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Johnny Walker of Brazil prepares to fight Ion Cutelaba of Moldova in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Johnny Walker: ‘I’m In My Prime’

Johnny Walker Challenges Submission Threat Paul Craig At UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill In Brazil

After a fast start, a lack of consistency put UFC light heavyweight Johnny Walker in a holding pattern. 

Kicking off his professional mixed martial arts career in style, Walker won his first 13 fights by finish en route to earning a spot on Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil 2. After earning his UFC contract, the Brazilian collected three consecutive knockout victories and Performance of the Night bonuses. 

But that’s where his hot streak ended. Walker inevitably had a bump up in competition, facing some of the 205-pound division’s toughest contenders. Walker lost four of his next five, most recently being on the wrong end of a highlight reel finish for UFC 283’s light heavyweight title challenger Jamahal Hill. 

Order UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill

So, on his way back to the locker room that evening, Walker had to make a choice. Would he continue to go down this path, or could he discover the necessary changes that could steer his career back in the right direction?

Walker watched those four losses back and a trend became clear: he abandoned his gameplan searching for knockouts, hoping that he could entertain fans and leave a lasting impression in the Octagon. Once you get to the highest level, however, it isn’t that easy. Walker understood that most of his skills were being put on the back burner and were underutilized in critical moments. 

Johnny Walker Fight Week Interview | UFC 283
Johnny Walker Fight Week Interview | UFC 283

“Everything’s about consistency and maturity,” Walker said. “I’ve gotten more mature, learned about myself. I did a lot of mistakes before, so I don’t repeat the same mistakes. I’m smarter, more mature, have more experience and I’m in my prime, as well, so everything’s coming together. I just have to keep moving forward and never quit. I will get there sooner or later.”

Fight By Fight Preview | UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill

At UFC 279: Diaz vs Ferguson, Walker faced Ion Cutelaba, a six-year UFC veteran whose career has suffered a similar inconsistency in recent years. This time around, Walker put all his skills on display. 

Finding himself on his back early, Walker reversed positions halfway through the opening round and started going to work. Walker transitioned to Cutelaba’s back, hunting for a rear naked choke. With 30 seconds to go in the first, Walker sunk the choke in, forcing the tap. Walker, breakdancing his way back to his corner, got the win he so desperately needed, providing him a spark to help aid his resurgence and return to the light heavyweight Top 15. 

Johnny Walker of Brazil kicks Thiago Santos of Brazil in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 02, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Johnny Walker of Brazil kicks Thiago Santos of Brazil in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on October 02, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“I saw my potential,” Walker said. “I have to choose more of the skills that I have. I’ve been training MMA for so long, and I like to strike, but I know I have so much potential to explore in my ground game. I’ve been training everything, but when I get [in the Octagon] I just want to knock people out. Now it’s time for me to use all my weapons.”

How To Watch UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill In Your Country

Now for the first time since March 2019, Walker can earn back-to-back wins when he faces Scotland’s Paul Craig at UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill. The Rio de Janeiro native will compete in his hometown for the first time in his career. 

“I fought in Brazil two times, but I never fought in Rio, so I’m very excited to fight for my people in my hometown and I’m sure I’ll have the crowd on my side,” Walker joked. 

Johnny Walker | Best Moments
Johnny Walker | Best Moments

Craig, who boasts six submission victories in his UFC tenure, comes off a disappointing performance against Volkan Oezdemir at the O2 arena in July. Nonetheless, a six fight unbeaten run prior makes him one of the light heavyweight division’s most difficult matchups. 

“The biggest challenge against Paul Craig is his ground game,” Walker said. “He’s very unusual because he’ll pull guard. It’s very unusual because he takes a lot of risks…but I have really good jiu-jitsu; I’m a brown belt. I’ve practiced jiu-jitsu for a long time and I’m comfortable in this area, as well. I’m not going to play his game; I’m going to play my game and he has to be careful because I can choke him out. 

“People know I have knockout power; I can finish people. It’s in Brazil, in my hometown, so I’m going to put a show on… fans know who I am, and they know what to expect.”

UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill

UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill took place live from Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on January 21, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass