Tomorrow in the co-main event of UFC Charlotte, we are going to see a pivotal matchup in the light heavyweight division. Former title challenger Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (36-17) will look to get back on track as he takes on Johnny Walker (20-7).
For Smith, this is his first fight since last July when he took on Magomed Ankalaev. That fight was considered by many to be a title eliminator and Smith entered that bout having won three fights in a row and all of them by finish.
However, it appeared that Smith injured his ankle early in the fight and could never get going. The compromised Smith ultimately lost by second round TKO. Now, he’s back and he’s looking to stake his claim as a title challenger in waiting.
To do that, he’s going to have to defeat Johnny Walker. Walker was one of the more hyped fighters in the UFC just a few years ago. He was running through everyone and scored three straight first round knockouts. However, after a shoulder injury, he had a stretch where he went just 1-4 and got knocked out twice.
That said, he’s really turned things around in his last two fights. He’s scored a first round submission over Ion Cutelaba and then a first round knockout over Paul Craig. The old Johnny Walker appears to be back.
UFC Charlotte Prediction
Anthony Smith is going to have to be smart in this matchup. Johnny Walker is the much bigger man and he also carries a lot more power in his shots. Not only that, but Johnny Walker has scored knockouts from the clinch as well as when his foot was literally being held by Paul Craig.
The man is a freak, but he is very beatable with the right game plan. I think Smith needs to be patient and work leg kicks early on. Try to take away the explosion and work his way inside. Again, inside is no easy picnic with the elbows of Walker.
That said, if Smith can time his entries and even get the fight to the mat, there’s a clear path for him at UFC Charlotte. For Walker, he just needs to keep the fight as his range. Don’t overuse your energy and look to exploit the power advantage.
I could see Walker scoring a knockout in this one. However, for a pick, I like Anthony Smith. I think his higher Fight IQ is going to play a role here and over the course of three rounds, I think he’ll start to break Walker down. I’m feeling a third round submission for Lionheart in this one.
Prediction: Anthony Smith by Submission