Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
Those who tuned into last night's UFC Fight Night Kattar vs. Chikadze on the ESPN family of networks were treated to an absolute masterpiece of a Featherweight Main Event. As we outlined in our preview of this, the first UFC event of 2022; #5 Featherweight contender Calvin Kattar (23-5) and his New England Cartel arrived in Vegas a +195 betting underdog to fast rising Georgian Kickboxer and #8 Ranked Featherweight contender Giga Chikadze (14-3). Leading up to the fight many questioned how Kattar would respond to a one year layoff following his lop-sided, 5 round decision loss to Max Holloway last January. Once the pin dropped on their five round Main Event Saturday night, it was evident almost immediately that Kattar had the answers for all the questions.
How would Kattar respond to the heavy kicking game of Giga Chikadze? Chikadze opened the first two minutes of the contest looking to attack Kattar's base with sharp low leg kicks. Kattar's fight I.Q. was thrown into action almost instantaneously, quickly developing a offensive strategy that would not only keep Chikadze's kicking game in check, but allow Calvin to display the most impressive striking display of his UFC career. Kattar combined relentless forward pressure, frequent changes in stance and some razor sharp elbows from all angles with his notoriously stiff jab, as he pitched a nearly perfect 25 minute upset of King's MMA's Chikadze.
Giving credit where credit is due however; this fight would not have been nearly as entertaining had it not been Chikadze on the other side of the exchanges. Albeit on the receiving end of 157 strikes landed, 144 of them being significant and 127 of them landing to the head of Chikadze, Giga refused to waiver, landing 128 significant strikes of his own, while being knocked to the canvas just once. A recipe that yielded an early candidate for Fight of the Year, and netted both Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze $50k bonuses for their Fight of the Night performance. Although the striking stats appear close on paper, Kattar's perfectly executed strategy kept him one step ahead of the always dangerous Chikadze from bell to bell. And when the judge's scores were rendered the discrepancy was even more pronounced, as the nod went the direction of "The Boston Finisher" Calvin Kattar; (50-45, 50-45, 50-44).
Kattar rolled out the performance of his career in his 10th Octagon appearance Saturday night, as he put an end to Giga's nine fight winning streak while handing him the first loss of his UFC career. In doing so Calvin proved why he is still very much in the UFC Featherweight title hunt, declining to relinquish his spot inside the top five Featherweights in the World, as the log jam continues to form behind the current UFC title holder; Alexander Volkanovski (23-1). Volkanovski defends his belt April 9th at UFC 273 against Challenger "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung (17-6) while I sit back and salivate over another possible striking war, as I would push for a number one contender fight between Kattar and former Ultimate Fighter Latin America winner and current #3 ranked UFC Featherweight contender; Yair "El Pantera" Rodriquez (13-3).