UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker Preview

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker Preview

Liam Lindsay|
January 12, 2024|

After a four-week break, the UFC is back this weekend for a fight night card in Las Vegas, Nevada, headlined by top Light-Heavyweight contenders Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker. In the co-main event, a pivotal flyweight rematch between Manel Kape and Matheus Nicolau will take place. We're going to break down the importance of these matchups and how each fighter needs to approach the fight to secure the win.

Phil Hawes vs. Bruno Ferreira

Our main card opener is a Middleweight affair between Phil Hawes and Bruno Ferreira. Hawes has a broad skillset for the division but has fallen victim to some bad knockout losses at the hands of Chris Curtis, Roman Dolidze, and Ikram Aliskerov. However, Hawes has demonstrated he's no pushover in each of these fights, remaining competitive until the unfortunate ending. Hawes must remain defensive in this fight and rely on Ferreira over-committing on his strikes to secure a much-needed finish.

On the other hand, Ferreira had an explosive UFC debut this time last year at UFC 283. "The Hulk" accepted a short-notice matchup against Gregory Rodrigues and finished him in the first round with a brutal counter left straight. However, he closed out 2023 with a loss to UFC debutant Nursultan Ruziboev and now wants to return to the win column with another vicious knockout over the respected name Phil Hawes.


Ricky Simon vs. Mario Bautista

The Bantamweights put their foot down in this matchup, pitting together the #13 ranked Ricky Simon against unranked Mario Bautista. Ricky Simon has not fought since April when he suffered a knockout loss to Song Yadong in his first UFC main event. Simon was unable to secure takedowns on Song and couldn't keep up on the feet, and he'll need to make some adjustments heading into this matchup to get back on a winning streak.

Mario Bautista has won five straight, including big wins over Da'Mon Blackshear and Brian Kelleher. Bautista has the first opportunity to break into the rankings with a victory over a contender. He'll be looking to use his well-rounded skillset to fend off the takedowns of Simon and secure the biggest win of his career in this bout.

Jim Miller vs. Gabriel Benitez

The middle of the main card will see UFC veteran Jim Miller make his forty-second UFC appearance. Miller has aspirations of fighting on UFC 300 in three months' time and needs to secure a safe win in this matchup to do so. However, "A-10" has expressed no interest in fighting safely and will go out there in his usual ways to finish the fight. The veteran has won four of his last five fights, with three knockouts and a submission, and he'll be looking to add Benitez to his stacked resume.

For Gabriel Benitez, this is a chance to re-write a fresh start. "Moggly" hasn't fought since 2022, when he defeated Charlie Ontiveros. The former featherweight could not make the weight limit twice, and he will not have his second UFC fight in the lightweight division. Now, in a new division and in a new year, Benitez will be looking to add Jim Miller to his resume alongside names like Jason Knight and Clay Collard.


Matheus Nicolau vs. Manel Kape 2

The co-main event for UFC Vegas 84 is a potential Flyweight title eliminator between Matheus Nicolau and Manel Kape. This is an important rematch nearly three years in the making. In their first meeting, Nicolau defeated Kape via a highly controversial split decision. Now, Nicolau can get back in the win column and go 2-0 against Kape, proving the first time was no controversy.

Manel Kape is now on a revenge tour. "Starboy" debuted in the UFC in February 2021, losing to Alexandre Pantoja, and then a month later, dropped a decision to Nicolau. Kape now has the chance to avenge his loss and potentially earn a crack at the title, depending on what the UFC decides to do with the winner of Brandon Moreno vs. Brandon Royval 2. Regardless, Kape has insane speed for the division, is riding a four-fight win streak, and will be looking to get his fifth straight victory this weekend.

Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker 2

The main event is another rematch; this time, it's in the aftermath of a controversial No Contest results at UFC 294, where Magomed Anklaev struck Johnny Walker with an illegal knee, and the doctor declared Walker could not continue. Ankalaev now has a second chance to win a victory over Walker and will likely fight for the title in his next fight if he does so. He'll need to utilize his technical striking and powerful wrestling advantage to get the victory.

Johnny Walker is on the cusp of a title shot for the first time in his career. Heading into his last fight, he rode a three-fight win streak with big wins over names like Anthony Smith and Ryan Spann. Walker has expressed interest in fighting Alex Pereira at UFC 300 but will need to use his diverse striking skills and exercise patience to secure the victory vs. Ankalaev.

Which fight are you most excited about this weekend? As a member of the Verdict Community, let us know in the comments below.

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