Fight Study (10/2/21)
Two thrilling light heavyweights will take to the octagon for Saturday’s Main Event when the division’s 10th ranked contender, Johnny Walker, takes on the 5th ranked contender, Thiago Santos, in Las Vegas. Although Santos is coming off of consecutive losses, he is the betting favorite and will carry the higher DFS salaries. He is available for $8,800 on DraftKings and $20 on Fanduel. Walker can be entered into lineups for $7,400 and $16 respectively. As the Main Event, this fight is scheduled for 5 rounds of fight action, however, current odds point to a much earlier conclusion as this fight is a -480 favorite to finish inside the distance.
Walker has a career record of 18-5 with 15 wins by KO/TKO, 2 wins by submission, and 1 win by decision. He has lost 2 of his last 3 fights, but since joining the UFC he is 4-2 with each win coming by KO/TKO. Those 4 victories all came inside of round one with wins over Khalil Rountree, Justin Ledet, Misha Cirkunov, and Ryan Spann. Walker is a towering 6 and a half feet tall and he will have not only a 4-inch height advantage over Santos, but a 6-inch reach advantage as well. His striking makes him a KO threat every time he walks into the octagon, and his reach advantage gives him a physical advantage over most fighters. Additionally, with two UFC finishes inside of a minute, his fantasy ceiling is very high every time he fights.
Santos is 21-9 as a professional with 15 wins by KO/TKO, 1 win by submission, and 5 wins by decision. He has lost 3 straight coming into Saturday, however. With losses to Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira, and Aleksandar Rakic those losses are clearly against top competition. Santos is the last man to defeat current light heavyweight champ, Jan Blachowicz. To get back on to the path to a title fight he will have to get through Walker who stands much taller and whose jab connects from further away. The oddsmakers believe in his ability to do so as Santos is currently a small -125 favorite to win this fight inside the distance.
The biggest question in this fight is what version of Santos we will see in this one. Will we see the fighter who defeated Kevin Holland, Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa, and Jan Blachowicz in succession? Or, will we see a 37-year-old fighter past his prime lose his 4th consecutive fight on Saturday? At his best, we would expect Santos to win this fight, but his best looks to be behind him. Walker, on the other hand, is just beginning his prime. Yes, he took consecutive losses in 2019 and 2020, but he bounced back with a first-round TKO of Ryan Spann in September of last year. Walker is a very real threat against any opponent. I expect him to come out very fast in this one. It is difficult to forecast what will happen next.
I make this fight even more narrow than the odds would indicate. Santos is the better overall fighter, but he is an aging fighter who appears to be on the decline. One small mistake is all it takes to give a fighter like Walker the chance he needs. Given the disparity in salary between these two, I am giving Walker a slight edge in exposure. This fight could easily go either way, but I like Walker at a lower price and I believe his ceiling is much higher. He plays especially well on DraftKings where his salary is well below-average and a Quick Win Bonus is always a possibility for a fighter like Walker. I would not ignore Santos in GPP play, however, and playing both sides of this fight makes a lot of sense in multi-entry contests.
That’s all for this edition of Fight Study. Good luck with your lineups! For more advice on DFS contests for MMA, click HERE.