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UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Ige complete main card preview

Fireworks in the desert? Just might happen.

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Were it not for the current health crisis, this entire UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Ige event would perhaps go under the radar altogether. This would be a shame, of course — a focus on lighter weight classes with a group of some of the most intense strikers in the sport should add up to a true action card.

It’s a very well-assembled bunch of fights to light up a Wednesday. Besides, let’s be real for a second — what else you got going on? No other major sports are on, so I guess you might as well tune in.

This should all be fine as long as this doesn’t end at like 2:00am or something wild like that. Fingers crossed!!

Calvin Kattar vs Dan Ige

There’s fights that are good on paper, fights that you can almost guarantee will be great in practice, and then there’s this: two unheralded top fighters in what is arguably the most stacked division looking for an opportunity to break out from the rest of the pack and be in a serious conversation to be in the upper echelon of their weight class.

Calvin Kattar (21-4) has impressed many with his string of finishes against very tough opposition, such as Andre Fili and Shane Burgos, as well as divisional mainstays Ricardo Lamas and Jeremy Stephens. A great counterstriker that loves to set up hand traps and bait with his feints, Kattar backs it all up with great takedown and submission defense. He has a lot of tools at his disposal, pours on punishment and may be the best fighter in that division not named Max Holloway at turning into an avalanche of punches the moment his opponent is hurt.

Dan Ige (14-2) has been largely overlooked, but a some of that could be attributed to the fact that he has less finishes (mostly because he’s had less UFC bouts overall) than Kattar. Then there’s also the matter of fighting bigger names. The most notable win on Ige’s record so far is the split decision against Edson Barboza back in May, where he put on an excellent performance pushing the pace, using his jab, working his way inside from distance to fluster the veteran elite striker. He ended up playing spoiler in what was Edson’s featherweight debut, and he might do it again here in what would be the mold-breaking win that Kattar needs.

Except that Ige’s a very tough fighter and a capable submission fighter, to boot. He’s accurate and knows precisely when to disengage to avoid those big counters that Kattar can bank on to change the tune in a fight or end it entirely. Ige’s also a much more active grappler with perfect positional awareness and a habit of baiting opponents by going one way and then bursting out the other. It’s a perfect main event for an event like this, with the winner being just one more win from a title shot, or perhaps earning one outright given the right conditions.

Tim Elliott vs Ryan Benoit

Tim Elliott (15-11, 1) is way better than his record suggests. He’s mostly got a reputation for being a wildman, which is richly deserved. After getting cut in 2015, he spent some time at Titan FC and won their flyweight belt to end up on the all-champs edition of The Ultimate Fighter (wow, remember that?). After making his way back to the UFC, he’s had some great and fun performances, but he doesn’t always end up in the winner’s bracket. You might not be able to tell by just watching clips of his fights, but he’s actually on a three-fight losing skid.

On the bright side, it’s a very talent-dense division, consistently collecting victories is tougher than in other divisions. His striking is still janky, but he can put it on anyone. His submission game is still opportunistic and scrappy, plus it’s torture. Elliott doesn’t choke people the way other people choke people. He counters wrestlers with submission threats, strikes from bottom, and just goes where the fight goes with no other objective than squeezing the other fighter’s neck until he puts them to sleep.

Benoit (10-6) has been alternating wins and losses since 2016, with the ability to outwrestle almost anyone in the division but falling short in a lot of exchanges. While his striking has gotten better, it’s usually hard to get a read on where is at in terms of development. He can defend submissions well, but how long will that last against a fighter like Elliott? Can he establish and keep control for a prolonged period? We’ll find out soon enough.

Jimmie Rivera vs Cody Stamann

Jimmie Rivera (22-4) went undefeated in his UFC run at five in a row until he ran into Marlon Moraes, but rebounded with a win over John Dodson. Since then it was Aljamain Sterling and current champ Petr Yan (huh, that feels weird to write) besting him by decision back to back. No easy fights will ever be on the horizon when you’re as good as Rivera, but he doesn’t get enough respect or credit for how good he’s truly been with slick boxing and gritty wrestling, a good smothering clinch game against the cage, and superb fight IQ.

Cody Stamann (19-2, 1 draw) hasn’t finished anyone in a UFC cage, but not for lack of trying. With phenomenal athleticism and an almost unparalleled drive, Stamann has been one of the toughest nuts to crack in the division with his lone professional loss being a submission at the hands of Aljamain Sterling. Stamann’s got a quick turnaround as he just fought in early June against Brian Kelleher and used his measured yet powerful boxing in tight exchanges paired with his wrestling game to earn a hard-fought decision. If this is largely contested on the feet, we’ll have a technical battle of wills. If not, we’ll see a strong and technical grappler against a scrambly but capable fighter in a match where the two participants have only lost to the division’s elite.

Molly McCann vs Talia Santos

Molly McCann (10-2) became the Cage Warriors champ with her grit and nonstop offense, and that got her the call to join the UFC. Despite a debut loss to grappling threat Gillian Robertson, she’s rattled off three straight, including a decision over the more experienced striker in Ariane Lipski.

Santos (15-1) has some impressive numbers and fun finishes, but the biggest problem with her development is that she’s mostly feasted on — and I mean no disrespect whatsoever — what I would politely describe as subpar opposition. I understand the regional scene gets sparse from time to time when you’re talented, it’s hard to find fights. When a fighter is 7-0, 8-0 and still taking on part-timers making their pro debut, that’s not a red flag, it’s a blazing fireworks display. This fight simply is what it is. Santos made it off the Contender Series circuit, let’s see how she can hang.

Abdul Razak Alhassan vs Mounir Lazzez

Alhassan (10-1) has been out of commission since his sensational knockout win over the then-indestructible Niko Price. That was in 2018. Why was he out so long? Well, the UFC commentary team might not say it, but he had a sexual assault case hanging over his head during that time. He’s since been found not guilty earlier this year and now he’s back against a prospect that’s savvier than most of the UFC’s acquisitions.

See, Alhassan doesn’t just hit hard, he defends takedowns well and is great at gauging with feints. He pivots nicely and gets a bit wild with his swings but manages to revert to technique and still lands bombs.

Mounir Lazzez (9-1) is a true feel-good story out of the Middle East. After making waves on the regional scene and impressing at BRAVE CF and UAE Warriors, a friend of his ran into Dana White at a Las Vegas restaurant and showed White a video of Mounir’s highlight reel. After a series of minor events, he was signed and is brought in to face a powerhouse welterweight threat, but he’s not walking into this unarmed. He’s hard to put on his back foot, charges forward with punches and kicks, lovely knees from the clinch and has earned his nickname “The Sniper“ with his accuracy and range. Alhassan should have the advantage with patience, durability and inside work, but might want to test Lazzez’s wrestling. Failing that, we could see Lazzez really test a fighter that’s been out of the game for the last two years with a rude awakening.