The UFC has booked the main event for its first card of 2024 – a fight we recently saw happen without a winner determined.
Light heavyweight contenders Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker will run things back in a five-round bout to headline UFC Fight Night on Jan. 13. MMA Junkie confirmed the booking with a person close to the situation Monday after Walker’s coach, SBG Ireland’s John Kavanagh, shared the news on “The MMA Hour.”
The UFC has yet to make an official announcement about the event, which is expected to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Ankalaev (18-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC) and Walker (21-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) fought to a controversial no contest last month at UFC 294. In the first round, Ankalaev hit Walker with an illegal knee to the head while he was down on the canvas. A timeout was called by referee Dan Movahedi, who brought in the cageside doctor to examine Walker. Despite Walker appearing OK and answering the doctor’s questions, the doctor advised to stop the fight, which he did officially at the 3:13 mark of Round 1.
Walker immediately protested the stoppage, which prompted a reaction from Ankalaev. The two men had to be restrained from each other as UFC CEO Dana White stepped in the cage to ensure the situation didn’t get out of hand.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 21, 2023
Now Ankalaev, No. 2 in the official UFC light heavyweight rankings, and No. 7 Walker have a chance to get their hands on each other once again. The winner could stake his claim to a title shot against new champ Alex Pereira.
While Pereira, who claimed the vacant belt with a knockout of Jiri Prochazka this past Saturday at UFC 295, is expected to first defend against former champ Jamahal Hill, that could depend on the timeline of Hill’s return. Hill vacated the title in the summer after he tore his Achilles.
Also in the mix for the next title shot could be Jan Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic, who will meet in a rematch Jan. 20 at UFC 297.