Despite opportunities to potentially put Smith away, Walker took it to the final horn with a dominant unanimous decision win. Walker (21-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) beat Smith (36-18 MMA, 11-8 UFC), a former title challenger, with a pair of 30-27 scores and a 29-28.
The light heavyweight bout was the UFC on ABC 4 co-main event at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.
“Everybody can get hurt there – even me, if you don’t block (the leg kicks),” Walker said in his post-fight interview in the cage. “I went to shake his hand (cageside and I told champion Jamahal Hill), I said, ‘Goodbye, bro. I’ll see you at the top. I’m coming.'”
Smith came out patient, but ate a few early calf kicks, then one to the body and one to the head that was partially blocked. Smith fired back, though, and clipped Walker – only to eat another calf kick that seemed to have him already favoring the lead leg.
Smith loaded up on a right and nearly caught the Brazilian just short of the halfway mark in the round. He threw another one soon after, then had to dip out of the way of a jumping knee from Walker. Smith answered with a left with two minutes left, but ate a low kick and was given time to recover by referee Keith Peterson.
After the restart, a wild sequence saw Walker hurt Smith with punches, without question. But Smith worked for a defensive single-leg takedown, just to survive, and eventually got it and went to work on top in half-guard. It allowed Smith a chance to grind out the round on top and recover, but with 10 seconds left, Walker worked back to his feet – and took Smith down right at the horn.
In the second, both fighters seemed to keep the same strategy – just at a slower pace. Walker threw measured leg kicks. Smith answered with some of his own and right hands. The crowd got impatient midway through the round when it seemed like it was a glorified sparring session. Each had moments of increased urgency, but also seemed comfortable not taking too many risks.
With about 30 seconds left in the round, Smith started talking to Walker. It sounded like he mentioned talking about his family, and the two had a short conversation while waiting to throw a few more punches and kicks just before the horn. Then they half-hugged each other before they headed to their stools.
The third had a slow pace to start, but when Walker reached to create distance he grazed Smith’s eye with a finger, which led to a short break. With about three minutes left, Smith landed a big right hand that made Walker get on his bike for a moment. But when they went back to the middle, Walker kept landing kicks to Smith’s lead leg trying to put him away.
With two minutes left, Smith cut caught and coupled with the damage to his leg, he found himself on the canvas. Walker tried to put him away, then let him back up. Walker pressed him to the fence in the final minute, then let him back to the middle and kept chipping away until the horn.
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2023
Up-to-the-minute UFC on ABC 4 results include:
Johnny Walker def. Anthony Smith via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ABC 4.