Prime Picks: UFC Fight Night 193 ‘Santos vs. Walker’

By Jay Pettry Oct 1, 2021

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A post-pay-per-view hangover may be in effect for the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday in Las Vegas, but UFC Fight Night 193 provides some sneakily well-matched bouts. This deceptively solid card, somewhat like its Bellator 267 counterpart on Friday in London, comes to fans with a few prohibitive favorites and possible action-packed fights ahead. Some of the lines have too many questions about them. How will Misha Cirkunov look at 185 pounds? Is Casey O’Neill the real deal? How old is Johnny Eduardo? However, the top two billings on the card are intriguing enough to spring up in this edition of Prime Picks.

Thiago Santos-Johnny Walker Lasts Under 1.5 Rounds (-115)

It would not at all be surprising if Santos won by first-round knockout or Walker did the same. “Marreta” has not won in over two years, with a trio of setbacks to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic leading to this main event slot. Walker ended a losing streak of his own with a comeback drubbing of Ryan Spann in less than three minutes a year ago. At least the last three wins for each man have come by knockout, and in Walker’s case, all in under 180 seconds. This light heavyweight clash has the potential for incredible, fast-starting violence that could be over in the blink of an eye. With submissions a part of neither man’s game, knockout will be the word of the day in this headliner.

If their histories are any indication, the finish should come in the opening round. Since 2016, two of Walker’s three defeats have come below this under, while he notched nine of 11 victories quicker than the 7:30 mark. In a similar stretch, Santos has suffered three of four stoppage losses in the first round, while six of his nine wins ended that soon, as well. In this stylistic clash of striker-versus-striker, both men want to move forward and throw volume with deadening velocity. The notion of grappling should go out the window in this one, unless someone gets dropped and the other dives into his opponent’s guard to finish the job.

Santos may yet be a changed man after recovering from major knee surgery and a few terrific brawls with top opponents, including a win over current champion Jan Blachowicz. The former title challenger had Teixeira in all sorts of trouble until Teixeira’s veteran-based autopilot kicked in and saw him snatch a desperation takedown, as well as victory from the jaws of defeat. A gun-shy Santos is not one who will want to run up against Walker, so fight fans and bettors alike can hope that this pairing is one that will draw the firefight out of him. Based on Santos’ overeager desire to get into a knock-down drag-out brawl and Walker’s occasional lack of fight IQ in engaging in the same, chins will be tested fast. A stoppage from either man should come within the first five minutes—that line is +140—but the midpoint of Round 2 is a safer bet in case one gets rocked, clinches up to the first bell and then comes out like a house on fire as everything crashes down around them.

Kevin Holland (-165)

Even though the blueprint may exist for how to take Holland out of his game entirely, Kyle Daukaus has yet to display the grappling chops and suffocating top control of a Derek Brunson or Marvin Vettori. In both of those 25-minute defeats for Holland, he spent at least 15 minutes on his back, but he did manage to hurt both on occasion when returning topside. While 21 days is hardly enough time to train getups and tricks to fight off mat returns, Holland has taken over five months off, likely shoring up these deficiencies. With how much he has improved since joining the roster in 2018, Holland should have grown enough to be able to stave off the inevitable takedown tries.

As a fighter on a major stage, Daukaus has yet to record more than three takedowns across a 15-minute span, and each of his four appearances between Dana White’s Contender Series and the UFC have gone the distance. This low tally per fight is not from a lack of trying, as the Philadelphia native has averaged six attempts a bout so far. An opportunistic submission threat, Daukaus’ best quality may not come from his propensity to drag the fight to the mat but by snaring opponents in scrambles.

Daukaus has never before notched a knockout in his career. The brabo choke is his go-to maneuver, winning and twice defending his Cage Fury Fighting Championships middleweight strap with this move. This may be his best path to victory, forcing the rangier Holland to fight his way out of precarious situations and inadvertently leave his neck exposed. “Trailblazer” fought his way out of a bad place against Ronaldo Souza, so he may not be concerned with Daukaus’ ground game. As long as this match plays out largely on the feet, Holland can tee off on the porous striking defense of his opponent and do enough to at least win two rounds, if not finish the fight. The line of Holland as a moderate favorite merits attention and presents value with where it stands now, based on the relative level of opposition each man has overcome to date and which skills each man brings to the table.

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