So much for wondering if Calvin Kattar would ever recover from his loss to Max Holloway. Not only did Kattar come back strong from it, he looked better than ever, turning in a FOTY contender with Giga Chikadze in the first UFC main event of the year tonight at UFC Vegas 46.
Kattar set the tone from the get-go, capitalizing on a Chikadze slip to drag the Georgian back to the mat and control him for the majority of the opening round. Chikadze never seemed to recover from giving the momentum to Kattar so early. Sure, Chikadze had some moments of his own over the course of five rounds, but no one who watched the entirety of the fight thought he was ever ahead of the scorecards. Kattar maintained a ridiculous amount of pressure, utilizing his jab expertly and making an art of step-in elbows to bloody up Chikadze. Not that Chikadze didn’t bloody up Kattar, but there was no doubt who was worse for wear as Kattar took the unanimous decision.
The win re-establishes Kattar as a one of the top featherweights on the roster. Calling him elite might be pushing it, but a win over Brian Ortega would certainly launch him into that air. Provided Kattar doesn’t face an extended medical suspension, that appears to be the direction for him from here, though I wouldn’t say no to a fight with Yair Rodriguez either. As for Chikadze, this could just be a bump in the road for him. A big bump, sure, but given he’s still young in the sport of MMA, he could come back strong and establish himself in a year or two much in the same way Kattar did here. Of course, Chikadze might need to take a year off much the way Kattar did after his loss to Holloway. After all, Chikadze ate a LOT of damage.
As for the rest of the card....
- All anyone wants to talk about with Jake Collier is how he walks around carrying an additional 80 lbs from when he debuted in the UFC. He may be pudgy now, but he’s still pretty good. Collier turned a caught kick from Chase Sherman into a takedown for a RNC victory, giving him as many victories at heavyweight as he had at middleweight.
- Can someone please explain why the UFC ever wanted to get rid of the flyweight division? Rogerio Bontorin had a good game plan, using his strength advantage to wrest Brandon Royval to the mat and control him for long stints. Unfortunately for Bontorin, Royval can’t be controlled forever. A plethora of submission attempts and constant barrage of jabs with power shots gave him the edge in the judges scorecards, eliminating any potential controversy from Bontorin’s potential tap in the third round.
- Two years have passed since the first time Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia threw down, but not much has changed in terms of results. Chookagian relied heavily on jabs and front kicks to keep Maia at a distance while Maia struggled to land her heavy hooks. Perhaps the biggest change was Chookagian’s improved wrestling. Regardless, the results were the same: Chookagian via unanimous decision.
- Nobody is going to remember the strong start from Dakota Bush because Viacheslav Borshchev’s brutal body shot resulted in the first UFC finish of the new year. After several takedowns from Bush, Borshchev got back to his feet and delivered a body shot that dropped Bush instantly. A couple of ground strikes later and Borshchev picked up a win in his UFC debut.
- Constant pressure and reckless striking doesn’t always pay off as Joanderson Brito found out the hard way. The Brazilian newcomer struggled to secure takedowns against the dogged Bill Algeo, allowing Algeo to pick apart Brito with more volume as Brito moved forward. It was a fun scrap as Algeo’s superior technique edged out Brito’s power.
- It wasn’t the best way to finish off the prelims, but Joseph Holmes and Jamie Pickett had a fight. Neither really put a huge stamp on the contest, but Holmes faded after a solid opening round, giving Pickett the edge he needed to take control the rest of the way for a unanimous decision.
- A year ago, most would have said Court McGee was finished as a fighter. Now, the rugged veteran has breathed new life into his career with back-to-back dominant performances, the latest coming against submission specialist Ramiz Brahimaj. McGee broke the spirit of the younger fighter with his constant pressure and takedowns, taking a dominant decision.
- Kudos to Kevin Croom for stepping in three days before the event, but he faded hard after a solid start against Brian Kelleher. The smaller Kelleher stuck with his attack, eventually grounding the bigger Croom and controlling him for the entirety of the final round. The finish never materialized, but there was no doubt who the winner was.
- What began as a largely competitive contest devolved into a one-sided shellacking of Charles Rosa at the hands of TJ Brown. Rosa couldn’t stop Brown’s pressure and takedowns, allowing Brown to exercise a high degree of control. Rosa threw up some Hail Mary submissions, but Brown slipped out to get the decision win.