What Happened in the First Ankalaev vs Walker Fight?



Magomed Ankalaev will face Johnny Walker in a rematch after the shocking outcome of their first match at UFC 294 in October 2023. But what exactly happened during the original Ankalaev vs Walker clash and why was the decision wrong?

Ankalaev vs Walker: A No Contest that Was Supposed to be a Disqualification

UFC 294 was one of the most anticipated events in 2023 and the main card was absolutely stacked. While the event was extremely successful, there were major upsets during the event and we saw the worst possible example of bad refereeing.

The bout between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker was supposed to be one of the most entertaining matches and fans expected a war. We saw the complete opposite.

Early in the opening segment, Ankalaev took charge and dictated the fight. He shocked Walker with shots to the body which led to a clinch. At 3:13 in Round 1, Magomed resorted to an illegal knee strike while his opponent was grounded.

Immediately, the referee stopped the contest despite the fact that Walker was not showing clear signs that he needed time. Of course, such strikes are forbidden in the UFC and the referee was right to pause the match. In such cases, we usually see a disqualification. The best example from recent years is the match when Petr Yan hit Aljamain Sterling with an illegal knee and ultimately lost his title via disqualification.

The referee of Ankalaev vs Walker made the wrong decision this time. First, he called the ringside doctor to check on Walker, who failed to respond to his questions.

When he was asked if he understood where he was, Walker responded “I'm in the desert”. Fact, the event was hosted in Abu Dhabi but that was in no way a normal response. Perhaps he was, in fact, not alright, perhaps it was a language barrier problem.

And while Johnny made it clear that he wanted to finish the match, the referee said that Walker was unfit to continue. Yet, instead of the expected disqualification, the referee declared the match a no-contest. The whole world was shocked by that decision, including both fighters and Dana White. Numerous celebrities commented on the situation, including Conor McGregor, saying that Walker had to be given the win.

Honestly, we agree with this assessment. We will probably never learn if Walker was phased or if he simply had no clue how to beat Ankalaev and chose the easy way out. But if he faked the damage, he certainly must have hoped for a DQ and not a rematch. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that there was an illegal blow, and if similar situations led to disqualifications in the past, it was the only right decision here too.

This result had a far more serious impact on Ankalaev's ambitions as he was perhaps one fight away from a new title shot. We expect him to be far more careful in this Ankalaev vs Walker rematch.

Vlad is a former amateur MMA fighter. After a series of injuries, he found a different way to connect with the sport and its fanbase - through writing. He's been covering everything-UFC for over 5 years on various platforms and has been part of the team at NYFights since early 2022.