UFC Fight Night Odds & Picks for Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker: Best Bets & Preview for Main Event (Saturday, October 2)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: UFC Light Heavyweight fighter Thiago Santos.
- Top-10 light heavyweight contenders Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker headline Saturday's UFC Fight Night event on ESPN+.
- Santos (-145 odds) enters as the favorite in a fight that sportbooks do not expect to go the distance.
- Sean Zerillo breaks down the matchup and explains why there's a live betting opportunity in the main event.
Thiago Santos vs. Johnny Walker Odds
The main card for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night starts at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and concludes with a Light Heavyweight showdown between No. 5 contender Thiago Santos and No. 10 Johnny Walker, in what expects to be a violent affair.
Although this is a five-round fight, oddsmakers listed the “No” on the “Fight to Go the Distance” prop at -650 (86.7% implied), which is one of the steeper lines on either side of an MMA total that you will ever see.
Santos enters on a three-fight losing streak against championship-level talent – Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira, and Aleksandar Rakic — and has gone to decision in eight of his 30 career professional fights.
Thanks to his massive power and reckless fighting style, all but two of Walker’s professional fights have ended by finish.
Saturday’s main event is a likely violent and high variance bout that could produce a viral highlight.
Below, I’ll preview this main event in-depth and provide my thoughts on where you can find actionable value on Saturday night.
Tale of the Tape
|Avg. Fight Time||8:10||5:23|
|Weight (pounds)||205 lbs.||205 lbs.|
|Date of birth||1/7/84||3/30/92|
|Sig Strikes Per Min||4.27||4.41|
|SS Absorbed Per Min||2.33||3.51|
|Take Down Avg.||0.70||0.40|
Walker will be the larger man in the cage (4-inch height and 6-inch reach advantage). Santos, a former middleweight, has managed a similar discrepancy against the likes of Jon Jones (8.5-inch reach difference), considered the greatest Mixed Martial Artist of all-time, by many analysts.
“Marreta” went the full 25 minutes with the champion in 2019 and nearly pulled off the upset as a +375 underdog, winning at least two rounds on all three scorecards and 54% of fan scorecards in a split decision loss.
Santos is the far more technical striker and also a superior grappler compared to Walker. He will also hold up much better in the late rounds than his opponent, who is 3-3 in his career when his fights get past the opening five minutes.
Santos trains at a top camp (American Top Team), so I’m confident he’ll come in well-prepared, with solid corner coaches and an easily identifiable game plan.
The Brazilian is much more responsible defensively than his opponent (+24%; 55% to 31% in striking defense). He has shown adversity under pressure and the ability to win minutes late in his fights.
All of that adds up to a skillset necessary to defeat Walker, whose fighting style could be mistaken for button-mashing:
Walker uses his size and hellacious power to gain leverage over his opponents and unleash vicious strikes from close range. While he is highly accurate offensively (72%), he barges into the pocket with little regard for his safety, which is why this fight — and any of his fights — can end in a flash.
Walker fights like he knows that he has cardio limitations — and his kill or be killed temperament creates a high degree of variance in his contests.
Both his heart and courage are unquestionable, but Walker’s chin can betray him. This video from Walker’s regional scene days encapsulates his defense in about 15 seconds — block punches with your face and hope to walk through them:
Remember when Johnny Walker got KO’d 5 times in 15 seconds pic.twitter.com/n3YgjHhidl
— TheArtOfWar2 (@MiracleMMA__) March 25, 2021
Santos started his light heavyweight run with a trio of knockouts, including wins against current champion Jan Blachowicz and a typically durable Eryk Anders. (You don’t tattoo a sledgehammer on your chest unless you can throw heat.)
In addition to his chin, Walker’s gas tank and grappling could be significant downsides in this fight. The back class and fight experience are also advantages for Santos.
As a result, Walker’s win condition seems relatively limited — finish in Round 1 or possibly Round 2 — with Santos soaking up most of the decision win and late finish equity.
However, while all of the skill and technical advantages point towards Santos in this fight, Walker creates chaos and leans into variance.
Santos vs. Walker Pick
I projected Santos as a 65% favorite (-185 implied odds) in this bout, and I projected the fight to end inside the distance 87% of the time (-655 implied).
I would bet Santos on the moneyline up to -170, at an edge of two percentage points compared to my projection, but I don’t show actionable value concerning the totals; most of the value has been bet out of the number, which opened at -350.
You can find a -480 to end inside the distance at FanDuel if you want a perceived four percentage point edge, but that’s laying a ton of juice for you to potentially scream “finish” at the TV for 25 minutes. Still, that number will eventually catch up to the -650 at DraftKings.
FanDuel offers slight value on Santos by KO/TKO (listed +105, projected -108) or inside the distance (listed -115, projected -125), which they call “by KO/TKO/or Submission” under the Double Chance props.
Unless you can find prop odds similar to those, I would stick with a straight play on the Santos moneyline – he’s better everywhere and can win either early or late, while Walker seems much more limited.
If Santos survives the early onslaught from Walker, you can look to Live Bet Santos after Round 1.
The Pick: Thiago Santos (-155, bet to -170) / Live Bet Santos after Round 1
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