Light heavyweight contenders Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker headlined Saturday’s UFC Vegas 38 fight card at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Santos entered the bout ranked No. 5 in the 205-pound division while Walker was ranked No. 10.
In the opening round, Walker dictated the pace by moving forward and having a higher output than Santos, but not a lot happened in the frame.
Santos picked up his activity in the second frame. He gave Walker different looks by switching stances regularly and worked in a takedown attempt. Santos connected with hard kicks to the body. In the third round, Santos continued where he had success in the second round.
The fight statistics had Walker slightly landing more, but Santos’ strikes were clearly doing more damage. Heading into the fourth round, it was the first time Walker had seen a fight go past the third.
Round four saw Santos connect with a combination and continue to land kicks to the body and legs of Walker. Walker was having his moments but neither fighter had a definitely advantage heading into the final round.
Santos landed the hardest punch of the fight in the final frame. As Walker threw a kick, Santos fired off a left hand that landed cleanly. It was a very close fight, but all three judges scored the fight 48-47 for Santos by unanimous decision.
“He’s unpredictable. It’s so hard to train for him,” Santos said following the win. “I tried to do my best. I tried to knock him out, but it’s hard to get close to him. He’s big, but he moves fast.”
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In the co-main event, a clash of heads in the opening moments of the middleweight match between Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus sent Holland to the canvas seemingly knocked out. He regained consciousness on the way to the canvas and started to defend himself. The referee did not stop the fight. Daukaus took Holland’s back and locked in a rear-naked choke forcing Holland to tap out.
Following the fight, officials watched the replay, which clearly showed that Holland was knocked down by a clash of heads. Veteran referee Herb Dean told referee for the fight Dan Mirgliaotta, “If you don’t feel good about it, you can call it a no contest.”
Mirgliotta, following the fight, was caught on mic explaining that he nearly stopped the fight but Holland started fighting back so he decided to let the fight go. Mirgliotta, after reviewing the replay, decided the fight should be ruled a no contest due to the fact that the head butt left Holland severely compromised and led to the finishing sequence.
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