Updated: Oct 14, 2020
On Wednesday night New England's best enters the cage to headline UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Calvin Kattar is no stranger to the spotlight, as he's steadily climbed the featherweight ranks and also headlined a bout against Zabit Magomedsheripov in Moscow back in November. "The Boston Finisher" has lived up to his moniker, going 5-2 in the UFC and finishing 4 of the 5 fighters he defeated - all by KO/TKO.
After Kattar dismantled Jeremy Stephens in Jacksonville, Florida on the first card the UFC put on post quarantine, it was assumed that he'd be eyeing a top 3 opponent for his next foe, but that wasn't in the cards and he's fine with that. The Methuen native signed a 6 fight contract extension with the organization, and has some security to fall back on as he looks to put gold around his waist in the next year or two. Instead of locking up a top 3 opponent, Kattar was offered a fight with #10 ranked Dan Ige, and he gladly accepted. Ige has been on a tear himself, notching 6 wins in a row, and riding a wave of momentum that is dangerous at a minimum. Ige is a gritty wrestler with heavy hands, and a will that just doesn't break. He's constantly in his opponents faces throughout the entirety of the fight, pressuring until he breaks them. It's a dangerous matchup for Kattar, and we wanted to peal back the onion and see how this matchup should play out on Fight Island, and take a look at the numbers behind these warriors.
The New Englander comes in as a -280 favorite, where on the comeback, Ige checks in at a +240 dog. Kattar's strength lies in his boxing game - a clean, efficient set of skills that has proven to hold quite a bit of power as well. Kattar came into the UFC not know as a finisher, despite his moniker, as he had won 6 decisions in a row under the Combat Zone and CES banners. He took some time off to focus on growing the Combat Zone promotion alongside his brother, which they had purchased back in 2014, but once Kattar got the itch to make the leap back into professional competition, he aligned himself with the right coaches and training partners, and his game improved by leaps and bounds.
Once given the opportunity in the UFC, he proved that he is a striker with finishing power, KO/TKO'ing the likes of Shane Burgos, Chris Fishgold, Ricardo Lamas, and most recently, Jeremy Stephens. His two losses are via decision, but the loss to Magomedsharipov can be viewed with an asterisk, because if that was contested as a 5 round fight like originally scheduled, Kattar most likely would have won a decision over the Russian on his home turf.
Many national pundits still have question marks surrounding Kattar's game, as they haven't see much of his wrestling or ground game since competing with the UFC, but us locals know that Calvin is more than well-versed on the mat. He defends takedowns at a 77% clip, and has never given up a positional advancement on the mat in his 7 fights with the organization. In his fight against Magomedsharipov he gave up one takedown in 4 attempts, and I don't suspect that Ige will have any more success in this category than the Russian did.
Ige is a solid wrestler, averaging 2.15 takedowns per 15 minutes, but he doesn't have the chops to get Kattar to the mat more than once or twice, if at all, during this fight. If he does happen to get the takedown, he won't be able to keep Calvin on the mat, so ultimately if he wants to win this fight, he'll have to beat Kattar with his hands. Ige has shown more of penchant for standing and banging with his foes in recent fights, and I suspect he'll try and do the same with Kattar here as well. This won't work out well for Ige, as Kattar is the better boxer, possesses more power, and lands at a higher rate. Kattar lands 5.29 significant strikes per minute, while Ige lands at a 4.12 pace. After Kattar is able to study his opponent for a round, his pace begins to hasten, and his accuracy increases as well.
One thing that does concern me is Calvin has seemed to start slow in his most recent fights, and absorbed some serious damage. He absorbs 6.46 strikes per minute compared to Ige's 3.13. The level of competition that each fighter has fought must be taken into account when you compare these stats, but the bottom line is that Kattar is most hittable in the 1st round of the fight. This may be his strategy, studying his opponent, looking for holes that he'll expose in the later rounds. Regardless, it's a dangerous game to play at this level with the amount of power that these fighters possess, and Ige's best chance to put Calvin away is most likely within the first 5 minutes of this fight.
Ige is extremely aggressive though and willing to trade. His last opponent, Edson Barboza, is arguably just as dangerous or more dangerous than Kattar, and just as technical on the feet. Ige was willing to go to war with Barboza even after he was knocked down in the first round, so I think he’ll be aggressive and attack Kattar early in this fight.
If Ige had a better kicking game, I’d give him a better chance in this fight but he’s mostly punching dependent. He’s going to have to either hurt and finish Kattar, or beat him in three of five rounds. Kattar has shown elite durability thus far, superior to that of Ige in my opinion, so the finish seems unlikely.
Beating Kattar over five rounds is more plausible but also seems unlikely just because Kattar is a more technical striker and the size advantages should help him as well. I favor Kattar to land more effectively throughout this fight, potentially hurting Ige, though it’s possible Ige’s aggression alone makes rounds competitive.
I suspect that we'll see a very durable, tough Dan Ige on Wednesday night, so it wouldn't surprise me if this fight went to the judges score cards and Calvin won 4 out of 5 rounds. A KO/TKO also isn't out of the question for Kattar, but Ige is as tough as they come, and it'll be difficult to put him away. Kattar will use his size advantage, superior boxing technique, and will land power punches at the opportune times. Calvin's footwork and superior striking from distance will prove to be too much for Ige to handle, and he'll get picked apart over the course of the fight, pushing New England's finest one step closer to getting that ever-allusive title shot in the 145 pound division.