Given the late-notice alterations and the stakes at play, the main and co-main events of the upcoming UFC 294 pay-per-view have been dominating fight week discussions across the mixed martial arts community.
But while the lightweight gold will be on the line at the top of the card and two welterweight stars will vie for a shot at middleweight glory beforehand, a number of other notable names will take to the cage.
Among the prominent matchups on the undercard this Saturday is an important clash in the context of the light heavyweight division. Over 10 months on from an unsuccessful title bid in Las Vegas, #2-ranked contender Magomed Ankalaev will make his return.
In Abu Dhabi this weekend, the Russian is tasked with stalling the surge of Johnny Walker, who has climbed the ladder with consecutive victories over Ion Cuțelaba, Paul Craig, and Anthony Smith.
Despite the Brazilian’s strong form, many have branded Ankalaev too tough a test for him. One former UFC champion, however, can foresee a monumental upset.
Adesanya Backs Walker To ‘Stop’ Ankalaev
During a video recently uploaded to his FREESTYLEBENDER YouTube channel, ex-middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya broke down the major matchups set to play out inside the Octagon at UFC 294 this weekend.
In terms of the notable light heavyweight bout, “The Last Stylebender” pointed out that Walker is finally beginning to reach his potential on MMA’s biggest stage, and he had some tips in mind that could pave the way for Walker to continue that trend.
“Walker, the worm, versus Ankalaev… He was the guy, when he first came on the scene, people were like, ‘This is the next guy to rival Jon Jones.’ Because he’s so explosive, so crazy,” Adesanya said. “He’s now finally putting things together after teaming up with (SBC Ireland head coach John) Kavanagh.
“I’m sure they have a solid gameplan for this… I hope he is patient in this fight. Be patient. Because Ankalaev is very methodical, like, ‘A, B, C, D,'” Adesanya continued. “But Walker is unpredictable and he’s also got the reach advantage… Stick to the jab. Keep him and stick to the jab. Don’t rush and be patient. When Walker gets excited, even when you hurt him, he’ll start to swing crazy. Just let it come. Find the shots and let it come.”
With that gameplan in mind, and his belief that Walker will be able to return to his feet once take down, Adesanya is backing the Brazilian to finish Ankalaev come fight night inside the Etihad Arena.
“I wanna say Walker stops him. Hot take. It’s a hot take, but yeah, I’m crazy,” Adesanya stated. “I’m gonna go Walker stops him… Ankalaev’s very credible and legitimate, but I just feel like with a good coach like Kavanagh in your corner, you’re consistent now. It’s time to show (that) in your body of work. I feel like he can get it done if he just stays patient and finds the shot.”
Walker will hope to prove Adesanya’s prediction correct come fight night on October 21. With the Brazilian setting his sights on championship glory in more than one weight class, a victory over a former title challenger like Ankalaev would no doubt prove valuable in his quest for gold.
Future champ champ 🏽✌🏼#ufc
— Johnny Walker (@JohnnyWalker) October 19, 2023
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