The UFC makes it’s return for 2022 with the first banger of a main event at UFC Vegas 46 live from the UFC Apex as Calvin Kattar takes on Giga Chikadze in the featherweight division.
Kattar returns after taking 2021 off following his defeat to Max Holloway in the opening event of the year, and will look to kick off this year in a way he couldn’t last year.
For Chikadze, it’s his second main event and he knows he has the opportunity to enter title contention this year with a victory over a top five opponent.
We ended 2021 with a decent 8/13 return with three perfect picks at UFC Vegas 45 to move to 508/792 (64.14%) with 214 perfect picks (42.13%).
We’ll look to improve that here, starting with the prelims of this 10-fight card.
Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-3) vs Vanessa Demopoulos (6-4) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
FIGHT MOVED TO UFC 270 DUE TO COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
An interesting women’s fight to kick off the year in the strawweight division. Juarez got smoked in her UFC debut against Lupita Godinez, getting submitted via armbar in round one at UFC Vegas 39. Demopoulos also suffered defeat in her UFC defeat, losing a unanimous decision to JJ Aldrich at UFC Vegas 35. Juarez is a crisp, fast and powerful striker on the feet, with some decent grappling skills that are usually enough for her to at least try and keep a fight standing. Demopoulos on the other hand is a terrific grappler, but outside of that she tends to struggle big time in her opponents wheelhouse because her wrestling is pretty average at best. If she can’t get the fight down, she leaves herself open to problems which explains her pretty poor record. As mentioned already, Juarez has the ability to generally keep the fight standing against non-wrestlers and if she can do that here she should be able to strike her way to a comfortable decision win. If Demopoulos is able to get her down though, this could end quickly. Unfortunately, I see Juarez standing firm and earning the victory.
PICK – Silvana Gomez Juarez via Decision
Charles Rosa (14-6) vs TJ Brown (15-8) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A fight put together on short notice after a drop-out on fight week, Charles Rosa steps in by chance to take a fight now at lightweight. Rosa has alternated wins and losses since 2014, claiming a defeat to Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 39 most recently. Brown on the other hand earned a split decision win over Kai Kamaka at UFC Vegas 25 in his last bout to snap a two-fight losing streak.
Both of these fighters are primary grapplers and have amassed 17 submission victories combined in their careers. Rosa is a karate striker, but his black belt in jiu-jitsu is where he looks to take fights towards at all times. Brown on the other hand is a very fast striker who also likes to use his blitzes to try and score takedowns and secure submissions. For the most part, Brown has the advantage in the striking department and with his own decent ground game he will likely be quite comfortable here.
Brown will look to keep this fight standing for as long as possible and use his speed to close distance and land big strikes. If Rosa gets the fight down he’ll have the advantage but Brown is no slouch himself in the grappling so I expect ‘Downtown’ to be able to navigate his way to a victory.
PICK – TJ Brown via Decision
Brian Kelleher (23-12) vs Kevin Croom (21-13)- (Featherweight/145lbs)
A fight that was made on Wednesday night as Kevin Croom steps in on mega-short notice to fight Brian Kelleher, who moves up to featherweight for this one. Kelleher bounced back from defeat to Ricky Simon at UFC 258 to earn a decision win over Domingo Pilarte most recently at UFC Vegas 34, while Croom was beaten by Alex Caceres last time out at UFC Vegas 20.
Kelleher is a relentless pressure fighter with some good power in his strikes and a good wrestling base to fight from. Croom on the other hand is a well-rounded fighter who also has a good wrestling base with some decent power in his strikes. Kelleher is going to be at a big size disadvantage in this one, moving up a division and being shorter with less reach too. But against Pilarte that was the same (without the weight) and he dominated that fight from start to finish.
Looking at their skillset, Croom and Kelleher are very similar but Croom definitely looks to wrestle a lot more and keep volume high. That plays well into the favour of Kelleher, who is styled towards that type of fight. He has been in camp so the pace shouldn’t be an issue, and he has the power to land a counter and end this early.
PICK – Brian Kelleher via Knockout, Round 3
Court McGee (21-10) vs Ramiz Brahimaj (9-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A banger at welterweight between two exciting fighters at 170-pounds. McGee is a grizzly veteran who snapped a three-fight win streak last time out with a decision win over Claudio Silva at UFC Vegas 27, while Brahimaj claimed a first-round submission win over Sasha Palatnikov at UFC Vegas 34.
‘The Crusher’ is a relentless pressure fighter with a bottomless gas tank and excellent wrestling skills, while Brahimaj is a super talented grappler with all nine victories in his career coming via submission and eight of those coming in the first round. McGee’s best chance of victory comes if he is able to wear Brahimaj out over the course of the fight, which is possible if he can continuously stuff takedown attempts.
McGee has never been submitted in his career, so it would be some achievement if Brahimaj was able to do that. Ultimately though I do expect the younger fighter to be able to use his wrestling to neutralize the cardio and grapple his way to a victory, but probably by decision.
PICK – Ramiz Brahimaj via Decision
Jamie Pickett (12-6) vs Joseph Holmes (7-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A short-notice bout is the featured prelim bout for this card in the middleweight division. Pickett bounced back from a first-round KO defeat to Jordan Wright at UFC 262 by earning a decision win over Laureano Staropoli at UFC Vegas 41, while Holmes steps in on less than one week’s notice for his UFC debut on a seven-fight win streak.
Pickett and Holmes are both rangy strikers, with a long reach for the division among both of their weaponries. The issue Pickett has despite the fact it’s a short-notice fight, is that Holmes uses his range in a far better way and is far more consistent. He’s faster, seems to have more power and is a much better grappler too.
Neither fighter is particularly keen on throwing tonnes of volume, so I wouldn’t expect a barn burner by any stretch of the imagination. But ultimately, Holmes is a better version of Pickett and considering they’re matching up against each other, I expect Holmes to claim a career-best win.
PICK – Joseph Holmes via Decision
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