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UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 odds, predictions: MMA expert reveals surprising fight card picks, bets

The first UFC Fight Night of 2024 features a battle of ranked light heavyweights in the main event when No. 3-ranked Magomed Ankalaev faces No. 7-ranked Johnny Walker. Their five-round showdown anchors the main UFC fight card, which starts at 7 p.m. ET from the Apex facility in Las Vegas. While both fighters are considered elite strikers, Walker is the more explosive athlete, but Ankalaev is considered the more well-rounded combatant. The pairing is a rematch of their October showdown that ended in a no-contest because of an illegal strike by Ankalaev in the first round.

Ankalaev is a -550 favorite (risk $550 to win $100), while Walker is offered at +400 in the latest UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 odds. In the co-main event, Manel Kape (-270) meets Matheus Nicolau (+220) in a matchup of powerful flyweight contenders. Before locking in your picks for UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2, make sure you see the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Daniel Vithlani.  

From breaking down film and following fighters and their camps closely, to tracking sharp action and betting market signals, Vithlani covers the breadth of the MMA betting landscape top to bottom. He also trains amateur boxers and speaks regularly with MMA fighters to understand the sport’s nuances. 

Vithlani made his SportsLine debut last January and swept the main card for UFC 283 with a 5-0 record and has been a consistent winner ever since. At UFC 292, he called the upset for underdog Sean O’Malley (+210) against Aljamain Sterling (-250) in the bantamweight championship main event. Anyone who has followed Vithlani already has seen massive returns. 

Now, with UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 on deck, Vithlani has studied the card from top to bottom and released his top selections. You can see those picks at SportsLine

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 preview

The fighters have some similarities in that both were once regarded as the division’s most promising prospect, only to see that light dimmed in the face of myriad setbacks. 

Ankalaev (17-1-1) cuts an imposing figure and is widely considered one of the most versatile light heavyweight title contenders to come along in recent memory. But after seeing four of his first five UFC victories come by knockout, his trajectory took a step backward. 

The 31-year-old Russian won his next three fights by decision and appeared to be hesitant to engage against higher-level competition. Even so, he was awarded a shot at the vacant title against former champion Jan Blachowicz at UFC 282 in December 2022. The relatively lackluster fight ended in a split draw that left the title vacant, and Ankalaev’s next fight ended in a controversial result against Walker. 

Both fighters had their moments in the first round before Ankalaev intercepted a kick from Walker and turned it into a takedown against the cage. While Walker was on the canvas, Ankalaev landed a vicious uppercut knee to Walker’s chin, a foul for striking a grounded opponent. 

The ringside doctor examined Walker and recommended the fight to be called off. A furious Walker threw a fit, shoved the referee and tried to attack Ankalaev. However, Walker told the media this week that he suffered severe neck and jaw injuries because of the illegal strike and now believes the stoppage was appropriate. However, Walker also said he believes Ankalaev should have been disqualified as opposed to the fight being declared a no-contest. 

Walker (21-7-1) gained notice for his flashy style while finishing his first three UFC fights with first-round knockouts. But the 31-year-old Brazilian lost four of his next five, and his most recent victory was a lackluster decision over journeyman Anthony Smith last May. You can only see who to pick at UFC Fight Night here

UFC Fight Night predictions 

We’ll share one of Vithlani’s UFC Fight Night selections here: He is siding with Ricky Simon (-180) to get past Mario Bautista (+150) in a bantamweight battle on the main card.

Simon (20-4) is a versatile fighter and former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion who was once regarded as one the division’s most promising prospects. His momentum took a hit with a two-fight skid before he rebounded with a five-fight winning streak. However, the 31-year-old fighter saw that run come to an end with a stoppage loss to rising star Yadong Song last April.

Bautista (13-2) is a grappling ace who split his first four fights with the UFC but has emerged as a rising contender behind a five-fight winning streak dating to February 2022. The 30-year-old Nevada native notched a decision victory over Da’Mon Blackshear in August.

“Bautista is an explosive fighter who has power in his hooks and uppercuts. He is also a skilled grappler, with two victories via rear-naked choke in his last four fights. However, I think this is too big of a step-up in competition for him,” Vithlani told SportsLine. See who to back here.

How to make UFC FIght Night picks 

Vithlani has strong picks for Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 and other bouts on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing a fighter who “now has the confidence to let his hands go” to emerge with a dominant victory. Those picks are only available at SportsLine

Who wins UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200 in 2022, and find out. 

UFC Fight Night odds, fight card

See full UFC Fight Night picks, predictions, best bets here.
Magmoed Ankalaev (-550) vs. Johnny Walker (+400)
Matheus Nicolau (+220) vs. Manel Kape (-270)
Jim Miller (-120) vs. Gabriel Benitez (-140)
Ricky Simon (-180) vs. Mario Bautista (+150)
Phil Hawes (+110) vs. Bruno Ferreira (-130)
Marcus McGhee (-250) vs. Gaston Bollanos (+205)
Waldo Cortes-Acosta (-700) vs. Andre Arlovski (+500)
Farid Basharat (-275) vs. Taylor Lapilus (+225)
Nikolas Motta (+260) vs. Tom Nolan (-325)
Felipe Bunes (+195) vs. Joshua Van (-235)

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