For the first time since July 2022, a Magomed Ankalaev fight ended with a winner. It might be enough to set up another title shot for the Russian.
Ankalaev put away Johnny Walker in brutal fashion in the main event of Saturday's UFC Fight Night, seemingly breaking the Brazilian's nose with a hard right for a second-round KO.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 14, 2024
The win continues Ankalaev's unbeaten streak to 12 fights (with 10 wins) and makes him a prime candidate to take on new UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira. Pereira took the chronically vacant belt against Jiří Procházka with a second-round TKO.
Ankalaev isn't the sole candidate to face Pereira next, though, as former light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill, working his way back from an Achilles rupture in July, was also in the building.
"The most important thing is I am ready to fight for the title," Ankalaev said through an interpreter after the fight. "I have 10 victories in a row. It's been a long time. I'm worth it. Give me that fight for the title now."
It was an impressive performance from Anakalev even before the finish. He beat Walker in significant strikes 39-24 and seemed unfazed by his opponent's unorthodox style. His major misstep came late in the first round, when he received a hard warning after an illegal strike to the groin. Walker wasn't amused.
Magomed Ankalaev finally has a normal fight
Saturday's fight was essentially a resumption of Ankalaev and Walker's controversial finish at UFC 294 in October, in which the fight was ruled a no-contest in the first round after an accidental knee kick officially left Walker unable to continue. That was apparently news to Walker.
An apparent miscommunication with the ringside physician caused referee Rich Mitchell to call the fight. Walker vigorously protested, shoving Mitchell and attempting to re-engage Ankalaev to continue the fight. Ankalaev seemed pretty game, but the decision was made.
The confrontation got physical enough that UFC president Dana White entered the Octagon.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 21, 2023
The UFC wasted little time booking the rematch. The two sides weren't exactly friendly in the aftermath of the first fight and run-up of the second, but Ankalaev disputed their animus was personal.
"There is nothing personal against him," Ankalaev said. "This is our job. That's how it is. It just happened that the first fight didn't go as planned. We figured it out, we put an exclamation point here today."
Whenever Ankalaev gets his next title shot, it will be hard to forget how close he came to the belt a little more than a year ago. Just about everyone watching thought Ankalaev beat former champ Jan Błachowicz, but the UFC 282 matchup was ruled an absolutely bizarre draw.