The UFC’s maiden voyage to Argentina on Saturday night proved to be a fruitful one.
Before a lively crowd at the Mary Terán de Weiss Stadium in Buenos Aires, UFC Fight Night 140 showcased a crescendo of action which peaked in the main event where Argentina’s own Santiago Ponzinibbio knocked out perennially top-ranked welterweight Neil Magny.
After dominating Magny for three rounds and rendering him barely able to stand with brutal low kicks, Ponzinibbio closed the show in the fourth with a right hand to Magny’s jaw causing him to face plant to the canvas.
If not for the (painfully long) ad breaks, the main card was non-stop action. Five of the six bouts were stopped before the final bell. After almost a year on the sidelines due to a USADA suspension for marijuana metabolites, Cynthia Calvillo came back strong, once again proving her grappling skills with a first-round submission over Poliana Botelho. Ricardo Lamas ended a two-fight skid in emphatic fashion with a bloody stoppage over the notoriously durable Darren Elkins. Marlon Vera picked up his third UFC submission with a rear-naked choke and Ian Heinisch, an Octagon newcomer with an incredible backstory, picked up a unanimous decision win.
Johnny Walker’s flawless UFC debut had a lot to contend with, but the Brazilian prospect still managed to secure a performance bonus with his knockout of Khalil Rountree Jr. at 1:57 in the first round.
If Octagon jitters had troubled Walker, he did a superb job of hiding it. From the moment he entered the arena, he looked at home. Grinning ear-to-ear, embracing fans and even busting out some dance moves; he looked far too comfortable en route to a cage fight.
This continued once the bell rang. For a fight that lasted less than two minutes, Walker showed patience. When Rountree landed his first strike, a leg kick, Walker playfully taunted him, animatedly rubbing his leg with his mouth agape in faux distress. The crowd roared with laughter.
Walker headkicked Rountree, and though it was partially blocked, there was no mistaking the power behind it. He immediately closed the distance and grabbed Rountree’s head in a thai clinch, where his strength was overwhelming, controlling Rountree with apparent ease. The first elbow had Rountree backing up to the cage, and the second elbow finished the job. The audible crack was a chilling sign of the end; though Walker got in two more strikes on the ground before the referee intervened. If that weren’t impressive enough, the 6’6” light heavyweight celebrated the finish with a backflip.
“This is my job. This is my dream come true. I feel very happy. I feel amazing. This is my life. I’m born for this,” Walker told UFC commentator Jimmy Smith.
Walker was awarded a UFC contract after defeating Luis Henrique da Silva by unanimous decision on Brazil’s Contender Series in August. He’s now 15-3 with 12 knockouts, extending his win streak to seven.
At just 26-years-old, Walker is a much-needed addition to the stagnant light heavyweight division. A multi-lingual knockout artist with some character is an exciting prospect. More than just a memorable name, Johnny Walker is someone to watch.