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On Dana White’s Contender Series – UFC’s live reality fighting show – earning a finish is more likely to get you a contract with the promotion instead of sweating out a decision win. This is just one of the examples you can find throughout the sport of how your performance – and not just the win-or-loss outcome – can affect your career.
Dana White not amazed by Johnny Walker’s win
It’s why Jailton Almeida and Ian Machado Garry were uplifted by UFC President Dana White after UFC’s card on Saturday, while light heavyweight Johnny Walker was given much more subdued praise.
“Walker didn’t really wow anybody tonight, but he won,” said White during the post-fight press conference on Saturday. “[Walker] was put on the co-main event to kind of shine tonight. He got a W, so cool. I guess that’s good.”
Walker’s win came against former title challenger and 205-pound vet Anthony Smith. Walker pulled ahead of Smith early, landing in stand-up exchanges. He scored a knockdown in the opening frame with a right cross and frequently connected with leg kicks.
Later in the fight, it became clear that Walker was in the lead of the fight. This is not to say that Smith wasn’t still coming forward and throwing his own strikes as well.
Before the final round, Walker’s corner advised him to do “five minutes of feinting and moving.” That’s roughly what happened for the next round, as Walker cautiously went after a hurt Smith.
White: Johnny Walker ‘tried to fight safe and get the win’
Even though Walker went to scorecards this weekend, he’s has been a career-long aggressive talent. Saturday was only the fourth time that Walker had gone the distance in a fight as a pro. He is almost always a finisher, with 19 of his 21 wins coming before the final bell.
Small mistakes can cost you the whole fight in MMA, hence why a fighter would be careful even when up on scorecards. White acknowledged this but nonetheless hoped Walker would get a finish.
“I feel like, obviously he’s in there with a very durable, tough guy and a dangerous guy in Smith. But, Smith got dropped and was hurt in the first round. Then his leg was gone. Johnny never went for the finish, never tried to finish the fight. Just tried to fight safe and get the win.”
The case for playing it safe
At times, it seemed like Smith was only a few moves away from being finished. However, there are still factors to weigh when it comes to why the fight went the way it did.
During the broadcast, former fighter Daniel Cormier stated that Walker was trying to have a more balanced approach. In some fights, like his 2021 main event loss to Thiago Santos, he wasn’t aggressive enough to get a win. But in other fights, it has certainly been his chaotic, aggressive style that has not worked in his favor either. After being on both sides of the coin, Walker was looking to find that perfect balance.
The win was also high-stakes for Walker. He’s currently ranked seventh in the light heavyweight division and just overcame Smith, who is two places higher at fifth. He has now strung together a trio of victories, which is a massive change compared to the rough 2019 to 2022 stretch that saw him put together just one win through five appearances.
And at the end of the day, almost every fight uses a structure where fighters are given “show” money, and “win” money. A more aggressive game plan from Walker could have hypothetically offered a chance for him to lose and would cost him thousands of dollars. These factors are likely taken into consideration when putting together a fight.
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