Cast your mind back to the first UFC main event of 2021, and you’ll remember that it was a featherweight contender fight involving Calvin Kattar.
Last year it was in Abu Dhabi on Fight Island and Kattar stood across the octagon from former champion Max Holloway, and what followed was a one-sided beating in which the Hawaiian broke several records on Kattar’s face.
The memorable moment of the night came as Holloway screamed at the commentators that he was the best boxer in the UFC, while stepping back and slipping Kattar’s punches without looking at him.
As the scorecards were read out at the end of the fight, they told a story. It was officially the most one-sided UFC main event in history, as Holloway took a 50-43, 50-43, 50-42 unanimous decision after 25 minutes.
Kattar applauded, then left the octagon for the final time of 2021.
Now he returns for his first outing since that fateful day, in the first main event of 2022 but this time at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas where he will take on Giga Chikadze.
Another main event to open the year, in another fight where a win pushes him closer to the title fight he dreams of.
The opponent is very different this time around. This will be the biggest fight of Chikadze’s career to date, and Kattar would be a scalp to add to his resume after he stopped Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 and Edson Barboza in his first main event fight.
A heavy kicker, Chikadze won’t look to engage in the same way Holloway did and his gas tank has proven to not be as deep as ‘Blessed’s.
But this fight is more for Kattar than just a chance to get back on the horse. It’s an opportunity for him to show that he is still among the elite fighters in the world and has the capability to beat others in that conversation.
His most recent defeat prior to Holloway came against Zabit Magomedsharipov in a three-round main event on short notice, which had it gone a normal five rounds many believe he’d have won. But he didn’t, and that’s what matters.
Kattar must win this fight, not only to get his title aspirations back on track but more importantly to show he deserves to mentioned in the conversation at 145-pounds.
This is his chance to kick 2022 off in the best way possible, and wash away the demons of this exact opportunity that he had in 2021.