Johnny Walker’s tumultuous tenure in the Ultimate Fighting Championship has thus far been defined by exhilarating highs and alarming lows.
The former Ultimate Challenge MMA and European Beatdown champion first appeared on the UFC radar two-plus years ago and rattled off three consecutive victories inside the Octagon in less than three minutes combined, leading some to wonder if the promotion had stumbled upon a budding superstar. Reality set in during two subsequent outings, as Walker fell short of expectations. The 28-year-old last competed at UFC Fight Night 170, where he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Ukrainian brute Nikita Krylov on March 14, 2020 in Brasilia, Brazil.
As Walker awaits his next call to arms, a look at a few of the rivalries that have impacted his career:
Walker sent Rountree to the deck just 1:57 into Round 1. (Photo: Getty Images)
Walker entered the deep end of the mixed martial arts pool with a cannon ball, as the 6-foot-5 Brazilian knocked out Rountree with a savage standing elbow in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 140 light heavyweight showcase on Nov. 17, 2018 at Parque Roca Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Rountree hit the deck 1:57 into Round 1. Walker rattled him with a head kick, forced him backward and delivered a devastating elbow from the collar tie before mopping up the rest with follow-up punches. That was all she wrote for Rountree, who had routed former Glory Kickboxing champion four months earlier. Suddenly, the UFC’s 205-pound weight class had an intriguing talent on its hands.
Walker made Cirkunov pack his bags 38 seconds into Round 1. (Photo: Getty Images)
Those who thought that Cirkunov would provide Walker with his first legitimate test after the Brazilian wiped out Rountree and Justin Ledet in a little more than two minutes combined could not have missed the mark by more. Walker put away the Xtreme Couture export with a flying knee and follow-up punches in the first round of their UFC 235 undercard pairing on March 2, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Cirkunov packed his bags 38 seconds into Round 1. Walker pressed the issue from the start, withstood a punishing leg kick from the Canada-based Latvian and alternated between southpaw and orthodox stances. Then, he took flight, delivering a perfectly timed flying knee that ricocheted off Cirkunov’s chest and into his chin. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt collapsed to the canvas, turtled in a last-ditch attempt to defend himself and succumbed to a volley of hammerfists. Meanwhile, the hype surrounding Walker continued to build.
Anderson forced Walker to go back to the drawing board. (Photo: Getty Images)
What was thought by some to be a runaway freight train careened off the rails when Walker confronted Anderson in the featured UFC 244 prelim on Nov. 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Brazilian was exposed by a man who matched his athleticism and exceeded his technique, as Anderson drew the curtain with punches 2:07 into the first round. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 winner remained composed in response to Walker’s odd movements, closed the distance with a takedown attempt and tested the water in the clinch. Anderson separated, staggered his counterpart with an overhand right, floored him with a left hook and swarmed with punches. Once Walker returned to an upright position, the damage to his left eye became visible. Anderson connected with a close-quarters uppercut, reset and backed the Jungle Fight alum into the fence before unleashing a devastating straight right that prompted referee Kevin MacDonald to intervene. The setback forced Walker to go back to the drawing board.