Barring another bizarre ending, there should finally be a conclusion to the odd rivalry between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker on Jan. 13.
With a potential title shot on the line for the winner, a lot is up for grabs between the two budding contenders in the first major UFC event of 2024. There is a lot of potential value on the card as a whole, but today we will just be focusing on the main event between Ankalaev and Walker.
While the moneyline price on Ankalaev is sky-high, all signs point to a prop line that might get moved as fight night gets closer. Let's get in on it early.
This is my favorite pick in the main event but you can view all of my picks for UFC Vegas 84 here.
Odds according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
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Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker: Over 1.5 total rounds
There is bad blood between the two fighters in the main event, but I still expect both Ankalaev and Walker to take a cautious approach to the fight.
There are a lot of factors pointing to the over in this matchup. Everyone expected Ankalaev to wrestle in the first fight and that is exactly what happened. After a brief exchange, the Russian held Walker against the fence and accrued over a minute of control time in the three-minute fight. Ankalaev has a massive wrestling advantage and more importantly, he felt how dominant he can be in top position with Walker possessing little ability to return to his feet. Expect him to go back to the well.
In 11 eligible UFC fights, Ankalaev has gone over this total eight times, hitting at a 73% rate. But in Walker's 11 eligible UFC fights, he has gone over just three times, a microscopic 27%. However, all three of those fights occurred after Walker suffered his first promotional loss to Corey Anderson.
In three combined five-round main events, Ankalaev and Walker have gone the distance 3/4 times (75%), with the one fight ending early coming in 2022 when Walker got knocked out by former champion Jamahal Hill. Ankalaev has just one first-round knockout in his UFC career excluding the referee blunder in his first fight with Ion Cutelaba.
The one worry is the chaotic factor Walker brings on the feet. He did almost land a flying knee in the first fight. But even then, Ankalaev defended it well and has displayed a superior 58% striking defense in his career. When he does get in trouble, he shoots for a takedown.
As a defensive-minded fighter, Ankalaev often shuts down his opponent's striking and pushes fights into the later rounds. Walker is not the most active fighter either, landing just 3.87 strikes per minute. Taking away Walker's knockout loss to Hill, both fighters went to extremely boring decisions against an old Thiago Santos in a main event.
Ankalaev and Walker both know the stakes in this fight are too high to risk an early blitz and will take their time establishing their respective game plans. The fight may not reach the judges' cards, but 1.5 is too low of a line to set in a five-round fight of this caliber.
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.