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UFC Vegas 38 main event: Thiago Santos beats Johnny Walker by unanimous decision

thiago santos, ufc vegas 38

Jul 6, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Thiago Santos (blue gloves) after his loss to Jon Jones (not pictured) at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Despite have reputations as heavy-hitting finishers, the UFC Vegas 38 headliner between Brazilians Johnny Walker and Thiago Santos ended up a five-round battle of tactics and in-flight adjustments.

The first was a feeling-out process for both as they looked to find their range on the other. Walker (18-6) was the fighter that was more active as the 37-year-old got off to a slow start and looked to score shots on his 6'6" opponent. Although no shots of consequence were landed by either man, Walker seemed to get the better of his foe in the opening five minutes.

Thiago Santos beats Johnny Walker in tactical fight at UFC Vegas 38

In the second, "Marreta" seemed to realize he let the first round get away from him with a lack of activity, and kicked up the aggression. Working more leg kicks, as well as kick and punch combinations. Pressuring his opponent as he stalked him around the Octagon. The third round was more of the same as the smaller Santos (22-9) looked faster than his 29-year-old counterpart. What happened in the first round with Santos started to happen by the third with Walker, where he became the fighter looking less active and effective.

In the fourth came another momentum switch as Walker made some adjustments and started to land more frequently. It was his most effective round since the first as he seemed to finally figure out how to combat Santo's kicks and angles. The pair of Brazilians went into the fifth and final round with the fight looking like it was even at two rounds apiece, and totally up for the taking.

And in the final five minutes, Santos made most of the time. Just like the other four rounds, neither wobbled the other nor had their opponent in serious danger, but the former title challenger had a bit higher pace and activity level. He also landed the best strike by either man -- a sledgehammer left cross -- in the most important round of the fight. The fight went the distance, and when the scorecards were read, all three judges gave Santos three of the five rounds.

For the fifth-ranked Santos, the victory was a must as he ended a three-fight losing streak in what he announced in the post-fight interview as the final fight on his current UFC contract. His last win came in February 2019 against current division king Jan Blachowicz.

The loss is third in his last four for the tenth-ranked Walker. He has not won consecutive fights in the Octagon since 2019.