As we enter 2022 and the first card of the year is upon us, there is a new contender on the horizon at 145-pounds and his name is Giga Chikadze.
The Georgian entered 2021 as a hot prospect, but someone who was struggling to really chop down the competition in the UFC.
Sitting at 5-0 in the organisation with four decision wins and one knockout against a super-short notice opponent, people were questioning the ceiling of this striking sensation.
Fast forward through the year though, and Chikadze can be questioned no more.
He started the year getting matched up against the grizzly veteran that is Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 in May.
It was expected to be a close encounter, with many tipping the veteran to be just too much for Chikadze considering his struggles in previous fights with getting a finish.
It took all of 63 seconds for Chikadze to put himself on everyone’s radar though, as a fierce body kick cause Swanson to crumble and then he got the stoppage with some follow up ground and pound.
That set him up for a banger against Edson Barboza in a main event at UFC Vegas 35. Barboza had just come off back-to-back wins over Makwan Amirkhani and then a stoppage win over Shane Burgos at UFC 262.
It was two heavy kickers with fast hands going to war, but ultimately it was a step too far for the veteran Brazilian as Chikadze blitzed him.
Landing heavy body kicks and super fast left hands, Chikadze earned a stoppage victory in the third-round to make it three KO’s in-a-row and earn himself a fight this weekend with Calvin Kattar.
Kattar was arguably one win away from a title shot when he fought Max Holloway last year, but a defeat set him back. Now Chikadze is potentially in a similar situation in the division almost exactly one year later.
With Holloway withdrawing from his title shot at UFC 272 after re-aggravating an injury, it seems as though Korean Zombie is going to fight Alexander Volkanovski for the belt.
If Chikadze is able to earn a win at UFC Vegas 46, he will move into the top five of the division with everyone above him having already fought for the title against Volkanovski, except Yair Rodriguez who is coming off a loss.
While Holloway would still be owed his shot, there would be a solid case for Chikadze to get a go too considering Volkanovski has already beaten Holloway twice.
It will be kicks vs boxing in the Apex, but Chikadze has shown he is a lethal striker in all aspects and if he can continue his finishing streak then he will be able to claim something that even the great Holloway couldn’t.
It’s a huge opportunity for the featherweight division to claim a new top contender, and it’s Chikadze’s position and role to lose.