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UFC Vegas 38 Main Event Preview: Santos vs. Walker

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Your MMA Saturday is capped with another UFC Fight Night from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas for UFC Vegas 38. Barring any late postponements for any reason, UFC Vegas 38 will proceed as a 13-fight MMA card at the UFC Apex and will be capped on Saturday night with a headlining bout at 205 lbs.

In your UFC Vegas 38 main event this Saturday night, No. 5 contender Thiago Santos (21-9 MMA, 13-8 UFC) will battle No. 10 contender Johnny Walker (18-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC), in a five-round fight at five minutes per round to close the show.

UFC Vegas 38 Main Event Fighter Comparison

Heading the UFC Vegas 38 main event on Saturday evening, Johnny Walker stands taller at 6-foot-6, compared to Thiago Santos at 6-foot-2. In addition, Walker owns a six-inch reach (82 inches to 76 inches) advantage and a two-inch leg reach advantage (44 1/2 inches to 42 1/2 inches) over Thiago Santos entering the UFC Vegas 38 main event.

Thiago Santos Looks to Get Back on Track in UFC Vegas 38 Main Event

Thiago Santos has posted a record of 2-3 in his last five UFC appearances, but he’s dropped three bouts in succession dating back to July of 2019 against Jon Jones (split decision) in UFC 239’s headlining bout. Back in March, he lost via unanimous decision to Aleksandr Rakic in UFC 259, extending his current losing streak to three bouts.

A key storyline for the Thiago Santos camp going into the UFC Vegas 38 main event this Saturday night will be how well their fighter has trained heading into a critical bout for the future of his career as a fighter. Santos has lost his last three MMA bouts after winning three in a row and can’t afford to lose here on Saturday if he is to stay on the UFC’s active roster.

A victory on Saturday in the UFC Vegas 38 main event is going to be paramount toward Thiago Santos’ career going forward. If he sustains a loss in this one, he could very well find himself in free agency as soon as next week.

Johnny Walker Returns in UFC Vegas 38 Main Event After 54-Week Layoff

In the other corner, Johnny Walker has gone 3-2 in his last five fights but comes into the UFC Vegas 38 main event this Saturday after a 54-week layoff, the longest hiatus between bouts in his career. On Sept. 19, 2020, Walker scored a first-round knockout (elbow strikes and hammer-fists) against Ryan Spann in UFC Vegas 11 from the UFC Apex.

A planned fight on March 27 against Jimmy Crute was canceled prior to the card upon Johnny Walker suffering a torn pectoral muscle. After his victory more than a year ago, Walker spoke to Jon Anik and advised his fellow light heavyweights that he’s here to stay.

“Look at me, my friend,” Walker said. “I’m so (expletive deleted) strong. The nightmare for the division has come back. I’m here. I fixed everything, my mistakes, I’m trying to do everything properly. I’m very focused, very professional.”

The storyline for Walker going into the UFC Vegas 38 main event is going to be whether or not he’s adequately shaken off the ring rust in his downtime following his torn pectoral muscle. If he falters even a little in the UFC Vegas 38 main event, Thiago Santos could spring the upset.

A universal storyline in this fight is the difference in age between the two fighters. Thiago Santos is more than eight years the elder (37 years old) of Johnny Walker (29 years old.)

Santos is also a more experienced fighter than his opponent, having appeared in 30 fights so far in his MMA career, compared to 23 for Walker. Whether the differences in age and experience play a factor in the UFC Vegas 38 main event remains to be seen, so tune in on Saturday.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC Vegas 38 main event looks to favor Thiago Santos, who owns black belts in Muay-Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a green rope in capoeira, with Johnny Walker owning a brown belt in BJJ.

Santos Can End Things with One Blow

One aspect of Thiago Santos’ fight game that’s evident on videotape is his ability to end the fight with as little as one shot, something he violently demonstrated against Jimi Manuwa during the UFC 231 main card opener nearly three years ago.

Early in the second round, after the fighters traded vicious shots in a chaotic round one, Santos stunned Manuwa with a pair of left hooks before closing the show with an uppercut and a left hook to fold his opponent like an accordion for the knockout. If Thiago Santos is able to throw those left hooks in the UFC Vegas 38 main event, it could be game, set, and match early on.

Don’t Underestimate Johnny Walker

In the other corner, don’t even think about sleeping on Johnny Walker in the UFC Vegas 38 main event, as he, too, can end things in a hurry, something that Ryan Spann knows all too well from his fight with Walker last year. Although Ryan Spann attempted to slow Johnny Walker’s frenetic pace by putting him in a clinch early on in the first round, Walker was able to reverse the clinch, eventually getting out before Spann tried to knock him out with punches from the back mount.

Walker was then able to reverse a submission attempt from Spann– later getting back up, only for him to wobble, allowing Spann to attempt a clinch, before Walker scored with repeated and vicious elbow shots on Spann, forcing Dan Miragliotta to call off the fight. Look for Johnny Walker to tee off with elbow shots if Thiago Santos gives him an opening in the UFC Vegas 38 main event on Saturday night. If he is able to throw and land those elbows with regularity here, this fight could be a done deal very quickly.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the UFC Vegas 38 main event could be yet another entry in the “blink and you’ll miss it” file in the MMA archives. If you look away from the screen for as little as a few seconds, this one could be over by the time you turn around.

Prediction: Johnny Walker by First-Round TKO.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.