UFC Vegas 46 met the most important qualification that any Fight Night needs to achieve: that, whatever the rest of the card might be, the main event needs to be awesome. Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze was an absolute banger from start to finish and put just the right cap on a night of otherwise so-so action.
So, what’s Calvin Kattar’s path forward in the top 5 of the featherweight division? Can Brandon Royval find room for a flyweight title run? And is the UFC really going to let Katlyn Chookagian walk away?
To answer those questions – but very little else – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
The read from many fans and pundits (me) heading into this bout, was that Calvin Kattar would need an especially top-shelf performance to get a win against a dynamic power kickboxer like Giga Chikadze. It’s a good thing for him, then, that he showed up and put on one of the best start-to-finish fights of his career. In part, I have to credit that to securing and maintaining that early top control, which not only halted Chikadze’s momentum, but made it clear that any further mistakes in the wrestling game would result in entire rounds of domination from Kattar on top. But, given that that only lasted one round, a lot more credit has to be given to the New England Cartel fighter’s dedication to pressure and the jab. His ability to keep his output up and to keep Chikadze on the back foot were unquestionably the keys to breaking down the Georgian’s striking arsenal.
And coming out of it all, there’s one very obvious fight that needs to be booked. Two men who have taken their lumps against some of featherweight’s absolute best, only to bounce back with marvelous shows of skill and determination. Calvin Kattar vs. Brian Ortega is THE featherweight fight to make right now that doesn’t have Volkanovski or Holloway attached.
For those that underestimated Chikadze early in his UFC career, this loss has felt like it was always out there, waiting for him at some point. He has the technique and the power to put just about anyone away, but the consistency has always lingered as a bit of question mark. The fact that it took this long and he rose this high before getting knocked back is truly a testament to his skill and quality, however. And I don’t expect that he’ll walk away from this bout the worse for wear. Kattar showed Chikadze that there truly is a level of fighter out there that can take all his shots and return them bigger and better and more often. It’s a new tier for him to aspire to and, considering that he hung in for every minute of five rounds, I expect he’ll come back confident that he can meet that challenge.
From there it’s just a matter of how big a step back he needs right now. Because I’m absolutely certain, in my heart of hearts, that I want to see him fight Yair Rodriguez— tomorrow. But if that’s too much too soon, then how about a fight with Shane Burgos? Burgos brings a lot of the same challenges that Kattar does to the cage, but hasn’t always had Kattar’s chin. Should make for another brutal firefight, and an absolute banger to watch.
It was an absolute slobber-knocker for all the 2+ minutes that it lasted, but Chase Sherman made a big mistake going for a body kick that got him taken down and put on his back. From there, Collier cut through his guard and landed some hard shots to force Sherman to give up his back, his neck, and the tap. A thrilling first round win for the ‘Prototype’, who called for a fight with Andrei Arlovski afterward. Unfortunately for him, Alrovski is booked. But Justin Tafa isn’t, and apparently he called Collier out immediately on social media. Collier sounded like he’s willing, so why not make it happen? Collier vs. Tafa is an easy fight to book if both men are interested.
A really impressive win for Royval, in that while he still made a lot of the same mistakes that have plagued his past losses, he was able to stay composed and energetic and pour on the offense late to get the win. I’m not sure that puts him back on any quick path to title contention, but it certainly sets him up for another exciting top 10 bout. Opponents like Matheus Nicolau, David Dvorak, or Manel Kape all seem like obvious choices. Of those, I’ll go with Manel Kape. Royval’s exciting ‘do anything at anytime, anywhere’ style stands in sharp contrast to Kape’s single-strike power-punching. But Royval’s also pretty much a blank slate defensively. Can he do enough to overwhelm Kape on the feet without getting blasted in return? I want to know. Kape vs. Royval seems like a great flyweight bout to put either man firmly on the path toward gold.
This fight didn’t really need a rematch, but good for Chookagian for being willing to take on any and all other top 10 flyweights as she searches out a way toward another title shot. Which, even given this win, she’s still likely a couple fights away from actually getting to—unless Shevchenko really just wants to stay busy no matter who is in front of her.
After this victory the 33-year-old called for a fight with Miesha Tate, but Tate is already booked to fight Lauren Murphy. Instead she could take on Andrea Lee or Alexa Grasso—if Grasso can get by Joanne Wood. Hell, there’s even a fight with Taila Santos if Santos is looking for a tough test on her way to contender status. Since she put the idea out there, though, how about a fight with the Tate/Murphy winner? Chookagian fought Murphy in her UFC debut, back in 2016; seems like the time is ripe for a rematch if ‘Lucky’ gets a win. Chookagian vs. the Murphy/Tate winner is a good way for ‘Blonde Fighter’ to keep working toward her return to top contender status.
A hell of a fun debut for Borshchev, who faced some real struggles both from Bush’s takedown and backtake game and even a few big shots standing that looked like they had the Team Alpha Male fighter hurt for a minute. Still, he weathered the storm, kept fighting his way to his feet, and eventually the frenetic energy of the bout sapped his opponent and spun the action in his favor. The result is a big bodyshot TKO win for the striker turned MMA talent. Fights with Guram Kutateladze, Steve Garcia Jr., or Ottman Azaitar all seem like they’d be good next steps. I’ll say the Garcia bout is the best choice. Garcia’s got some really fun boxing, but has also showed punishing GnP when he can get opponents down. Can ‘Slava Claus’ fight off a more experienced foe? Garcia vs. Borshchev should be a fantastic action bout.
Not the prettiest fight in the world, but then it wouldn’t be a Court McGee bout if it was pretty. He found some nice success with his hands early on, but really put the grind to Brahimaj down the stretch—for what started out as a closer back-and-forth fight and ended up as a pretty one-sided affair. And with that, suddenly McGee has gone from a 3-loss skid to his first set of back-to-back wins since 2013. That should put him in position for another solid mid-card action tussle. And I’ve got just the one for him. Max Griffin is another vet who’s carved out a reputation for scrapping with any & everyone at 170. He’s also on a three fight win streak. Griffin vs. McGee feels like the ultimate battle of rugged, anytime/anywhere competitors in the welterweight division.
I get that Kelleher probably just wants to get out there and keep getting paid, so maybe he’s happy enough taking whatever bouts the UFC throws at him, but it really feels like he should be a solid step above facing relative newcomers looking to prove that they can even hang in the UFC. And I’m not just talking about Kevin Croom here, Saidyokub Kakhramonov, Domingo Pilarte, Ray Rodriguez... Kelleher is clearly a big step above a lot of these guys and should be fighting more established prospects looking for a path into the top 15, if not other veterans with a solid reputation for action bouts. So if I’m looking up and down the bantamweight division for a prospect looking to burst into the rankings, who could use a solid veteran test, there’s one name that jumps off the page: Adrian Yanez. Yanez has put together a fantastic run to start his Octagon career 4-0, a fight with Kelleher would be a perfect proving point to show that he’s ready to step into the deep end of bantamweight—or a great way for Kelleher to show that he’s not just a test for the bottom of 135, but can pick up some real momentum of his own as well. Kelleher vs. Yanez would be a nice step up for both men.
OTHER BOUTS: Chase Sherman vs. Harry Hunsucker, Rogerio Bontorin vs. Su Mudaerji, Jennifer Maia vs. Andrea Lee, Dakota Bush vs. Mike Breeden, Bill Algeo vs. Sean Woodson, Joanderson Brito vs. Bruno Souza, Jamie Pickett vs. Deron Winn, Joseph Holmes vs. Alen Amedovski, Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Dwight Grant, Kevin Croom vs. Brandon Davis, TJ Brown vs. Shayilan, Charles Rosa vs. Andre Ewell