We have had a painfully long break from the UFC, but our 2022 campaign will kick off with a bang, as we have a loaded Fight Night card coming from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.
The fifteen bout fight card is topped off with a can’t-miss clash of strikers, as Calvin Kattar takes on Giga Chikadze in the Featherweight division. In the co-main event of the evening, Jennifer Maia will face off opposite Katlyn Chookagian as both seek to earn another shot at Valentina Shevchenko’s throne.
Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze (FTW)
Calvin Kattar (22-5, 6-3 UFC) performed in a big way at UFC 249, finishing hard-hitting veteran Jeremy Stephens in the second round with a picture perfect elbow, which led to his first main event slotting followed opposite Dan Ige, who he dominated in an entertaining scrap. That set up a title eliminator opposite Max Holloway, though the former champion dominated Kattar over five rounds. Kattar is primarily a boxer with some nice power and a stifling jab. He can fight well off of his front foot or back foot and can use or avoid pressure very well, often shifting his pressure and movement to throw off his opponent. The weak spot in Kattar’s game is on the ground, but he can get back to his feet quickly and is difficult to hold down, giving him the perfect ability to keep the fight on the feet. On the feet, he has shown lapses in his leg kick defense and volume, but has some of the most technical hands in the sport.
An appearance on the Contender Series was not enough to earn Giga Chikadze (14-2, 7-0 UFC) a UFC contract, but he made his way there nonetheless through a short notice opportunity. He has surged his way into the Featherweight rankings by racked up seven straight wins, including four in 2020, capped off with a knockout over Jamey Simmons. His 2021 career saw similar success, with knockout victories over Cub Swanson and Edson Barboza. Chikadze is an elite-level striker who has competed in GLORY Kickboxing, and brings the technique, maturity, and patience of years of elite striking in with him. He is extremely precise and keeps up a high volume, mixing it up to the body and offering a wide variety of shots. “Ninja” has nine stoppages to his name, with eight coming in by knockout. His weakness lies within his grappling, as he can be taken down and controlled by a persistent takedown attack. The diversity of his striking is a key weapon, as well as the fluidity with which he whips his kicks at his opponents.
We are in for a striker’s delight here, though both bring different styles while standing. Kattar is the much more dedicated boxer, while Giga mixes his attacks up. With that said, Kattar is the more well-rounded martial artist, with stout defensive wrestling and a nice single leg when he decides to use it. If there was ever a time to do so, it would be here against Chikadze. The Georgian sports the superior technique and defense, especially at his preferred kicking range. Kattar boasts edges in stopping power and sheer output, though I see Giga’s defense winning out over the long haul, picking Kattar apart for a decision.
My Pick: Giga Chikadze via Decision
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia (FLW)
Both fighters here are looking to make a clear statement for a rematch against Valentina Shevchenko with a dominant win here. Though it may seem like a clash of styles on paper, Maia is the more well-rounded fighter with numerous weapons on the feet as well as quick transitions and various submission threats on the mat. Chookagian’s rangy style is difficult to handle, as she will pick apart her opponents if allowed to dictate the range. Maia figures to not give her that advantage, pressing her attack on the feet and mixing in her grappling for a close nod on the judges’ scorecards.
My Pick: Jennifer Maia via Decision
Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin (FLW)
My Pick: Brandon Royval via Submission
Chase Sherman vs. Jake Collier (HW)
My Pick: Jake Collier via Decision
Joanderson Brito vs. Bill Algeo (FTW)
My Pick: Joanderson Brito via Decision
As of right now, we have nine prelims fights leading up to the main card, set to go down at 7 PM EST.
Categories: UFC Predictions