbutt at 3:43 of Round 1
Holland, Daukaus, Dan Miragliotta and Bruce Buffer were having a laugh about things before the result was read, which was quite the thing. Honestly, I could devote an entire podcast to discussing this fight and the ultimate result, but I’m going to try to contain my thoughts in a few sentences here. There were so many UFC officials reviewing this footage with Big Dan, and I have no idea about whether that should be allowed or not, but this might go down as perhaps the most impactful use of replay that’s been utilized thus far. Again, it’s worth noting that the headbutt was entirely unintentional, and Daukaus did not in any way, cheat, prior to submitting Holland here. Nonetheless, that headbutt knocked Holland out, and while he woke up quickly, it directly led to the finishing sequence. I feel like a no-contest was ultimately the right decision here, but there is bound to be a ton of discussion regarding the rules and regulations regarding replay use coming out of this. The right call would probably be to run this fight back in the future.
THIAGO SANTOS (21-9, 206) VS JOHNNY WALKER (18-5, 204.5) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Walker danced his way to the ring, with the equally wild Michel Pereira behind him. They touched gloves to begin the fight. Santos was very inactive early in this one, with Walker staying the slightest bit busier with his leg kicks. This was a very, very uneventful round. 10-9 Walker.
Walker defended a takedown attempt from Santos, and they exchanged powerful shots on the break. Unfortunately, the pace soon began to look much the same as it did in round one. Walker continued to attack the legs, which eventually prompted Santos to throw some heavy body kicks. 19-19.
Santos attempted to close the distance and got countered with a check right hook early. Santos responded with a body kick, as well as a straight left hand that found its target. Walker seemed somewhat hesitant to commit to much besides those leg kicks, and it felt as though Santos was pulling ahead on the scorecards as a result. That’s not to say Santos was terribly active either, but it felt as though he was landing more shots, a wider variety of strikes, and with a bit more power. 29-28 Santos.
Santos dug into the body to start round four. The broadcasts strike count had Walker ahead, and it this fight came down to activity, that could very well weigh heavily in Walker’s favor. Cormier started to go on a rant about Santos’s fight against Alexander Rakić, because he was scrolling Twitter and someone tagged him in a Rakić related post I suppose. Santos landed another heavy body shot halfway through the round. Walker threw a big body kick of his own, following it up with a right hand. Santos caught him with a one-two late in the round. I had it 38-38 going into round four, but you could really go either way with this round, just like the previous three.
Cormier remarked on the insanity of the corners thinking that one of their fighters might be decisively winning this bout. Santos cracked Walker with a left hand, the hardest strike of the fight to this point. Santos went back to the body with a kick. They both missed on big strikes in the final minute. Santos ended things with a head kick. 48-47 Santos on my scorecard
WINNER: Thiago Santos by unanimous decision (48-47 all)
On paper, this bout was guaranteed fireworks, but unfortunately, it tuned out to be anything but. Both men recognized the power of their opponent and were hesitant to close the distance. The difference-maker was ultimately the power of Santos, which triumphed over Walker’s slight edge inactivity. This was a fight to forget, but it was nice to see Thiago Santos get back in the win column after everything he’s been through since his title fight against Jon Jones. He remains a highly ranked light heavyweight, and I imagine he’ll be matched up against another contender in his next fight.