A key light heavyweight fight has been added to the upcoming UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi this October.
That fight sees former title challenger Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1) face Brazil’s Johnny Walker (21-7) at the event, which will take place at the Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023.
Vestnik MMA was first to report news of the match-up.
The fight finds Dagestan’s Ankalaev looking to return to the win column after fighting to a draw in a highly criticized title fight with Jan Blachowicz last December. With the UFC’s 205lb title vacant at the time, the belt was left without an owner, and later put up between Jamahal Hill and Glover Teixeira the following month — a fight Hill won.
Hill recently vacated the title due to injury, putting the winner of Ankalaev vs. Walker perhaps just a fight away, or next in line, for a title shot. Former champ Jiri Prochazka, and Alex Pereira, who made his debut in the light heavyweight division this past weekend, are also in the mix.
For his part, Johnny Walker has won three straight fights, most recently earning a decision win over former title challenger Anthony Smith. That run has put some distance between 2023 Walker and the fighter who went 1-4 in a stretch from 2019 to early 2022.
Anklaev is currently ranked #2 in the weight class per the UFC’s official rankings. Walker sits in the #7 spot at the moment, pushed down a spot due to the recent debut of Pereira.
UFC 294 is expected to be headlined by a lightweight title fight, as champ Islam Makhachev meets Charles Oliviera for the second time. The following match-ups have been reported for the event thus far:
- Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira – for the UFC lightweight championship
- Khamzat Chimaev vs. Paulo Costa
- Ikram Aliskerov vs. Nassourdine Imavov
- Muhammad Mokaev vs. Tim Elliott
- Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker