Today, we learned that the UFC is booking a big time light heavyweight matchup for their first card of the year. SBG’s John Kavanagh was a guest on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour today and revealed that his fighter Johnny Walker (21-7, 1 NC) would be fighting Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1, 1 NC) on January 13th.
That card is expected to take place in Las Vegas at the APEX. The fight will headline the UFC’s first card of the year. It’s not a surprise that the fight will headline the card given how big it is for the title picture at light heavyweight. The division just saw a new champion crowned this past weekend at UFC 295 with Alex Pereira defeating Jiri Prochazka.
Walker and Ankalaev first fought last month at UFC 294 and the fight ended in a terrible No Contest. Walker took an illegal knee during a scramble with Ankalaev and the fight was stopped. Walker seemed a little confused when the doctor asked him where he was and he replied “The desert.” The fight was taking place in Abu Dhabi. The ringside physician who didn’t have a ton of experience wasn’t satisfied with that answer and called the fight off.
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Both Walker and Ankalaev were incredibly frustrated as they wanted to continue fighting. It was a horrible decision by the doctor to stop the fight and it was also horrible considering the fact that Walker was supposed to be given five minutes to recover and the doctor made that call only a minute into the break.
The UFC said they would take care of both fighters and get the fight rebooked. Now we know that the fight will headline the first show of the year. Jamahal Hill is the former light heavyweight champion who vacated the title due to injury which allowed Pereira to fight Prochazka for the title this past weekend.
Hill is the logical next fight for Pereira, unless he can’t compete anytime soon due to his recovery. After UFC 295, Alex Pereira stated that he wanted to be active and wouldn’t mind defending his title before Hill is ready to come back. My assumption is that a lot of eyes will be on this matchup in January. Whoever wins could get the first crack at the promotion’s next light heavyweight champion.