UFC on ESPN+ 51: Santos vs. Walker Preview

Ranked fighters in UFC’s light heavyweight division will headline Saturday night’s “Fight Night” card from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The fight has great importance to former title challenger Thiago Santos, as he has the chance to snap a three-fight losing streak when facing Johnny Walker.

The matchup is a first for Walker, as he has never competed in a five-round UFC bout before. However, that might not matter if the evening goes his way, as all of his UFC wins have come in the first round.

A preview of that fight, and the entire 12-fight card, can be read here.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (4:00PM EDT / 1:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / TSN 2)

Bout 1: Alejandro Perez (21-8-1) vs. Johnny Eduardo (28-12) (Bantamweight)

Both returning after extended breaks from competition, bantamweights Alejandro Perez and Johnny Eduardo will compete in the opening fight of the card.

Perez had the shorter layoff of the two, with his last fight being a stoppage loss to Song Yadong in 2019.

Eduardo is returning after over three years out of the cage. The UFC vet comes back with a two-fight losing streak, with his fights being a 2018 loss to Nathaniel Wood and a 2017 defeat against Matthew Lopez.

Bout 2: Shanna Young (7-3) vs. Stephanie Egger (5-2) (Bantamweight)

Attempting to bounce back from a loss in their respective UFC debuts, Stephanie Egger and Shanna Young will meet at bantamweight.

Egger’s UFC debut came in October, stepping in on short notice to face Tracy Cortez. She lost to the prospect in that bout, dropping a unanimous decision.

Young also came in under short-notice circumstances, replacing Nicco Montano in early 2020. She lost that fight against Macy Chiasson, getting defeated via scorecards.

Bout 3: Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-4) vs. Gaetano Pirrello (15-6-1) (Bantamweight)

UFC veteran Douglas Silva de Andrade will meet Gaetano Pirrello in the third bout.

Silva de Andrade has fought on the UFC roster since 2014. He has switched between wins and losses in his last six appearances and is entering Saturday after taking a loss to undefeated prospect Lerone Murphy in January.

Pirrello lost his UFC debut early this year, losing a fight via submission against Ricky Simon in January. He was replacing Brian Kelleher in the bantamweight bout.

Bout 4: Jamie Mullarkey (13-4) vs. Devonte Smith (11-2) (Lightweight)

Coming off his first UFC win, Jamie Mullarkey will fight Devonte Smith as part of Saturday’s prelims.

Mullarkey had a rough start to his UFC career, dropping a bout to Brad Riddell and Fares Ziam to begin. He avoided falling into a three-fight losing streak in March, scoring a 46-second stoppage win over Khama Worthy at UFC 260.

Smith has fought four times since joining the UFC roster in 2018. He bounced back from his first promotional loss in February, as a doctor stoppage to opponent Justin Jaynes earned him a win.

Bout 5: Karol Rosa (14-3) vs. Bethe Correia (11-5-1) (Bantamweight)

Bethe Correia will get her send-off fight on the prelims when fighting Karol Rosa.

Correia has been part of the UFC roster since 2013 and was a notable name in the early days of the promotion’s 135-pound women’s division. She notavly lost a title fight in 2015, as Ronda Rousey stopped her in just 34 seconds. The loss was Correia’s first as a pro, ending a nine-fight undefeated run that included three previous UFC bouts.

Correia was reportedly cut from the UFC roster last year after losing a unanimous decision to Pannie Kianzad, which was her third loss in her last five fights. She then re-joined the roster, announcing an early 2021 fight against Wu Yanan as her retirement bout. Since she was pulled from that fight due to an emergency appendix removal, her retirement was delayed. On Saturday, her final fight will happen.

Rosa is a tough opponent for the retiring Correia. She has won three fights since joining the roster in 2019. Most recently she defeated Joselyne Edwards in February.

Bout 6; Antonina Shevchenko (9-3) vs. Casey O’Neill (7-0) (Flyweight)

Undefeated flyweight prospect Casey O’Neill will attempt to continue her climb up the division when facing Antonina Shevchenko.

O’Neill, 23, has had a dominant run since entering the UFC in February. She has finished both of her opponents thus far, stopping Shana Dobson and submitting Lara Procopio.

Shevchenko has won three of her last six, although many of those fights have come against ranked flyweights. She was submitted in her last fight, getting stopped by Andrea Lee in May.

Bout 7: Joe Solecki (11-2) vs. Jared Gordon (17-4) (Lightweight)

The final prelim is currently set to be a lightweight clash between Joe Solecki and Jared Gordon.

Solecki has been on fire since entering the UFC through TV show “Dana White’s Contender Series.” He scored his third UFC win in April, defeating veteran Jim Miller via unanimous decision.

He now faces Gordon, who also has some momentum going currently. Gordon is on a two-fight winning streak at the moment, with his most recent loss being a 2019 fight to now-UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira. His last win was in February, where he went the full 15 minutes for a decision win over Danny Chavez.

Main Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / TSN 2)

Bout 8: Alexander Hernandez (12-4) vs. Mike Breeden (10-3) (Lightweight)

UFC newcomer Mike Breeden will get the chance to make an impact in his debut, as he opens Saturday’s main card against Alexander Hernandez.

Breeden was called in on short notice to fill in for Leonardo Santos, who had to withdraw from his booking against Hernandez. Breeden has fought as a pro since 2017 and is currently on a two-fight winning streak in regional promotion FAC. He notably appeared on the 2020 season of “Dana White’s Contender Series,” losing a decision to then-undefeated Anthony Romero.

Hernandez took a loss earlier this year, dropping a bout via decision to Thiago Moises. He entered that fight with the momentum of a first-round victory that he earned over Chris Gruetzemacher in late 2020.

Bout 9: Misha Cirkunov (15-6) vs. Krzysztof Jotko (22-5) (Middleweight)

Misha Cirkunov will make his middleweight debut Saturday when fighting Krzysztof Jotko.

Cirkunov’s 10-fight UFC career up until now has strictly taken place in the light heavyweight division. He is moving down by 20 pounds this week following a first-round stoppage loss that he suffered against Ryan Spann in March.

Jotko had a strong three-fight winning streak broken in his last outing, as the rising Sean Strickland defeated him via decision in May. The bout was Jotko’s first loss since 2018.

Bout 10: Niko Price (14-5) vs. Alex Oliveira (22-10-1) (Welterweight)

Welterweights Niko Price and Alex Oliveira will look to break losing streaks on Saturday night.

Price has gone winless in his last three, with one of the results being a 2020 no contest result. He lost to the flashy Michel Pereira just three months back, not being picked over him on scorecards.

Oliveira has been finished within a round in his last two fights. After a submission loss to undefeated prospect Shavkat Rakhmonov just under a year ago, the UFC veteran returned in April and got caught with a submission by Randy Brown.

Bout 11: Kevin Holland (21-7) vs. Kyle Daukaus (10-2) (Middleweight)

Kevin Holland will attempt to break a quickly growing losing streak when fighting Kyle Daukaus in the co-main event of Saturday’s show.

Recent months for Holland have been a complete 180-degree turnaround from the headlines he produced in 2020. Holland became a “Fighter of the Year” candidate for many last year, scoring five wins with four via stoppage within a seven-month time period.

Holland has lost twice since then, dropping high-profile main event bouts at middleweight. After Holland lost a unanimous decision to Derek Brunson in March, he took a quick turnaround a month later to fill in for Darren Till in a fight against Marvin Vettori – which he also lost by a wide margin on scorecards.

Daukaus is also looking to return to the win column, as his last fight was a scorecard loss to Phil Hawes in May.

Bout 12: Thiago Santos (21-9) vs. Johnny Walker (18-5) (Light Heavyweight)

Ranked light heavyweights Thiago Santos and Johnny Walker will finish off the night, fighting in what could a five-round fight in total.

The fight is a big one for Santos, as he will aim to break a three-fight losing streak. Santos has taken a trio of losses over the past two years, although they have come against some of the division’s best.

The losing streak started in July 2019, where he lost a close split decision to then-UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Returning over a year later due to injuries he suffered in the title fight, Santos was stopped in a main event fight by Glover Teixeira – who is now next in line for a title shot.

Santos’ last fight was in March, where rising 205-pound fighter Aleksandar Rakic went three rounds for a decision victory. On Saturday, Santos has the ability to stop himself from falling to a four-fight losing streak – a series of losses that often isn’t seen in the UFC.

The fight on Saturday will be Walker’s first UFC main event fight. While Saturday’s bout has the potential to go 25 minutes, Walker has the reputation to put fights away early. All four of his UFC wins have come in the first round, including a first-round win he scored against Ryan Spann in his most recent fight – which was in September 2020. That win was incredibly important for Walker, as it broke a two-fight skid for him.

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