UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker Predictions
Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker
Santos took Jon Jones to a split-decision in their title fight back in 2019, but that was to be the first of three losses in a row for him, so a win is a must on Saturday night against Walker, who dug himself out of a two-fight losing slump with a KO victory over Ryan Spann last year.
It’s a fight that should provide plenty of action on the feet, with both men being aggressive strikers who have a proven record of delivering highlight-reel worthy finishes.
Walker has a considerable size advantage here, being 4″ taller and with 6″ more reach, which he incorporates that into his somewhat wild and unpredictable offensive that will see him mix in everything from spinning backfists to jumping knees into his attacks, with notable success at times.
On the other hand, the defensive side of Walker’s striking game is weaker and he has been stopped by strikes in the past, while he tends to be a fast starter who isn’t as potent later in the fight.
Santos has some similar attributes as he’s also very dangerous offensively and is capable of serving up dynamic and eye-catching strikes, though perhaps not with the same reckless abandon and frequency as his opponent.
However, Santos is more compact and defensively sound than Walker and he remains a threat later in the fight, while he also has prior five-round experience at the highest level. On the downside though, he’s not looked the same fighter since having surgery for serious knee injuries following his loss to Jones, with his kicking game in particular having subsided.
I think a stoppage victory is on the cards here given the firepower both men possess, and while it could end at any moment, I’ll take Santos to stay competitive during Walker’s early aggression and then pick at the holes in his defence to punish him with his own heavy artillery and score a third round TKO finish.
Prediction: Thiago Santos to win by TKO in Rd3.
Kevin Holland vs. Kyle Daukaus
Kevin Holland’s five-fight winning streak was brought to a halt by two decision losses in the space of just a few weeks earlier this year, and after six months out he returns to take on Kyle Daukaus, who has only picked up one win from his three trips to the Octagon so far.
Holland’s losses exposed the fact that his takedown defense and ability to get back to his feet were major weaknesses in his game, and he’s vowed to shore that up, though it remains to be seen if six months is enough time to do that.
Daukaus is primarily a grappler, so he’s certainly going to be tested in that regard, but it should be said that he’s more of a submission specialist, so his wrestling is not on the level of Holland’s previous opponents like Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori, who completely dominated him on top.
Back on the feet, Holland is a talented striker and a serious threat. In fact, even in the fights where he was flat on his back for the majority of the time he still made an impact when he had brief windows of opportunity to stand and trade. He has a 5″ reach advantage to work with here and uses those long limbs well to land with purpose from range, which could trouble Daukaus, who has pop in his punches, but is a limited striker overall and would much prefer to get the fight on the mat.
Overall, I still believe Holland has a lot of potential and I’m taking him to win, showing at least some signs of improvements to his takedown defense against someone who is a considerably less formidable wrestler than the two he went up against earlier in the year. Meanwhile, on the feet there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s Holland who will have the upper-hand and his rangey strikes only further aid his ability to keep the fight upright, leading him to a second round TKO stoppage win.
Prediction: Kevin Holland wins by TKO in Rd2.
Alex Oliveira vs. Niko Price
There’s a running theme of fighters looking to get back to winning ways on this main card and that also applies to both Oliveira and Price, with the former having lost two fights in a row, while the latter hasn’t tasted victory in his last three outings.
These two bring guaranteed fireworks to the Octagon with their all-action mentality, but their patchy UFC record serve as a reminder that it’s very much a case of kill-or-be-killed, which these days appears to be paying of less and less for them.
That’s particularly true of Oliveira, who is a threat wherever the fight goes with his straight punches, kicks and submission threat, but the 33-year-old’s war-laden resume has taken a toll on his durability as he gets rocked easier than he did in the past, while he’s always had issues with the submission defense side of his game.
Price also lives and dies by the sword, including a six-fight run not so long ago when he continually alternated between dishing out KO’s and getting KO’d himself courtesy of his hard-hitting, high volume approach that’s let down by the fact that he’s also open to being hit in return all day long.
So, this should be a striking battle, but I think Oliveira’s taken too much damage now and won’t be able to hold out against Price’s offensive onslaught, leading to a second round TKO stoppage.
Prediction: Niko Price to win by TKO in Rd2.
Misha Cirkunov vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Another two fighters coming off a loss here, with Cirkunov having been TKO’d back in March by Ryan Spann, while Jotko lost out by unanimous decision to Sean Strickland in May.
Cirkunov is a powerful grappler who has shown an excellent ability during his UFC run to find finishes via submission, often doing so early in the fight. The drawback is that he has to get the fight to the mat first, and while he’s upright he’s worringly vulnerable as he’s a reluctant striker with a glass chin, as evidenced by all four his losses in the past few years coming by way of first round strikes.
The good news for Cirkunov here is that while Jotko is a striker, he’s not of the heavy-handed variety, with only six of his 22 career wins coming via T/KO.
That gives Cirkunov a bit more leeway, but it’s not all positive as what Jotko does do well is fight with care, operating on the outside and using good footwork ,while picking his moments to land enough strikes to win rounds.
It’s a strategy that I could see frustrating Cirkunov as he struggles to close the distance and get the takedown he needs, leading to Jotko comfortably outpointing him on the feet to earn a decision victory.
Prediction: Krzysztof Jotko to win by decision.
Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson
No.3 ranked bantamweight Ladd looks to build on a TKO victory last time out when she locks horns with Chiasson, who has strung together two wins in a row, though that’s only taken her to No.11 in the rankings.
There’s a vast size difference between these two, with Chiasson being 5″ taller and with 6″ inches extra in reach to play with, and that should enhance her already significant advantage in the striking department here, as Ladd really doesn’t have much to offer while upright..
On the other hand, despite Ladd’s size disadvantage, over the course of her career she has consistently been able to get her opponent’s to the mat and make it count, with her ruthless ground-and-pound having led to her finishing multiple opponents.
So there’s clear paths to victory for both women here. The fact that Ladd is coming back after almost two years out a serious knee injury is a real concern here, but nevertheless I do think that her ground game is more likely to win out over the course of three rounds.
Prediction: Aspen Ladd to win by decision.
Alexander Hernandez vs. Mike Breeden
With a 4-3 run in the UFC so far, Hernandez now finds himself going up against a late-replacement newcomer in Breeden, who carries a 10-3 record and has previously lost in a Contender Series bout last year.
Breeden didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare for this one, but he’s got a solid amount of experience and is a capable boxer who can throw out the occasional flashier technique and has a good record of finishing opponents on the regional circuit, but he isn’t the most active striker.
On the other hand, Hernandez will offer up a higher volume of strikes, is a well-condition fighter and has solid power to go with it, so I feel he will set the pace here and win the early striking battle before going on to find a TKO finish by the second round.
Prediction: Alexander Hernandez to win by TKO in Rd2.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Joe Solecki vs. Jared Gordon
Antonina Shevchenko vs. Casey O’Neill
Bethe Correia vs. Karol Rosa
Devonte Smith vs. Jamie Mullarkey
Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Gaetano Pirrello
Alejandro Perez vs. Johnny Eduardo
Shana Young vs. Stephanie Egger
Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process.
You can read more of Ross’s work at MMAInsight.com.