UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 Predictions

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UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker takes place this weekend at the UFC Apex facility in Enterprise, Nevada – and we’ve got our UFC predictions for all the fights below.

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 Predictions


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Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker prediction

The first fight between these two light-heavyweight contenders took place in October and ended in unfortunate circumstances mid-way through the opening round when Magomed Ankalaev landed an illegal knee to the head while Johnny Walker was grounded, leading to a no-contest ruling.

Before that Anakalaev had landed a punch to the body while on the feet left his opponent hunched over in pain, but that may well have just been a bluff as Walker then launched into a flying knee strike to the head that only just came up short. Ankalaev responded nicely to that surprise attack though by making it an opportunity to get a takedown.

I think that sequence tells us a lot about what the rematch may look like. While he’s tried to be a more measured fighter in recent years, at heart Walker is still someone who loves to mix in dynamic, creative attacks, such as that flying knee, or the spinning backfist he’d thrown a little earlier in the round. With his atheticism together with a 3″ height and 7″ reach advantage those kind of attacks are certainly dangerous, but they also open up opportunities for a more methodical, fundamentally sound technician like Ankalaev to exploit.

Ankalaev could look to use his counter-striking, but that’s not without risk. So, as in my prediction for their previous fight I do feel that Walker’s wilder attacks will present openings for Ankalaev to clinch up or go for takedowns, enabling him to gradually take the sting out of his opponents offense with extended periods of control.  Despite his urgency to get a finish last time out Ankalaev is generally someone who is willing to embrace the grind in those positions, so I think he’ll commit to  that here and win on the scorecards.

Prediction: Magomed Ankalaev to win by decision.

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Matheus Nicolau vs. Manel Kape prediction

A KO loss last time out ended Matheus Nicolau’s four-fight winning streak in the UFC and now he heads into a rematch against Manel Kape, who narrowly lost to him back in March of 2021 via split-decision, but has since gone on a four-fight unbeaten run.

Nicolau is a solid striker, but his three career losses have all come via strikes, and coming off that 1st round KO last time out I expect he’ll be even more committed to takedowns and ground control that helped him win the opening round of their first encounter.

Kape’s UFC run got off to a shaky start, including that narrow loss to Nicolau, but he’s carrying significant momentum into this rematch, and having had some significant moments of success on the feet against his opponent in the later rounds last time he’ll be looking to make even more of his potent striking style this time around.

I expect Kape to make a quicker start, eager to test his opponents chin and avenge that previous loss, while also being spurred on by the fact a big win could bolster his chances of moving into title contention. It’s going to be another tough fight though and he’ll constantly have to be wary of Nicolau’s takedowns, so this one could go either way, but in the end I’ll take Kape’s power advantage and pressure to win out, leading to a TKO finish in the 2nd round.

Prediction: Manel Kape to win by TKO in Rd2.

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Jim Miller vs. Gabriel Benitez prediction

The 40-year-old Jim Miller is one of the few people to have been essentially guaranteed a spot on the UFC 300 card in April as he attempts to become the only fighter to have also competed at UFC 100 and UFC 200.  First though he’ll have to overcome the 35-year-old Gabriel Benitez, who is coming off a TKO win, but had lost four of his previous five bouts beforehand.

At this age and stage with well over 50 fights already under his belt it’s impressive that Miller has not only managed to go 4-1 in his last five fights, but has also demonstrated new-found finishing power in his fists along the way, stopping three opponents via either KO or TKO. Meanwhile Miller continues to have a good submission game too that’s traditionally been his best route to victory. However, while he’s a wily veteran he’s not completely immune to the affects of ageing and is inevitably slower than he used to be and doesn’t have the same energy reserves either.

While Miller has shown upsides in the later years of his career it’s concerning that his opponent Benitez has been the other way around, with three of his four career losses via strikes having come in his last six fights. It’s worth noting those three defeats all came at 145lbs though, while he’s now back up at lightweight and coming off a TKO victory, albeit from a year-and-half ago. Benitez is a very capable striker with a good kicking game and will look to tenderize Miller’s lead leg. He can mix things up on the mat too and has a respectable submission game, but I think he’ll be eager to avoid going to the mat with a better technician like Miller.

I’m torn on this pick. It’s been fun to watch Miller living somewhat of a charmed existence lately, but I can’t help but feel that he’s likely more brittle than we realize. Perhaps Benitez will be the one to prove that, particularly with his kicking game, but I think despite his recent success on the feet Miller will instead utilize his crafty ground game here to gain the upper-hand and earn a decision victory.

Prediction: Jim Miller to win by decision.

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Ricky Simon vs. Mario Bautista prediction

After winning five fights in a row, Ricky Simon’s only fight in 2023 saw him lose by TKO to Song Yadong. Now he’ll take on another tough fight against Mario Bautista, who is currently riding a five-fight unbeaten run of his own.

Simon’s hard-working, tenacious mix of boxing, wrestling and cardio has made him a tough fight for just about anybody at 135lbs over the years, and he’s put together a very respectable 8-3 record in the Octagon along the way. The 31-year-old will have been disappointed to have been TKO’d last time out, especially as he leans on his toughness over technique at times, but he also does well competing at a high-tempo and applying pressure from start to finish.

The 30-year-old Bautista is  another industrious fighter with well-rounded skills, having good volume and solid technique on the feet, while he’s also a decent offensive wrestler, and makes up for weaker takedown defense by posing a significant threat via submissions on the mat that have been responsible for three of his last four victories.

I could see this being very competitive, but I think Simon may just have the edge overall with his tempo and intensity on the feet along with nice transitions from striking to takedown attempts, enabling him to eek out a win on the scorecards.

Prediction: Ricky Simon to win by decision.

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Phil Hawes vs. Brunno Ferreira prediction

Phil Hawes is in a tough spot having lost three of his last four fights in the 1st round via KO, while Brunno Ferreira emerged with a KO win in his UFC debut to go 10-0, but has since suffered a knockout defeat himself in just 77 second last July.

At 34-years-old Hawes unfortunately appears to now be the definition of a ‘glass cannon’, possessing the ability to end fights with his knockout power, but also having major durability issues that leave him at a troubling risk of being stopped by a single blow. It’s disappointing as he appeared to have potential, but has never quite managed to make the most of that and will perhaps be ruing the fact that he hasn’t made more of his relatively solid wrestling game.

Based on his last fight the 31-year-old Ferreira has the potential to head down the same route as Hawes as ‘The Hulk’ is also a very muscular fighter and thunderous puncher who will put everything into his strikes, but was KO’d quickly against Nursolton Ruziboev and could continue to run into that problem if he doesn’t make significant upgrades to his defense.

It’ll be interesting to see if their recent losses makes either fighter more gun-shy than usual or it results in them changing up their strategy. The possibility of Hawes using his wrestling more makes it tempting to pick him, but of the two there’s simply more evidence that Hawes chin is shot and so while it’s not a confident pick I’ll go with Ferreira to land a big punch in the early exchanges that ends his opponent’s night early once again.

Prediction: Brunno Ferreira to win by KO in Rd1.

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UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 Prelims

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About Ross Cole

Ross Cole is one of the most prolific mixed martial arts writers in the world, having written more than 17,000 MMA news stories for MMA Insight, which he founded in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts, and reaching millions of die-hard MMA fans in the process. You can read more of Ross's work at MMAInsight.com.