LAS VEGAS – Johnny Walker plans to enter Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 234 main event rematch against Magomed Ankalaev with a clean mental slate.
The first matchup between the pair at UFC 294 in October ended in a no contest when Ankalaev (18-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC) landed an illegal knee on Walker (21-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) that led to the end of the bout. The light heavyweight contenders are now set to run it back, but this time in a five-round headliner at the UFC Apex, which streams on ESPN+.
Although things were tense between them in the immediate aftermath of the first fight, Walker said the three months since the initial encounter have allowed him to transition into a state of zen. He said he will bring no anger into the octagon, because fighting intelligently is going to be a critical component to getting his hand raised.
“I’m not worried about nothing – I have no emotion,” Walker told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 234 media day. “I have no hate against him. Because emotion can maybe play against you if you have hate, maybe you’re going to make a mistake. No, I’m going to be very technical, very aggressive at the right moment, without emotion. Like a robot. Like a machine. This is how you have to be so you don’t commit mistakes.”
Walker, 31, revealed he entered the first matchup against Ankalaev, 31, with “a little bit of an injury,” and that prevented him from fully executing the gameplan. Things are different this time, according to the Brazilian, because Walker said he had a smooth training camp where he was able to hone in on the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent.
“We know his pattern and what he likes to do, so we simulate these for many months, many weeks while sparring,” Walker said. “I’m ready for whatever he tries to do, if he takes me down, if he tries striking. I know his pattern and what he’s going to try to use against me. Nothing has changed much. Just prepare for the worst. I’m ready. Maybe I’ll put him down because you never saw him when he back is on the floor, his behavior.
“I’m pretty sure if any of my good shots land, he’s going to sleep. If I get his back, I’m going to make him sleep, too. I’m going to choke him. I always try to push and get the best of myself and to finish the fight as well. I don’t like the judges deciding the fight for me and too much hard work for someone to maybe make a wrong decision. I want to make sure I have the fight in my hands so I’m going to do my best to finish the fight.”
If Walker, No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie light heavyweight rankings, is able to upset No. 4-ranked Ankalaev, he would be on a five-fight unbeaten streak. With many of the other notable contenders in the division either booked, injured or coming off a loss, there is a real opportunity to stake a claim at the next title shot.
The champ Alex Pereira (9-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) has teased a potential title defense at UFC 300 on April 13, and although that would be a quick turnaround, Walker said he’s confident he can position himself to get a chance at the belt.
“100 percent (the winner fights for the title),” Walker said. “I’m sure Ankalaev is the toughest guy now in the division. This fight is going to decide who is going to be the next champion: Me.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 234.
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