My biggest question heading into UFC Vegas 46 was how or if the loss to Max Holloway on January 16, 2021 changed Calvin Kattar? Kattar answered that question with his emphatic win over Giga Chikadze on January 15, 2022.
Holloway put a brutal beating on Kattar in that UFC on ABC fight. The bout went the 25 minute distance, but the reality is it could have — and I would say should have — been stopped before that. When the scrap ended, Kattar was on the wrong end of a record setting performance from Holloway.
Those records include: Striking differential in a single fight (312), significant strikes landed (445 for Holloway), significant strikes attempted (744 for Holloway), distance strikes landed (439 for Holloway), significant head strikes landed (274 for Holloway), significant body strikes landed (117 for Holloway), total strikes landed (447 for Holloway), and total strikes attempted (746 for Holloway).
The fight was so one-sided that UFC president Dana White admitted the bout freaked him out.
It’s not an understatement to say that fight could have changed the trajectory of Kattar’s life and career. Kattar returned to action almost a year to the day from that beating and put on what might have been the best performance of his UFC career.
Impressive does not begin to describe Kattar’s performance at UFC Vegas 46.
Calvin Kattar: Calvin Kattar took advantage of a missed kick from Giga Chikadze to take the wind out of his opponent’s sails in the first round of their UFC Vegas 46 main event bout. From there, Kattar employed a nearly perfect game plan to get a dominant win — and left Chikadze with enough damage that the scars on his face will forever remind him of how the fight played out.
Kattar used pressure, an effective jab and damaging elbows to keep his opponent on his back foot, negate his kicking game and bloody his face on the way to a dominant win.
Kattar did a masterful job in ending Chikadze’s seven-fight UFC winning streak. The fight will also remind the UFC matchmakers, fans and the rest of the featherweight division how good Kattar is. He might not be on par with Max Holloway, but as far as the 145-pound division goes, only Alexander Volkanovski has shown he is on the same level (or above) Holloway.
Jake Collier: Jake Collier did a nice job in working over Chase Sherman. After catching a kick for a takedown, he gained mount and bloodied his opponent with strikes. Sherman then gave up his back and Collier wasted no time in grabbing a choke — that Sherman did not fight off — and getting the tap.
Brandon Royval: Brandon Royval had a nice performance against Rogerio Bontorin. Royval’s striking was much better than Bontorin’s and his effort on the mat, even though his opponent seemed physically stronger than him was impressive.
Royval did his best to not accept the positions Bontorin put him in on the ground. He never stopped trying to create space nor did he give up on landing strikes or finding submissions from his back. I was also impressed with how Royval was very aggressive in the third round, especially when he took top poisition and had space to land strikes as the clock ticked down.
Katlyn Chookagian vs Jennifer Maia: This was a fun and exciting scrap between two highly ranked flyweights. Katlyn Chookagian was effective in her striking, using her length and taking advantage of the mistakes of her opponent and the openings that Maia provided. On the other side, Maia was aggressive and put pressure on Chookagian when she could, but Chookagian was the better prepared and better fighter in this bout.
Viacheslav Borshchev: Dakota Bush had a good approach for his fight against Viacheslav Borshchev, but Borshchev showed he can overcome a smart game plan when he blasted his opponent with a nasty body shot that ended the fight in the second stanza. I’d put Borshchev on the list for fighters to watch in 2022.
Court McGee: Court McGee is a good fighter, but what he has over many of his opponents is heart and toughness. He is a fighter who will test the mettle of any opponent. He did that on Saturday and in doing so, he showed Ramiz Brahimaj, who was the favorite in this welterweight scrap, that he needs to do some more work in the gym. With his win, McGee earned back-to-back wins for the first time since 2013.
Brian Kelleher: Brian Kelleher picked up a nice win over Kevin Croom on Saturday. Kelleher was simply the better fighter. His high-level experience and overall skills were more than enough to earn him the win over the high output striking of Croom.
T.J. Brown: Despite facing a short notice opponent in Charles Rosa, T.J. Brown looked good in getting a win to open the UFC’s 2022 run. Brown was well prepared for whatever Rosa threw his way. He used his striking well on the feet and did a great job with his wrestling on the ground. There was nothing that really stood out about the fight for Brown, but he put in a workmanlike performance against a tough opponent.
Giga Chikadze: Giga Chikadze had a good first minute or so of his fight against Calvin Kattar, but after a missed kick in the first round led to a takedown from his opponent, Chikadze was on the defensive. Chikadze could not adjust to Kattar’s game plan of pressuring, using his jab and nasty elbows in close.
Chikadze lost a lot of momentum in losing this fight. He and his team need to know that everyone he faces from this point on is going to try to employ Kattar’s blueprint. If Chikadze and his team cannot adjust, he might have hit his ceiling in the UFC.
Chase Sherman: From what I saw, Chase Sherman did not want to be in that fight after getting bloodied on the mat, he gave his back to Jake Collier and did not make any effort to fight off the choke that finished the fight.
Rogerio Bontorin: Rogerio Bontorin did a great job in using his strength on the mat in his flyweight matchup against Brandon Royval, but he didn’t do enough to pursue damage or submissions while he had control on the mat. That, and the fact that Royval was better at the stand up game, cost him the decision.
I think this should be a learning experience for Bontorin. Had he been more aggressive in looking to do damage on the mat instead of controlling position, he might have earned the win.
Dakota Bush: Dakota Bush had a good game plan for his fight opposite Viacheslav Borshchev. That plan was, as UFC commentator Michael Bisping said, was to be “all the way out or all the way in.” He did well with that plan in Round 1. In Round 2, he found himself against the fence and in the range of Borshchev and that cost him the fight when Borshchev put him down and out with a nasty body shot.
Joanderson Brito: Joanderson Brito was incredibly aggressive in his fight against Bill Algeo. He pushed the pace and put pressure on his opponent, but his fight IQ and his cardio failed him in his UFC debut. Brito seems to have talent, but he needs to fight smarter and work on his cardio if he wants to succeed at the next level. I’ll be interested to see if he makes any changes heading into his next outing.
UFC commentators: The lack of MMA scoring knowledge is frustrating from the UFC commentators. The information on proper scoring is out there for them to absorb, but several of the commentators — at UFC Vegas 46 it was Dominick Cruz — seem to be willingly ignorant of the scoring criteria. More than once Cruz wondered how the output of one fighter would come into play in the scoring. The answer is — it wouldn’t. Striking volume is not a part of the scoring criteria.
The UFC and ESPN should care about how the commentators fail in this part of their job.
Bill Algeo: Bill Algeo got a win on Saturday night, but his lack of striking defense made things closer than they should have been against Joanderson Brito. Algeo backed up on a straight line and kept his hands down throughout the featherweight fight and he got hit a lot more than he needed to on his way to the decision win. Algeo needs to be much better defensively if he wants to move forward in the featherweight division.