Johnny Walker tied his longest winning streak under the UFC banner earlier this month with his decision over Anthony Smith at UFC Charlotte, adding to prior first-round victories over Paul Craig and Ion Cutelaba. Yet, he still has mixed feelings about his latest win.
Smith was the highest-ranked opponent Walker has ever beaten and catapulted Walker to the top 5 of the UFC’s official rankings, but the Brazilian is not entirely happy.
“If that was the toughest guy [I’ve ever fought], that shows I’m evolving, because he didn’t put me in any risk during the fight,” Walker told MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “I saw his hand was kind of soft in the third round, he was slower. I almost finished him in the third. If I had 10 more seconds, I think I would had ended him — and that shows my level is very high now, the fact that I walked through the No. 5 guy. And I know I can evolve more and more. I know of my potential, I know I can get a lot better.
“I’m not 100 percent happy [with the fight] because I’m sure I could have knocked him out if I had pushed the pace a bit more, but I’m happy because I saw that my level is much higher when compared to his.”
UFC president Dana White didn’t seem too impressed by Walker at the event’s post-fight press conference, stating that the Brazilian “was put in the co-main event to kind of shine tonight” but “didn’t really wow anybody tonight.”
“He knows I could have ended the fight, but he didn’t know I was feeling that experience,” Walker said of White’s comments. “I could have ended it, yeah, but I guess I didn’t want to end it. I was enjoying it, I wanted to see what [Smith] could offer me. He didn’t have anything left to offer me, so I should have finished him in the third, but I only had seconds left. I should have woken up, like, ‘I guess it’s enough,’ but time was up and I couldn’t finish him.”
In the end, Walker said he expected Smith to present a bigger challenge. The matchup was the original main event before Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Jailton Almeida landed in the headlining spot, and Walker felt Smith would not have lasted 25 minutes against him.
“I was having fun, I was testing myself,” Walker said. “I was seeing what he could offer with his hands, blocking his attacks. I can’t test myself when I’m fighting for the belt, you know? I have to test myself now and show I can get hit, I can block punches. I’m happy I didn’t finish him and used those three rounds to absorb strikes and see where I’m at. I know I could’ve finished him, but I’m also happy I didn’t because I had the experience. Fifteen minutes of fighting with the fifth-ranked fighter is great experience.”