A pivotal contest in the light heavyweight division is slated to start the new year for the UFC.
According to SBG Ireland’s Jon Kavanaugh, top contenders Johnny Walker and Magomed Ankalaev are scheduled to face one another in the first main event of 2024, a rematch from a controversial no-contest at UFC 294 in October.
In an in-studio appearance on MMA Fighting’s “The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani,” the acclaimed coach inadvertently revealed the matchup between the Russian former title challenger and his Brazilian student.
“Is it announced that the rematch is on?” Kavanaugh asked before spilling the beans on Las Vegas hosting the fight on Jan. 13.
Kavanaugh also said that the UFC attempted to rebook Johnny Walker and Magomed Anakalev with the upcoming fight night card in Shanghai, China on Dec. 9 and UFC 296 in Las Vegas on Dec. 16 as potential options before settling on waiting until the calendar changed over.
“I felt this was just the right amount of time…We had peaked so well. So, to take a couple of weeks off and then only have a couple of weeks to peak again…I liked the timing of it.”
Is Johnny Walker vs Magomed Ankalaev 2 a Title Eliminator?
Ankalaev and Walker, who are respectively ranked number two and number six in the light heavyweight division, are on the shortlist for potential title challengers for newly crowned champion Alex Pereira while acknowledging the “messy” situation with Jamahal Hill lingering around while recovering from an injury.
“Whoever gets the win, it sets them up for maybe a title shot. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
As of this writing, the UFC’s official website has not been updated to reflect the results of UFC 295 and still lists Hill as champion despite relinquishing the belt after suffering a torn Achilles tendon while playing a pickup game of basketball in July.
What Happened in Johnny Walker vs Magomed Ankalaev 1?
The first meeting between the two abruptly ended after an illegal knee by Magomed Ankalaev led to a no-contest ruling after the cage-side physician determined that Johnny Walker could not safely continue. The bout was officially stopped just over three minutes into the opening round.
The result sparked a chaotic scene in the Octagon with Walker protesting the stoppage and shoving the referee before the two opponents attempted to reengage with one another.
Just a week after the rematch, former champion Jan Blachowicz will square off against Aleksandar Rakic at UFC 297. Hill recently targeted a return to competition in the second quarter of 2024 further complicating the title picture.