After the usual Christmas hiatus, the UFC returns this weekend with Fight Night 234. The event sees one of the best light heavyweights on the planet take to the Octagon as he looks to right a wrong. In his last fight, Magomed Ankalaev went to a No Contest with Johnny Walker after landing an illegal knee. While the blow was clearly outside the rules, Walker was keen to continue fighting. But the doctor controversially called a stop to the fight in the first round. Now the pair go into an immediate rematch, with both hoping for a definitive outcome.
Ankalaev is 2/11 to triumph in the re-do with Walker 7/2 to spring the upset. It’s easy to see why. Ankalaev took Jan Blachowicz to the limit in a UFC light heavyweight title fight in 2022. The decision rendered was a split draw, but many thought the Russian star had done enough to win. Of 25 ringside journalists polled, 23 scored the fight in Ankalaev’s favour.
Ankalaev could get this one done inside. Walker has been stopped on four occasions out of his seven losses, while nine of Magomed’s 17 wins have come by stoppage. The Ankalaev knockout is priced up at 8/15 as it stands. If you fancy Ankalaev to grind it out, he is 9/2 to win on points for the ninth time in his career. Ankalaev is yet to secure a professional submission win in MMA.
Chief support on the night comes from another rematch, this time down at flyweight. Matheus Nicolau takes on Manel Kape in a return bout from their 2021 clash. Nicolau won that won via a split decision. The Brazilian won three on the bounce after the fight before succumbing to a first-round knockout against Brandon Royval last April.
Crowd-pleaser Kape is unbeaten since, racking up four victories. A September decision win over Felipe dos Santos landed ‘Starboy’ his first Fight of the Night award. Despite losing the first meeting, it appears that momentum is on the 30-year-old’s side.
Kape is 1/3 to do the business, reflecting the fighters’ shifting fortunes over the last couple of years. Considering the fact all three of Nicolau’s losses have come via knockout, 7/4 for Kape to win this one inside the distance looks like the smart play.
The rest of the card includes a return for veterans Jim Miller and Andrei Arlovski. The former holds the records for the most bouts and most wins in UFC history. Miller looks to extend both records against Gabriel Benitez. Meanwhile, former UFC heavyweight champion Arlovski continues his journey against Waldo Cortes-Acosta in a preliminary bout.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker
Matheus Nicolau vs. Manel Kape
Jim Miller vs. Gabriel Benítez
Ricky Simón vs. Mario Bautista
Phil Hawes vs. Brunno Ferreira
Andrei Arlovski vs. Waldo Cortes-Acosta
Matthew Semelsberger vs. Preston Parsons
Marcus McGhee vs. Gaston Bolanos
Farid Basharat vs. Taylor Lapilus
Westin Wilson vs. Jean Silva
Tom Nolan vs. Nikolas Motta
Joshua Van vs. Felipe Bunes