UFC light heavyweight Johnny Walker has always had enormous amounts of talent. But he displayed in taking apart Anthony Smith on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC on ABC 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina, that his fight IQ is catching up to his physical skills.
Walker had no trouble with the fifth-ranked Anthony Smith, beating him convincingly by using a variety of kicks, knees, punches and elbows. It was one of the most impressive victories of Walker’s career and it left Smith looking like an old, slow and beaten man.
Smith had his gloves off as Bruce Buffer read off the judges’ scorecards of 30-27 twice and 29-28 in favor of Walker. Gloves off is usually a sign that a fighter plans to retire, but Smith did not get the opportunity to speak on the microphone.
A UFC spokesperson told Yahoo Sports that Smith said it is not an official retirement at this time.
Walker did plenty of speaking in the cage. Throughout the fight, he was lighting up Smith’s front legs with kicks, but toward the end of the first round, he began to find his range with his strikes. He badly hurt and then dropped Smith with a series of hard shots and referee Keith Peterson seemed on the verge of stopping it.
Smith, renowned throughout a stellar MMA career for his grit and toughness, managed to hang in and reversed position in the waning seconds of the round to prevent the stoppage.
He couldn’t do much to force Walker to stop attacking and Smith wound up absorbing a frightful beating. After the win, Walker jumped the cage and went to ringside where he spoke with light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill.
“Everyone can get hurt there [from the leg kicks], even me,” Walker said of the impact his kicks had on Smith’s legs. “But I block [them]. You can see [on the replay] I blocked his kicks. But if you don’t block, you’re going to get hurt and it’s going to stop your mobility.”
— UFC (@ufc) May 13, 2023
Walker was ranked seventh prior to the fight and he should jump into the Top 5 with that win. If his fight IQ continues to evolve to go along with those great skills, he’s going to be a problem for all light heavyweights with his size and physical gifts.