The first UFC event of the year gave us a fight of the year contender in its main event. Calvin Kattar dominated highly rated talent Giga Chikadze in a 5 round classic.
Going into the fight, Chikadze was 7-0 in the UFC, beating the likes of Cub Swanson and Edson Barboza comfortably with beautiful kickboxing. However, all of Chikadze’s previous opponents didn’t set pressure on the Georgian, allowing him to fight on the outside and systematically pick them apart.
Kattar instantly stepped into the centre of the octagon and with his high-level boxing, made Giga fight backwards from the start and capitalised on an early Giga mistake to control him on the ground for the rest of the round.
From round 2 onwards, Kattar was dominant and looked for the finish, constantly throwing his patented elbows, that cut Giga multiple times. Giga showed toughness to stay in the fight for 5 rounds and will surely improve from this experience.
Calvin once again throws his name in the top contender conversation and I’d love to see him fight either Brian Ortega or Yair Rodriguez. Although this is a setback for Giga, I expect the 33-year-old to regroup and a fight with Dan Ige down the line would be a competitive fight for him to comeback to.
Further down the card, Katlyn Chookagian beat Jennifer Maia again. Outclassing her in all aspects of MMA winning by unanimous decision (of course). This surely puts Katlyn next in line for Valentina Shevchenko, who will looking for another dominant win over Katlyn.
I’m still confident that Valentina will fight at Bantamweight this year. She has nothing else to prove at Flyweight, and currently there isn’t a credible threat for her belt. It’s possible they could fight in Spring.
Finally, Brandon Royval beat Rogerio Bontorin by split decision. The fight was extremely close and once again displayed how competitive the mens Flyweight division is. It might be a struggle for Brandon to get a fight against anyone in the division that’s ahead of him in the rankings because they’re all occupied as of now. Alex Perez (4) fights Matt Schnell (9) at UFC 271. Alexandre Pantoja (3) just beat him in July. Finally, Askar Askarov (2) fights Kai Kara France (6) in March.
Nevertheless, the overall card to start the year was average. The prelims didn’t serve up the action we desired to start of the year with a bang. However, the main card gave us some solid fights with a couple of finishes and a fight of the year contender. I’d rate the whole event a 6/10.
It’s good to have fights back!