Thiago Santos says he's aware many MMA observers believe he is past his prime, but the rugged Brazilian fighter is determined to prove them wrong. He'll get a chance on Saturday when he squares off against rising prospect Johnny Walker in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker. The battle of ranked light heavyweights closes the curtain on the MMA showcase from the Apex facility in Las Vegas. The main UFC fight card is set for 7 p.m. ET. The fifth-ranked Santos' last win came against current champion Jan Blachowicz, but a title-fight loss against former champion Jon Jones spawned a three-fight losing streak.
Santos is a -185 favorite (risk $185 to win $100), while Walker is offered at +165 in the latest Santos vs. Walker odds at Caesars Sportsbook. Before locking in any MMA picks of your own for UFC Fight Night, make sure you see the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to dissect the X's and O's of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,200 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 10 percent return on investment for his followers. In 2020, $100 bettors who tailed his picks were up $9,200.
Just last week at UFC 266, Gombas went 11-1 on his SportsLine selections to give $100 bettors a profit of nearly $1,000 in one night. Moreover, he hit his top four best bets, including calling a victory Alexander Volkanovski (-175) against Brian Ortega in the wild featherweight main event. A parlay of those selections paid 9-1. Anyone who has followed him already has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker in sight, Gombas has studied the card from top to bottom and released his top selections. A successful parlay of those picks would pay better than 10-1 and they can only be seen at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker preview
Gombas knows the main event features a clash between a proven veteran in Santos and a heavy-handed prospect in Walker, who is looking for a signature UFC victory. The winner will join the tightly-bunched group of contenders behind champion Jan Blachowicz, who is scheduled to face top-ranked contender Glover Teixeira at UFC 267 in late October.
Santos (21-9) is a rugged and well-rounded Brazilian who memorably pushed Jones, the former long-reigning champion, to the wire in their July 2019 title fight. His early strikes appeared to have an impact on Jones, who fought most of the way in a defensive posture. Jones won a split decision, but Santos memorably became the first opponent of Jones to win a scorecard against the champ.
However, multiple injuries suffered in that fight caused Santos to take a 16-month absence from the cage. He returned last November and was submitted in the third round by Teixeira before dropping a decision in March against Aleksandar Rakic, who is now ranked third. A win on Saturday would likely vault the 37-year-old back into the title picture, but a fourth consecutive loss will likely send him into the dreaded realm of division gatekeeper.
Walker (18-5) made a quick impression with MMA observers because of his knockout power and charismatic personality. He won his first three UFC fights by first-round knockout before he was stopped by Corey Anderson, a former contender who is now with Bellator.
The 29-year-old Brazilian then fell by decision to No. 9-ranked Nikita Krylov before rebounding with a first-round stoppage of Ryan Spann last September. You can only see who to back here.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker predictions
We'll share one of Gombas' UFC Fight Night selections here: He is going with Misha Cirkunov (+145) to pull the upset of Krzysztof Jotko (-165) in a showdown of middleweight prospects.
Jotko (22-5) is an eight-year UFC veteran who joined the promotion with a 13-0 record by feasting upon meager competition in lesser promotions. The Polish fighter climbed the ranks by winning six of his first seven UFC bouts but has struggled for consistency against high-level competition. He has lost four of seven following his torrid start in the UFC and is coming off a lopsided decision defeat to rising contender Sean Strickland in May.
Cirkunov (15-6) emerged as a hot prospect after he won his four fights under the UFC banner but like Jotko has struggled against upper-tier opposition. The Russian fighter is 2-4 in his last six appearances, and all four losses have come by first-round stoppage.
"Cirkunov has all of the physical tools to be a high-level UFC fighter, but he can't seem to avoid the big shot. On the other hand, eight of Jotko's nine UFC wins have come by decision. I think Jotko doesn't have the power to put Cirkunov away early and I favor Cirkunov to win," Gombas told SportsLine.
How to make UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker predictions
Gombas also has strong picks for Santos vs. Walker and other fights on the UFC Fight Night card. He's also backing one fighter to pull a massive upset. In that fight, Gombas says, the line is completely off. Those selections are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Santos vs. Walker? And which fighter pulls off a massive upset? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the insider who's up nearly $9,200 on MMA picks in the past year, and find out.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Walker odds
Thiago Santos (-185) vs. Johnny Walker (+165)
Kevin Holland (-150) vs. Kyle Daukaus (+130)
Niko Price (-140) vs. Alex Oliveira (+120)
Krzysztof Jotko (-165) vs. Misha Cirkunov (+145)
Joe Solecki (-145) vs. Jared Gordon (+125)
Alexander Hernandez (-500) vs. Mike Breeden (+400)
Casey O'Neill (-200) vs. Antonina Shevchenko (+175)
Karol Rosa (-335) vs. Bethe Correia (+275)
Devonte Smith (-160) vs. Jamie Mullarkey (+140)
Douglas Silva de Andrade (-230) vs. Gaetano Pirrello (+195)
Alejandro Perez (-220) vs. Johnny Eduardo (+190)
Stephanie Egger (-125) vs. Shanna Young (+105)