Fresh off of a massive PPV card last weekend, the world’s leading MMA promotion is back this Saturday night for UFC Vegas 38: Santos vs. Walker. The card features 13 bouts overall, including six main card fights. Below, check out our main card preview here at The Allstar.
Main event light heavyweight bout: Thiago Santos vs Johnny Walker (five rounds)
Thiago Santos (-160)
Santos is the No. 5 ranked light heavyweight in the UFC. For many years, the Brazilian was a top middleweight contender. But he moved up to 205lbs in 2018 and he nearly became a champion. Since making the move to 205lbs, Santos is 3-3 with wins over the current champ Jan Blachowicz, Eryk Anders, and Jimi Manuwa. His lone losses at 205lb came to the legend Jon Jones, current No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira, and rising contender Aleksandar Rakic.
Now 37 years old, Santos is certainly getting up there in age, but he still has his trademark knockout power. He has shown over the years that he is a tough out, but at the same time, he is beatable. Going up against Walker, Santos will be looking to defend his ranking. With a win, he will remain a contender, while a loss would be a passing-of-the-guard type situation.
Johnny Walker (+140)
Walker is the No. 10 ranked light heavyweight in the UFC. Just 29 years of age, the Brazilian first joined the UFC in 2018 and he has gone 4-2 since then with four wins by knockout over Ryan Spann, Khalil Rountree Jr., Misha Cirkunov, and Justin Ledet. Walker’s losses in the Octagon came to Nikita Krylov and Corey Anderson.
A true knockout artist, Walker has 15 career knockout wins. He has been heralded as a future light heavyweight title contender for several years now. But he has struggled with inconsistency up until this point of his career. Following a big win over Spann in his last fight, Walker could rise up the 205lbs rankings with a win over Santos.
Total Rounds (1.5) Over -110 vs. Under -110
The oddsmakers have set the total rounds for this bout at 1.5 and both sides are paying -110 each, indicating a coinflip type of result here. Walker has gone under that 1.5 rounds total in five of his six UFC fights. But Santos has gone over that 1.5 rounds total in seven straight fights, which makes it tricky to be on this total. If you like Santos, you’ll probably like the over, and if you favor Walker, you probably favor the under.
Prediction: Santos is a great fighter and has been for many years, but at age 37 and coming off of three straight losses, he does appear to be in the decline phase of his career. Walker is only 29 and very much in his prime and dangerous. Although Santos has been more durable as a light heavyweight, he has been knocked out a few times in the past as a middleweight. Walker is a knockout artist and I think he has a chance to catch Santos in round one and finish him.
Middleweight bout: Kevin Holland (-150) vs. Kyle Daukaus (+130)
The co-main event of UFC Vegas 38 features middleweights Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus. It was just earlier this year that Holland had all sorts of hype behind him after winning five straight fights. But after losing one-sided bouts to Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson in his last two fights, his wrestling is such a clear hole in his game. Holland really struggled badly to stop the takedown in his last two fights. I’m not convinced that taking six months off is going to give him the wrestling skills he needs to win consistently in the UFC.
Daukaus isn’t an amazing fighter by any means, but he is a good wrestler, and stylistically he could present plenty of problems here for Holland. Give me Daukaus for the upset here as I expect him to take Holland down and grind him out to win a decision victory.
Welterweight bout: Niko Price (-150) vs. Alex Oliveira (+130)
Two exciting welterweights meet when Niko Price fights Alex Oliveira in what could be the “Fight of the Night” at UFC Vegas 38. Price is winless over his last three fights but he was competitive for the most part as he has shown off his trademark durability and cardio in his last few bouts. Oliveira, on the other hand, appears to be on a big decline. He’s been submitted in his last two fights and overall he has lost five of his last seven fights. Given how wild and reckless that Price fights, it’s hard to be confident in him at times, but at the same time, Oliveira hasn’t looked like a top-15 type of talent in quite some time. I expect a war between two durable warriors, but I have to go with Price to get a stoppage victory.
Middleweight bout: Krzysztof Jotko (-150) vs. Misha Cirkunov (+130)
In middleweight action, Krzysztof Jotko welcomes Misha Cirkunov down to the 185lbs weight class. Jotko has been one of the top-15ish middleweights in the UFC for quite a few years now. But he is coming off of a loss to Sean Strickland in his last fight that saw him fall out of the rankings. Jotko is not the most exciting fighter — eight of his nine UFC wins have come by decision — but he is effective at nullifying his opponents and winning close decisions.
Cirkunov, on the other hand, is a much different type of fighter as he is more of the kill-or-be-killed type. We have seen Cirkunov pull off some epic finishes in the Octagon. But we have also seen him get finished in devastating fashion too many times. Coming off of a brutal KO loss to Ryan Spann in his last fight, I don’t think Cirkunov dropping a weight class is going to benefit his chin. Even though Jotko is more of a decision machine, Jotko certainly has a chance to finish him with strikes. But I can’t confidently pick Cirkunov here given the unknowns of the weight cut. Give me Jotko to win this fight.
Women’s bantamweight bout: Aspen Ladd (-250) vs. Macy Chiasson (+210)
Two of the top-10 ranked women’s bantamweights go at it when Aspen Ladd faces off against Macy Chiasson. This fight was supposed to happen back in the summer but was scratched on Fight Day after Chiasson suffered a foot injury following her weight cut. Fortunately, she is now healthy and the fight has been re-booked. Ladd may not have fought in two years due to knee injuries. But before she took her leave of absence she was one of the best women’s bantamweights in the division. A win over Ladd would put her right back in title talks.
Chiasson, meanwhile, is a former Ultimate Fighter winner who has looked sharp for the most part in the Octagon. But I can’t help but think back to Chiasson’s loss to Lina Lansberg, where she was controlled against the fence and lost a decision. Although Ladd’s layoff is of course a worry, she was a talented fighter before her layoff. She should be able to grind out Chaisson and win a decision provide she’s close to her previous form.
Lightweight bout: Alexander Hernandez (-500) vs. Mike Breeden (+400)
Kicking off the main card is a lightweight bout between Alexander Hernandez and Mike Breeden, who took the fight on short notice for the injured Leo Santos. Hernandez was once a top-15 lightweight but he has struggled lately with two losses in his last three bouts. The latest time we saw him, he suffered an upset loss to Thiago Moises in his last fight. Hernandez is still only 28 so he has time to turn things around. But there is no doubt he has struggled lately after he started off his UFC career with a KO win.
Breeden, meanwhile, might be a familiar name for UFC fans. He fought last year on Contender Series but he lost. After winning two fights on the regional scene, the UFC has brought back Breeden on short notice. He is a dangerous striker who is aggressive and who has knockout power. But until I see Breeden prove himself in the UFC, I can’t pick him over someone like Hernandez. Look for the more experienced Hernandez to win a decision.