This will be the second time Ankalaev and Walker do battle. In their first fight, Ankalaev had the edge on the feet. His boxing was on point and his footwork kept Walker missing. The southpaw-orthodox war was a big part of the first round until Ankalaev caught Walker with a straight to the body. With Ankalaev closing in, Walker threw a flying knee but that resulted in them hitting the mat.
While Walker was fighting to get up, the fight took place against the fence with Ankalaev on his back. Unfortunately, as Ankalaev changed positions, he threw a knee while Walker remained on one knee, resulting in a referee stoppage. Without much time taken, the doctor confirmed that the fight would not continue and it resulted in a no contest.
During the broadcast, Jon Anik confirmed, through a producer, that, when asked which country he was in, Walker said "the desert." Despite the doctor and referee stopping the fight, Walker was continuously trying to keep it going. Things got so out of hand that Dana White stepped in to break them up.
Walker was also quite vocal about the ruling, stating that it should be a disqualification instead. Is he right? The knee to a downed opponent is an interesting one. Some promotions allow with one hand on the mat, some don't. In this case, Ankalaev and Walker get to do battle again, but this time, there's some bad blood.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker prediction
This is another rematch for Ankalaev after the Ion Cutelaba ordeal. After getting a taste of Cutelaba, his confidence was obvious in the second fight, as he seemed more pressure-focused rather than countering. Ankalaev should have the same urgency against Walker, especially with UFC title implications.
Walker is an interesting case. He's looked great against some of the UFC's best, but the more technical fighters seem to have his number. Thiago Santos and Nikita Krylov are great examples. They'll give you plenty of looks. Jamahal Hill and Corey Anderson are both solid technical boxers with power. Ankalaev, too, is a great boxer and sometimes uses low kicks to set up his strikes.
Given the southpaw-orthodox battle, kicks to the lead leg were wide open in their first fight. Ankalaev and Walker tend to stay in boxing stances which opens the door to leg kicks. If Walker can find a way to attack low and prevent takedowns, he could slow Ankalaev down to make this a dogfight. If it stays technical, Ankalaev should have the edge to get the victory.
Walker has not been submitted since 2015 when he fought Klidson Abreu at heavyweight. If this fight goes to the ground, Ankalaev could be spending a lot of time fighting for position while generating some ground-and-pound. Walker has the length advantage and it could be time to test out his perfect takedown percentage. Who had Walker in top position on their bingo card? If he can maintain some kickboxing range, pick his spots carefully, and take Ankalaev into deep waters, he has a chance to steal this victory.
Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev via unanimous decision