The UFC returned with a spectacular main event in a rather disappointing ten-fight card at UFC Vegas 46 as Calvin Kattar returned to the win column with a bang.
Kattar returned after a year out of the octagon to take on Giga Chikadze in a featherweight main event that had fireworks written all over it.
It delivered too, in a superb five-round war that had everything except a finish going for it to set the bar high for the fight of the night in 2022.
Chikadze started the fight exceedingly well, landing hard body kicks and sharp right hands, before he threw a kick and slipped which allowed Kattar to step in and grapple with him.
After that though, Kattar was completely dominant for the next four rounds. He applied a crazy high pace and pressure to shut the distance down, not allowing Chikadze to throw kicks.
He landed heavy strikes, which later turned to elbows to cause further damage while also mixing in takedowns to keep Chikadze honest.
The Georgian gave it everything, landing some huge shots of his own but Kattar once again showed his chin and managed to secure a huge unanimous decision victory.
The win keeps him in the top five of the division and with three of the five guys above him getting title shots recently, and the other being Yair Rodriguez who is coming off a loss, Kattar has a real chance of title contention this year.
A fight against either Rodriguez or Brian Ortega seems like the fight to make going forward, if we don’t see Ortega vs Rodriguez instead, and a win could catapult him into the title contender position.
A bit earlier on the card was a women’s flyweight contender fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia, that produced a fun, back-and-forth bout between two top five 125-pounders.
Chookagian picked up the unanimous decision win, just as she did back at UFC 244 in their first fight, but following the event she revealed in the press conference that that was the final fight of her contract.
Speaking to the media, Chookagian claimed that she wanted to renegotiate her deal with the organisation before the Maia fight but they told her that they wanted her to fight out her current deal instead before they spoke.
With the win, she tied champion Valentina Shevchenko for the most wins in the division’s history (8) and will likely move into the number one spot in the rankings, above Jessica Andrade, setting her up for a rematch against ‘Bullet’.
But the UFC don’t seem convinced that is the route they want to go in, and with Chookagian out of contract it doesn’t make sense to renew her deal if they don’t intend on giving her a title shot when she’s clearly the top contender.
It’s a dilemma, because at that weight class she is among the best there is but she’s still some way off the champion and that makes her dispensable in the organisations eyes.
TJ Brown def Charles Rosa via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Fast start from Brown as he lands his jab well and a hard calf kick too as he takes the centre. Rosa looking for some calf kicks of his own now, but Brown is landing his right hand really clean and crisp. Rosa lands a hard low kick that drops Brown, but Brown then catches the next kick, fires one of his own and then drags him to the ground. Rosa threatens with a guillotine but Brown scrambles back to his feet quickly and they go back to striking. Rosa’s low kicks having a big effect and forcing Brown to switch stances, but Brown’s strikes landing really well. Brown goes for a takedown again but Rosa is able to scramble with another guillotine attempt, but ends up on his back with Brown searching for a head-and-arm choke. Rosa defends well and then eats a few ground and pound shots to end the round. 10-9 Brown.
More of the same from both guys to start the second round as Brown takes the centre and applies pressure with his right hand, while Rosa throws out leg kicks and then gets taken down by Brown. Brown transitions to the back and looks to control the position but Rosa threatening with a guillotine again and then is able to scramble to top position. Rosa tries to take an arm but Brown is able to reverse and ends up on top himself again, then moves for a head-and-arm choke again. Rosa defends brilliantly then eats a big elbow from Brown after trying for a triangle. Rosa goes for an armbar and Brown manages to escape before going right back to top position. Rosa is looking for submissions constantly but Brown is a step ahead, defending and maintaining control. Brown takes the back and puts both hooks in but once again Rosa defends it and they see the round out exchanging strikes on the ground. 20-18 Brown.
Final round and Brown looking for more of the same, getting on the front foot and landing a big right hand before getting a takedown and slamming Rosa down early. Brown takes the back and starts working for a rear-naked choke but Rosa gets to his knees and gets back to his feet, before eventually being able to put Brown on his back and get top position. Brown works his way back to the feet and then forces Rosa down to the mat, before securing top position and landing some heavy elbows. Brown slides over into mount and looks for the head-and-arm choke again before Rosa gets to his knees and back to his feet. Brown goes for a takedown but Rosa works for a d’arce choke as we enter the final minute. Brown defends it well but Rosa isn’t giving up the neck. Brown gets to his feet and lands a one two before moving back into the same d’arce position to see the round out. Should be a Brown decision victory. 29-28.
Brian Kelleher def Kevin Croom via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Very fast start to the fight from Croom, with lots of forward pressure and blitzes using his size advantage to get the best of Kelleher early. Kelleher takes the centre now and Croom being very active, before a big right hook from Kelleher drops him! He gets straight back up and Kelleher goes for another, but misses and then gets hit with an accidental low blow to pause the action. Croom using his big reach advantage well for now, just pawing out the jab to create distance. Kelleher trying to mix up his attacks and goes for a takedown but Croom defends it before landing a hard low kick. Front kick to the face lands from Kelleher but Croom keeps using his distance and just touching Kelleher up. Big spinning back fist lands from Kelleher before a left hook and a takedown to end the round on top. 10-9 Kelleher, just.
Croom opens up the round with a big one two that lands flush, but Kelleher eats it and keeps coming forward. Lots of volume from Croom in this round, but Kelleher is moving well and looking to counter. Nice body kick from Croom before a check-left hook from Kelleher lands too. Croom blitzes forward and gets Kelleher against the cage to clinch, using his size to wear Kelleher down. Big body shot from Kelleher, and then another, before he shoots for a takedown. Kelleher goes for a submission on the ground and looking to control the position, stopping Croom from getting back up. Big elbow lands from Kelleher, but he has a big cut above his eye after a knee landed from Croom as he went for the takedown. 19-19 for me, but could go either way.
Kelleher goes straight back to body work in the third round early on and then shoots in for a takedown to control early. Kelleher looking to take the back and secure a choke but Croom fights his way back up, only to be dragged back down immediately. Kelleher lands some ground and pound while transitioning ground positions, then lands a big knee and slams Croom back down as he tries to get back up. Kelleher completely dominating the grappling exchanges here and controlling the positions as we enter the final 90 seconds. Kelleher rolling with him and looking for a rear-naked choke but Croom fighting the hands. Heavy ground and pound from Kelleher to end the round in what could possibly be a 10-8 round, should seal him the fight. 29-28 for me.
Court McGee def Ramiz Brahimaj via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Great start to the fight for McGee, who is using his superior striking to his advantage to keep distance. Brahimaj clinches against the cage but McGee seems physically stronger and is able to turn him and get the fight down. Brahimaj defending a lot against the cage, but lands a strong knee to the gut of McGee before forcing a separation. Brahimaj takes th centre now and is striking well, but McGee keeping the pace high and landing the more significant strikes. McGee lands a huge right hand that drops Brahimaj just as the buzzer goes! Saved by the bell! 10-9 McGee.
McGee comes out early and lands a hard low kick and right hook that drops Brahimaj again, who gets up quickly and shoots for a takedown. Brahimaj gets it and starts looking to take his back, but McGee defends it and then is able to get a takedown of his own. Brahimaj gets back to the feet but McGee is just too physically strong for him right now and is wearing him down. McGee locks his hands and gets another takedown, but Brahimaj bounces back up quickly. McGee using his strength again to control, before shooting in for a takedown. Brahimaj defends and the two engage in a striking battle, but McGee is too strong again and clinches up to end the round again with another takedown. 20-18 McGee.
McGee steps over and goes immediately for another clinch and takedown situation, but Brahimaj is looking to defend it well and throws a nice knee to the body. He then drops down for a guillotine and it looks quite tight but McGee defends it and ends up dominant in top position. Brahimaj goes for another guillotine and wraps the neck up, but McGee stays calm and is able to pop his head out and push Brahimaj against the cage. Brahimaj tries to get back to his feet but McGee grinding him out and takes the back. McGee going for a rear-naked choke now, but Brahimaj turns to his back which allows McGee to move into mount. Brahimaj tries to scramble but gives up his back again and McGee dominantly rides him from position to position until the end of the round. Great win for McGee. 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def Joseph Holmes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight as both men look to take the centre of the cage and trade strikes. Holmes starting with a bit more intent, just missing with a head kick but then landing a nice straight right. Pickett blitzes forward with an attack of his own, but Holmes clinches up and uses his strength well against the cage. Holmes lands a nice right hand and then just misses with a head kick again, but Pickett clinching well to stifle the attack. Hard low kick from Holmes but Pickett gets a takedown to end the round. 10-9 Holmes, just.
Aggressive start to the round from Pickett as he comes forward with a hard front kick to the body and then a big left hand, before looking to get a takedown. Holmes looks more tired already but gets back to his feet and lands a hard right hand, but Pickett responds with a takedown attempt again. Strong body kick from Pickett lands, and now his left hand is landing well too. Holmes goes for a single leg takedown but Pickett defends it well in a clinch position. Pickett being very aggressive and coming forward hard with Holmes looking tired, but he responds with a nice slip left hand before they clinch again. Pickett explodes again as the round ends and should take that. 19-19.
Pickett being aggressive once again in this final round as Holmes throws a hard right hand. Pickett using his better conditioning and strength right now to stop Holmes’ momentum, but eats a body kick for his troubles when they separate from the clinch. Pickett lands a nice side kick as Holmes is looking for a big shot. Another clinch situation initiated by Pickett before a nice elbow from Holmes lands. A left hand stumbles Pickett again but then he goes for another clinch and just avoids a big elbow. Big high kick from Pickett lands well and the round comes to an end, with what should be a Pickett victory. 29-28.
Bill Algeo def Joanderson Brito via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
Quick start from Brito as he takes the centre, moves across the octagon and gets a body lock to look for a takedown. Algeo defends it well but eventually Brito gets it and takes the back while standing. Brito transitions around and picks Algeo up, then walks around the octagon for a few seconds before slamming him down and taking his back. Brito looking for a rear-naked choke but Algeo is defending well. Brito looking for the choke but Algeo turns into Brito and ends up reversing the position on top, looking for big ground and pound strikes. Brito looks to explode out and gets back to the feet quickly and goes back for another takedown. Brito lands a nice jab but then eats a big knee up the middle from Algeo, before shooting in for another takedown that gets defended to end the round. 10-9 Brito.
Brito coming forward with a blitz and walking Algeo down with big strikes, but then he eats a big right hand from Algeo that wobbles him. Brito immediately turns and goes back for the takedown, but Algeo defends it perfectly and lands a big knee from a front headlock position. Algeo lets him back up and lands a left hand on the break but Brito is just walking forward through the storm. Big one-twos from Brito snap Algeo’s head back and he looks hurt but once again Brito goes for a takedown and Algeo is able to stuff it and reverse position to end up on top. Algeo moves into side control but Brito gets back up. Algeo lands a big knee but then Brito fires back with a big right hand. Algeo clinches up to end the round, very close. 19-19.
Algeo opens the round with a nice one two, before Brito comes forward with a big blitz of strikes that land well. Brito continues to walk forward and do damage with big shots but Algeo timing him well with counters and clinching up to slow down the Brazilian’s momentum. Brito continues to walk forward constantly and goes for a spinning elbow, but Algeo slips it and showboats. Final minute and Brito is really pushing the pace but Algeo gets a big hip throw and ends up on top landing big elbows then takes the back. Algeo ends the round on the back and should take the victory in a great back and forth fight. 29-28 Algeo.
Viacheslav Borshchev def Dakota Bush via Knockout, Round 1 (3:47)
Fast start to the fight for Bush as he stays at distance and throws lots of kicks early on. Big overhand right lands but Borshchev eats it. Borshchev steps in and lands a nice little blitz with a left hook, but Bush moves in for a takedown and gets it. Borshchev defends himself well down there and is able to stand up, but gets wobbled by a strike. Bush moves in for a big finish but Borshchev avoids and lands a big left hook counter. Bush gets another takedown and tries to take the back but Borshchev escapes and goes into the guard, landing heavy body shots from top position. He gets back up and backs Bush against the cage, slips a shot and lands a huge body blow that drops him!! Borshchev lands a few follow up shots but that’s that! What a knockout!
Katlyn Chookagian def Jennifer Maia via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Chookagian starts the fight well with a big slip right hand that lands flush, while Maia looking to land some low kicks. Chookagian is really sitting down on her punches right now, landing well and maintaining distance well. Maia lands a big left hand and Chookagian gets a body lock and a takedown to sit in half guard on top position. Good shoulder pressure from Chookagian and she defends the sweep well before passing to side control, before laying down some shoulder strikes from the top. Chookagian tried to pass to mount but Maia bounces back up quickly, eats a knee and the round ends. 10-9 Chookagian.
Aggressive start to the round from Maia as she steps forward and lands a hard right hand, but Chookagian slips a second attempt and gets another body lock to look for a takedown. Maia defends it well this time though and then they break, with Chookagian looking to control distance again with her jab. Maia leading with a low kick and doing well, but Chookagian bouncing and lands a nice right hook. Maia looks for a body lock this time and rushes Chookagian against the cage, but she defends it well and reverses the position to look for a trip herself. Maia lands a couple of right hands in the pocket, before Chookagian lands a big head kick and then a nice knee too but Maia continues to be aggressive and walk forward. Maia looks for an arm drag but Chookagian defends and ends up on Maia’s back with both hooks in looking for a choke to end the round. 20-18 Chookagian.
Maia coming out strong again in this final round but Chookagian using her teep kick brilliantly to maintain distance and landing her right hand and jab. Maia lands a big right hand but she’s just a step behind right now. Nice head kick from Maia, but Chookagian responds with a low kick. Lovely overhand right from Chookagian, followed by a clean one-two but Maia is still there. Nice right from Maia on the break from a clinch lands clean but Chookagian starting to take over with counters and jabs. Big right hand from Maia lands and then they exchange right hooks. Final 30 seconds and Chookagian looks super comfortable, then lands a huge one-two and a third on her way back to claim a big win. 30-27 Chookagian.
Explosive start to this one with Royval taking the centre and using speed, but Bontorin lands a hard low kick that drops Royval early. Royval throwing a lot of kicks, but Bontorin looking to counter with his flush right hand. Royval goes for a body kick that Bontorin catches and then lands a right hand as Royval spins. Bontorin transitions to a takedown and gets side control but Royval very good with scrambles and looks to get to his feet. Bontorin holds him there briefly but Royval eventually gets back up and goes back to being very active. Slip left hand from Royval lands clean, before another takedown from Bontorin. Royval staying active from his back as he tries to roll through and starts throwing elbows, before both get back to the feet to end the round. 10-9 Royval.
Quick start again as Bontorin throws a right hand that drops Royval and he goes straight into his guard. Royval trying to scramble with submissions but Bontorin stays calm and takes the back. Royval defends it expertly but Bontorin retains the control from top position and lands a big elbow. Royval climbs back to his feet as Bontorin goes back to striking and then drops him with a nice left hook. Royval straight back up though and looking to overwhelm Bontorin but Bontorin staying calm and looking for control. Royval trying to up the pressure but Bontorin gets a body lock and trip in the final seconds to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Royval lands a big knee and hook combo. Bontorin fires back with a huge right hand, left hook combo that lands flush but Royval’s chin is holding up. Bontorin is loading up on his punches and Royval is able to land a few softer shots. Bontorin lands a leg kick and Royval goes down, but Royval defending with his submissions and looking for a gogoplata. He transitions to an armbar and it looks like Bontorin taps (?!) but the referee doesn’t see it and then Bontorin escapes and the fight continues. Royval transitions and is able to sweep Bontorin to get on top as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hard elbows from the top for Royval but Bontorin firing back from the bottom with elbows of his own. Royval landing some huge elbows and the buzzer goes. 29-28 Royval for me but could easily go the other way too! Great fight.
Collier comes forward very aggressively in the opening minute, walking Sherman down and throwing hard right hands. Sherman looking to counter with right hooks but Collier doing well to avoid too much damage early. Collier storms forward and pushes Sherman to the mat. He moves straight into full mount and lands some big nasty elbows from the top that cut Sherman open. Sherman tries to kick off the cage but just puts himself in an awful position. Sherman rolls over to his belly and Sherman synches up a rear-naked choke and gets the tap for the victory. Impressive performance.
Two very hard low kicks from Chikadze open the fight up before a nice right hand behind them. Kattar takes the centre of the octagon trying to pressure him, but Chikadze with great footwork around the outside to stay off the cage. Chikadze lands two hard body kicks and a right hand then goes for another kick but loses his balance and Kattar charges for a takedown and secures top position. Kattar working to pass Chikadze’s guard but he’s defending well. Chikadze tries to get back up but Kattar drags him back down. A scramble sees Chikadze end up on top but Kattar reverses it to an arm triangle from the bottom and then secures the back with a body triangle to see out the round. 10-9 Kattar.
Hard body kick from Chikadze early on and he starts blitzing Kattar with hard punches and a variation of kicks again. Kattar switching stances to take the kick away from Chikadze. Kattar pressuring forward and landing hard strikes that have Chikadze looking a bit more tired. Big jab from Chikadze though and then Kattar continues to come forward and Chikadze is tired! Kattar lands a big right hand then shoots for a takedown but Chikadze defends it. Big knee from Kattar lands, followed by a left hook. Huge step-in elbow from Kattar and Chikadze is struggling. Kattar lands a big left hook and follows it with a body shot. Four big left hands from Chikadze land but Kattar responds with a huge right hand and a knee, then he secures a takedown and heavy right hands to end the round. What a round! 20-18 Kattar.
Kattar comes out with forward motion once again and is putting a pace on Chikadze, who’s trying to recover his cardio still. Elbow from Kattar lands and then a flush one-two straight down the middle lands. Kattar steps forward with his jab and is teeing off on Chikadze, who can’t get his hands up to block his head. Two low kicks from Chikadze and a left hand, before a big right cross. Kattar goes for a takedown but Chikadze just about stays up with a little help from the fence. Both guys are tired, but Kattar pushing forward still. Huge right elbow lands from Kattar and then they trade hooks to the chin. Chikadze lands a right hand that gets Kattar to cover up, but Chikadze swings wildly and misses big. Kattar continues with forward pressure to close the distance but then just misses with two big shots. Big spinning elbow from Kattar right on the buzzer. What a fight. 30-27 Kattar.
Kattar crowding Chikadze with forward pressure as he looks to stop the kicks, and he’s just picking the jab well. Chikadze is looking for kill shots now but he’s too tired to land, while Kattar continues to come forward with his jab and picking him apart. Huge elbow again from Kattar and then he shoots for a takedown, but Chikadze defends it brilliantly and lands some big strikes of his own. Chikadze lands a big right hand but Kattar comes forward with his jab and elbows. Head kick attempt from Chikadze but Kattar just keeps coming forward. Massive elbow from Kattar and the buzzer goes again. 40-36, this is a beating now.
Chikadze comes forward early throwing bombs in the final round. Kattar continues to walk forward and just jab him to death, and Chikadze just has no answer for the pressure. Two huge elbows land back-to-back from Kattar, but Chikadze’s chin holds up again! Another nasty elbow from Kattar as he starts throwing them instead of hooks. Chikadze lands a nice one-two before Kattar lands a spinning elbow. Kattar just constantly coming forward with elbows and straights. Chikadze backing up and getting pieced up as Kattar looks for a finish. Huge right hand lands on the chin but Chikadze is still standing. Chikadze throws a one-two and Kattar responds with another flush spinning elbow. Both guys swinging for the fences with 30 seconds left. Kattar starts throwing elbows and drops Chikadze right on the buzzer!! He follows up with a couple of shots, but that is an exclamation point on a stunning performance. Wow! 50-44 Kattar for me.
Bill Algeo (14-6) vs Joanderson Brito (12-2-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A potential fight of the night contender in the featherweight division. Algeo is coming off a defeat to Ricardo Ramos at UFC Vegas 27 in May, while Brito makes his UFC debut on a ten-fight win streak with the most recent coming on Dana White’s Contender Series back in August.
Algeo is the type of fighter whose sole game-plan is simply to hit you harder than you can hit him. Brito on the other hand is a huge power puncher with both hands and has great speed too, but can often be quite reckless defensively. Algeo has a big size advantage in this fight and has never been knocked out and while his record isn’t great, he has fought much better competition throughout his career. Algeo’s defensive grappling is pretty poor, which opens up a big opportunity for Brito to land his big double-leg takedowns.
For Brito, this is a big opportunity to make a name for himself in the USA and in the UFC. Algeo will do his part to make this exciting too, which likely won’t help him, and I expect Brito to close the show early and make a big impression. PICK – Joanderson Brito via Knockout, Round 2
Dakota Bush (8-3) vs Viacheslav Borshchev (5-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Two exciting lightweight prospects in the UFC go head-to-head here. Bush is a stud who was beaten in his UFC debut at UFC Vegas 24 by Austin Hubbard via decision, while Borshchev makes his debut in this fight after an impressive KO win over Chris Duncan in Dana White’s Contender Series.
Bush is an athletic fighter who uses mobility and movement more than technique and power in his attacks, while Borshchev makes his debut as the head striking coach of Team Alpha Male which tells you exactly where his strengths lie. Bush is likely to try and use his four-inch reach advantage to his benefit by fighting on the outside and mixing in takedowns to test the defensive wrestling of Borshchev. That said though, ‘Slava Claus’ has worked with Team Alpha Male for long enough that I expect he’ll come good defensively.
The longer the fight goes, the harder it will be for Bush to get a takedown and even hold Borshchev down, who is very good at scrambling up to his feet. He will attack the body and eventually start to target the chin before claiming a highlight-reel knockout finish midway through the fight. PICK – Viacheslav Borshchev via Knockout, Round 2
Katlyn Chookagian (16-4) vs Jennifer Maia (19-7-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
The big women’s fight for the card is a flyweight bout between two former title contenders at 125-pounds. Chookagian bounced back from a KO defeat to Jessica Andrade at UFC Fight Island 6, before decision wins over Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araujo most recently. Maia on the other hand bounced back from her title fight defeat with a decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264. These two fought previously, with Chookagian winning at UFC 244 via decision.
Chookagian is a very mobile kicker, with good karate skills and great fight IQ where she’s able to fight from range and constantly move in-and-out of distance. Maia on the other hand looks to use her Muay-Thai game to get into clinch range before looking for takedowns to work her excellent jiu-jitsu skills. Chookagian has got some underrated grappling skills, but if Maia can get this fight down then you can safely make the assumption the round or fight will end there.
Unfortunately for Maia though, her takedown ability isn’t great and she won’t get close enough to Chookagian to be able to use her clinch game. Chookagian will bounce around on the outside, using her kicks and blitzes and once again claim a decision victory to put herself back into title contention in the division. PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Brandon Royval (12-6) vs Rogerio Bontorin (17-3) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An absolute banger of a flyweight fight and another contender for fight of the night. Royval was on the verge of a title shot before he dislocated his shoulder and was beaten by Brandon Moreno at UFC 255, before getting submitted by Alexandre Pantoja at UFC Vegas 34 last time out too. Bontorin on the other hand bounced back from a KO defeat against Kai Kara-France at UFC 259 with a decision win over Matt Schnell last time out at UFC 262.
Royval is an excellent grappler with terrific scrambles and some lightning fast striking techniques too. Bontorin is more of a striker, who has good physical strength and some good grappling too despite his preference to trade punches. This is a very high level fight between two potential future title contenders.
Bontorin certainly has the striking edge on the feet and is a solid submission artist himself, but Royval is so active in all aspects of MMA. The issue with Royval though is that because he’s so unorthodox, it can somehow hurt him here. If Bontorin can get top position, he should use his strength to hold position. On the feet he is the more powerful, but Royval has great speed and his own grappling is great too so ultimately I think the activity of ‘Raw Dawg’ gets him a razor thin win. PICK – Brandon Royval via Decision
Jake Collier (12-6) vs Chase Sherman (15-8) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A heavyweight bout takes the co-main event slot between relatively different big guys. Collier has alternated wins and losses since a win in 2014, with a defeat to Carlos Felipe last time out at UFC 263 via split decision. Sherman on the other hand has lost each of his last two via decision, losing to Andrei Arlovski and Parker Porter.
Collier is a former middleweight who still tries to fight like one, just with an added 80-pounds of weight. He has good leg kicks and often attempts a few spinning techniques to catch his opponents off guard. Sherman is a similar fighter but is a much more natural heavyweight. He loves a strong leg kick, but isn’t the best when it comes the checking them.
Collier is the faster fighter and technically probably the better one, but naturally Sherman is the bigger fighter so the power lands in his favour. It’s probably not going to be a very exciting fight , but Collier is due another win on his run so I’m going with him.. PICK – Jake Collier via Decision
Calvin Kattar (22-5) vs Giga Chikadze (14-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A beauty of a main event in the featherweight division, with the winner potentially entering title contention territory. Kattar had won two-in-a-row against Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige at UFC Fight Island 1 before getting absolutely destroyed by Max Holloway at UFC Fight Island 7. Chikadze on the other hand is now 7-0 in the UFC and has won each of his last three via knockout against Jamey Simons at UFC Vegas 13, Cub Swanson at UFC Vegas 25 and Edson Barboza at UFC Vegas 35.
Kattar is a terrific boxer, with a brilliant jab and brilliant power punches while trading from within a phone booth against his opponents. He likes to throw a few leg kicks here and there, but generally it’s to set up his power strikes. Chikadze on the other hand is a brilliant kickboxer with a trademark head kick and amazing power in his hands too. Both of these guys have got genuine knockout power and can hold a hard pace for a full fight. This is only Chikadze’s second five-round fight in the UFC, and he won the first in the third round.
Chikadze is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now and that is definitely affecting people’s perception of this fight. Kattar has got genuine skills and if he lands clean on Chikadze, I expect him to do a lot f damage. While his counter striking is better than Chikadze’s, he can’t get hit as much as he did by Holloway in this fight or he’s going to sleep. Chikadze is far more powerful and can use his kicks well to set everything up. This is due to be a magnificent fight of high level striking, and I lean ever so slightly towards Chikadze and I think he’ll get a stoppage. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 4
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.
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.
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.
The UFC featherweight division headlines a banger of a card in the APEX as Edson Barboza takes on Giga Chikadze in the main event, while The Ultimate Fighter finals take place too.
Chikadze takes on the former lightweight contender in his first main event, but before that the finale of both the bantamweight and middleweight division from the Ultimate Fighter Returns finale will take place as Ricky Turcios takes on Brady Hiestand, followed by Bryan Battle taking on late replacement Gilbert Urbina.
Kevin Lee also makes his return to the octagon against Daniel Rodriguez at welterweight in his first fight since he was submitted by Charles Oliveira back in March 2020.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 34 we went a disappointing 6/12 with two perfect picks for the night to move to 389/612 (63.56%) with 171 perfect picks (43.96%). We’ll look to improve that here, and after starting with the early prelims and the rest of the prelims we’ll pick the main card now.
Makhmud Muradov (25-6) vs Gerald Meerschaert (32-14) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A very fun middleweight fight to open the main card as Muradov and Meerschaert meet in a classic striker vs grappler bout. Muradov has won 14-in-a-row including three-in-a-row in the UFC with his most recent fight against Andrew Sanchez ending with a flying-knee KO at UFC 257. Meerschaert bounced back from two losses in a row against Ian Heinisch and Khamzat Chimaev at UFC Vegas 11 before a submission win over Bartosz Fabinski.
Muradov is a sensational striker with great boxing skills and excellent footwork for a big man, while Meerschaert is a submission expert with 24 wins via tap out in his career. While he’s a great grappler though, he’s not a good wrestler and that is what Muradov is best at – denying takedowns and beating people up on the feet. Muradov has a tremendous speed advantage in this one and with his crisp striking it seems most likely that he can secure a win.
Overall, Muradov should have way too much for Meerschaert here. 17 wins via knockout tells me he has a killer instinct too and I think he’ll hit Meerschaert clean enough to get that big KO once again. PICK – Makhmud Muradov via Knockout, Round 2
Andre Petroski (5-1) vs Micheal Gillmore (6-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Two TUF contestants from this season go head-to-head on the finale in this one at middleweight. Petroski is 5-1 with a defeat in his most recent professional fight via knockout, while Gillmore is on a three-fight win streak in his professional career before losing in the first round of the TUF house to finalist Gilbert Urbina.
Petroski is a powerhouse wrestler with powerful striking too and a good submission game. Gillmore on the other hand is a former karate champion with great striking and okay wrestling to try and keep fights standing. The issue for him is that his wrestling isn’t even close to that of Petroski’s and his showing in the TUF house won’t do much to convince anyone of anything different.
He walked backwards with little aggression and that allowed Urbina to score an early takedown so if Petroski gets that chance then this fight won’t last long at all. PICK – Andre Petroski via Submission, Round 1
Kevin Lee (18-6) vs Daniel Rodriguez (15-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
‘The Motown Phenom’ is back in the octagon as he takes on the highly impressive ‘D-Rod’ in the welterweight division. Lee has struggled in the octagon recently, with just one win in his last four and no fights since March 2020 while Rodriguez has impressively won his last two-in-a-row against Mike Perry at UFC Vegas 23 and Preston Parsons.
Lee is a tremendous wrestler with great pedigree, but has spent most of his career in the lightweight division making him a bit of an inbetweener for division. Rodriguez on the other hand is a natural welterweight with tremendous boxing and a big size advantage for the fight. Rodriguez will use his jab plenty, but Lee will be happy to strike with him as he tries to open up the opportunities for takedowns.
The fight comes down to whether or not Lee can get a takedown and I’m not sure he can. Rodriguez absolutely has the striking advantage and power edge, and I think the size he has will be enough to stop Lee getting significant takedowns enough to score a close decision win. PICK – Daniel Rodriguez via Decision
Ricky Turcios (10-2) vs Brady Hiestand (5-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
The first final from this year’s TUF series is the bantamweights. Turcios won two wars on the series this year but his most recent professional fights have been mixed, going 2-2 in his last four. Hiestand on the other hand had a close fight in the first round before securing an early TKO in his semi-final, while he is 1-1 professionally in his last two fights.
Turcios is a freestyle fighter who has good strikes with lots of volume and awkward movements, while he also has really good jiu-jitsu too. Hiestand is a solid wrestler with good top control and decent striking, but he has a lot less experience in this fight. Turcios knows how to work a crowd and judges and his volume is great, always moving forward with an iron chin.
Overall, I think once again we’ll see Turcios bring an entertaining fight but come out with a big win to be crowned the winner of this series and earn the contract. PICK – Ricky Turcios via Decision
Bryan Battle (5-1) vs Gilbert Urbina (6-1) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
The middleweight finale for TUF has a short-notice replacement involved after Tresean Gore pulled out with injury. Bryan Battle makes his UFC debut after two big wins as an underdog during the competition, while Urbina is brought back in to the finale after being KO’d by Gore in the semi-final in the house.
Battle is a mixed-style fighter with lots of heart and excellent cardio, with solid striking and excellent scrambles on the ground. Urbina on the other hand is a good striker with good volume but with some great wrestling to back him up too. The issue for Urbina is that he’s a welterweight naturally and against a natural middleweight he could struggle to get that wrestling going.
Battle is a great scrambler if he does get taken down and he has the volume and size advantage so should be more than able to secure an impressive win and earn himself a UFC contract. PICK – Bryan Battle via Decision
Edson Barboza (22-9) vs Giga Chikadze (13-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Barboza is a stunning striker, with incredible kicks but also brilliant power in his hands with fun body shots and ripping crosses to the chin, while Chikadze is a super accurate kickboxer with a trademark body/head kick and crisp hands. The problem for Chikadze in this banger of a fight is that Barboza throws more volume and also has some pretty good grappling too.
Overall, it comes down to who can hit their opponent the most and harder and I think that Barboza has that advantage in this fight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chikadze won, but Barboza is so polished at the highest level that I can’t go against him here. PICK – Edson Barboza via Decision
Felipe Colares def Luke Sanders via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Colares opens up with a big body kick that Sanders half catches and slams home a nice flurry of strikes to counter it. Colares continues to throw those huge kicks but Sanders avoiding damage for the most part and then charges in with a flurry and lands a big left hand that drops Colares! Sanders goes for the finish and lands some huge elbows in the clinch and a big knee that puts Colares down again! Big ground and pound from Sanders but Colares still moving and trying to survive. They eventually get back to the feet and Sanders steps back to separate, then starts throwing that heavy left hand once again. Sanders is landing clean right straights with left uppercuts and Colares is hurt, but he’s surviving again. Sanders now slowing down a bit and Colares coming forward and throws a big right hand that wobbles Sanders! Both men exchange body kicks as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Sanders.
Great start to the round as Sanders comes forward with big left hands once again and lands them well. Both men much slower in this round but Sanders still landing with good power, then he changes levels and gets himself a takedown. Colares defends well on the ground and eventually they get back to the feet. Sanders much, much slower now and Colares starting to pressure more and lands a nice body kick again. Colares is able to get Sanders against the cage and locks his hands and picks Sanders up. He walks him across the cage and slams him down, then takes his back and flattens him out. Colares starts pounding away looking for a finish and the referee is looking at stopping it, but Sanders just about survives as the round ends. 19-19.
Final round and both guys are exhausted already, but Sanders is keeping some distance and landing his heavy hands well. Colares coming forward working the body well with kicks, but Sanders is controlling the pace and landing more cleanly. Colares throws another kick but Sanders catches it and tries to take him down with a trip, but Colares gets back up quickly. Both men are basically out on their feet and Colares gets a judo throw to end up on top of Sanders with 30 seconds left. He looks for ground and pound but Sanders gets back up and they see the round out. Great fight, 29-28 Sanders for me.
Andreas Michailidis def KB Bhullar via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Tentative start from both fighters as Bhullar flicks out a few kicks while circling on the outside, as Michailidis looks to step forward and get inside. Nice little flurry of punches lands from Michailidis but Bhullar moving away and avoiding getting hit flush with the strikes before the clinch up against the cage to a stalemate. Bhullar starting to throw those kicks again to the head and body, then Michailidis throws a wild head kick that lands and follows up with another flurry of hooks. Michailidis changes levels and gets the takedown and starts controlling on the ground in the final minute, taking the back and floating threatening with a choke but Bhullar sees out the round. 10-9 Michailidis.
Good start again from Michailidis as he comes forward and throws those flurries once again, then Bhullar lands an accidental low blow to pause the action. Fight resumes and Michailidis comes forward again, with Bhullar trying to use his kicks to keep range but not really doing any sort of damage or making Michailidis think about coming forward. Huge one two lands from Michailidis but Bhullar eats it, but he’s not throwing with any sort of intent at all. Little low kicks from Bhullar and then he misses with a big spin kick as Michailidis continues to march him down. Big swing and a miss once against from Michailidis as the round ends. 20-18.
Slow start to the final round as Michailidis is recharging for a flurry, while Bhullar is just prodding small kicks with zero intent or aggression. Michailidis starting to try and egg Bhullar on with taunts but not much really landing from either fighter. A few more flurrys from Michailidis that don’t really land too clean while Bhullar is throwing nothing back to make him think about it. Another low blow from Bhullar causes a pause in the fight as we enter the final minute but it’s Michailidis who is showing more intent to get a finish. 30-27 Michailidis in a less than memorable fight.
Loma Lookboonmee def Sam Hughes via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good start to the fight for Lookboonmee as she lands a few kicks from range and a couple of nice right hands. Hughes looks to close the distance to look for a takedown but Lookboonmee defends it well and unleashes some huge knees in the clinch before tripping her and dumping her to the mat. Lookboonmee works top position well and lands some big elbows on the ground before getting back up and allowing Hughes back to her feet. Hughes goes for the takedown again but Lookboonmee defends it really well again and is able to reverse the position and take her down again, landing some more elbows on the ground before letting Hughes up again. Hughes lands a nice low kick and follows it up with a good right hand as Lookboonmee looks to counter but just misses. Hughes closes the distance and goes for a takedown again but Lookboonmee defends well against the cage and sees the round out in top position as she falls onto Hughes.. 10-9 Lookboonmee.
Hughes comes out aggressive in the second round and goes straight for a takedown, but Lookboonmee defends well and goes for a couple of trips of her own. Hughes relentless though and finally gets her down as Lookboonmee looks to defend with a guillotine. Hughes defends and gets a body lock to try and drain her against the cage, but Lookboonmee finally gets back up, breaks the lock and separates. Hughes lands a couple of nice right hands clean but Lookboonmee comes forward with kicks again. They clinch up again and battle for position with Lookboonmee landing some big knees to the body while angling away from Hughes. Hughes goes for a single leg takedown but Lookboonmee defends it really well and then lands a big knee again. Hughes switching from single leg to double leg constantly but Lookboonmee defending brilliantly and keeps the fight standing, then ends the round on top as they clinch at the end and she falls on Hughes once again. 20-18 for me.
Tentative start to the final round as Hughes looks to keep it standing early on, landing some nice early strikes that are making Lookboonmee a bit uncomfortable. She goes for a Thai clinch but Hughes defends it well and pushes her against the cage looking for a takedown once again. Lookboonmee defends it well once again with more knees and then they separate, as both women exchange a big right hand each. The women clinch up again against the cage and exchange knees before the separate and Hughes lands a big right hand. Lookboonmee fires back with some push kicks to the body as we enter the final minute of the fight. Hughes clinches up again and the fight comes to an end with the two women against the cage. 29-28 Lookboonmee for me.
Interesting start to the fight as Botelho comes out a bit more aggressive, throwing some nice body kicks and leg kicks while also leading with her jab. Carolina struggling to get anything going just yet, trying to reply to kicks and a jab of her own but looking very nervous and backing up. Botelho steps forward with a four-hit combo that doesn’t land clean but then she clinches up and gets a takedown into Carolina’s guard. Botelho using great shoulder pressure to control Carolina’s posture on the ground and working to pass into mount which she does after a few big strikes to the head. 30 seconds left in the round and she looks to transition to an armbar but Carolina survives and the round ends. 10-9, could even argue a 10-8 for Botelho.
Better start to this round from Carolina as she comes out more aggressive and goes straight for a clinch after a head kick attempt. She uses strength to hold Botelho in position and starts throwing some nice knees to the body that sees Botelho looking a bit uncomfortable. Botelho looks to switch position and goes for a trip but Carolina defends it excellently and ends up in a dominant position of her own on the ground. She goes for a submission but Botelho gets back to the feet well and the rest of the round plays out against the cage in a clinch position with both women exchanging knees to the body. 19-19.
Slower third round as both women look to exchange body shots and kicks but Carolina being a bit more aggressive so far. Nice flurry from Botelho but Carolina replies with a kick and Botelho goes for a takedown. A scramble on the ground sees Carolina end up on top in the closed guard of Botelho and after a bit of a stalemate she works her way to Botelho’s back. Carolina starts working for a rear-naked choke but Botelho defending well against the cage and both women trade shots on the ground as the round comes to an end. Carolina’s round, 29-28 Carolina for me but could be a draw if the first round was a 10-8.
TJ Brown def Kai Kamaka III via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 27-30)
Fun start early on as Brown comes forward and lands good jobs and front kicks before Kamaka responds with a flush right hand to the chin. Brown keeps coming though, moving a lot and looking to mix it up but Kamaka is investing in his calf kicks well. Both men throw body kicks at the same time before Brown lands a good one-two in response that sends Kamaka backwards. Kamaka lands a punch as Brown goes for a kick and knocks him off balance, but Brown very active off his back to not allow any sort of advantage to be gained before he works back up to his feet quickly. Kamaka fires off another nice low kick but Brown is still coming forward and after a few more exchanges the round ends. Could go either way but I edge 10-9 to Brown.
Much faster start to this round as Kamaka lands a nice shot that sends Brown backwards early. Brown just flowing with the strikes but Kamaka landing some nice combinations and throws a huge head kick that lands flush! Brown keeps coming forward and lands a big right hand that rocks Kamaka! He starts looking for the finish but Kamaka is still there and then Kamaka lands a huge strike that drops Brown! Kamaka goes for the ground and pound finish but Brown surviving and then he gets a kimura synched up! Kamaka survives it but they get back to the feet and the round ends with Brown on top after a successful shot. 19-19 for me, great fight.
Final round and both men come out with a sense of urgency. Brown shoots in for a takedown early but Kamaka stuffs it and manages to reverse it to get into top position. Kamaka trying to push Brown against the cage to control the position but Brown fighting to get back up to the feet and eventually does. Nice combinations from Brown land and Kamaka blocks a body kick before he pushes him down to the mat once again and looks to move into full mount, but Brown denies it. Brown eventually gets back to the feet again and throws a big right hand that drops Kamaka. He goes for an ankle lock finish but gives up position, then goes for a kimura again but the round ends. 29-28 Kamaka, great fight.
Brilliant start to this fight from Pinheiro as Markos rushes forward with a flurry of strikes but gets caught with a huge right hook counter. Markos goes to clinch but Pinheiro dumps her on her head with a beautiful judo throw and then starts raining down some heavy ground and pound. She manages to judo throw Markos several times and strike hard and Markos looks rattled. Accidental eye poke causes a stop in the fight as Markos needs to recover and blinks out the issue. Fight resumes and Markos comes out with heavy and hard but Pinheiro countering brilliantly again and then throws Markos down on her head yet again. They separate before another clinch and Pinheiro goes for another judo throw and ends up on top again! Markos tries to kick Pinheiro off and upkicks her in the face while she’s down. Pinheiro flops to the floor and is struggling and the doctor waves this one off. Disqualification incoming.
Great start to this fight between two predominant wrestlers, with Stamann taking the centre but Merab doing well to move on the outside and lands a beautiful left uppercut. A few more strikes from Merab before he catches a kick and takes the fight to the ground for the first time. Stamann eats a few punches but gets back up, then goes for a few takedowns of his own but they get stuffed. Merab is landing some great right hands, but Stamann sticks a stiff jab that wobbles Merab. Merab goes for a single leg and gets it but Stamann pops right back up every time as the round ends in a stalemate. 10-9 Merab but could argue it went Stamann’s way too.
Fast start for Stamann to round two as he comes out with a deep double leg takedown early and gets it against the cage. Merab relentless from the bottom though with elbows and punches before working his way back up and rushing Stamann to get a takedown of his own. Merab holds him down for a few seconds before they stand back up and Stamann goes back to work with his jab. Merab changes levels and gets another takedown and looks to sink in a guillotine, but Stamann pops his head out and they work back to the feet again. Merab’s pace starting to wear on Stamann a bit as he keeps marching forward, landing combinations and shooting for takedowns as he lifts Stamann this time and slams him down. Stamann trying to keep Merab with his back to the cage but Merab steps forward, clinches and judo throws Stamann to the mat but a scramble sees him end the round under him. 20-18 Merab.
Competitive opening to the final round as Stamann takes the centre again looking to land jabs to set up a haymaker, but Merab staying light on his feet and moving in and out with strikes. Stamann looks for a big right hand that misses wildly and Merab continues to push forward and land little flurries, always touching Stamann. Merab shoots for a single leg but Stamann reverses the attempt and ends up on top with a little more than a minute to go. Merab battles up to his feet and goes for a takedown of his own but Stamann scrambles as they end up in a stalemate on the ground. They get back and swing for the final few seconds but should be a win for Merab, 30-27.
Sean Strickland def Krzysztof Jotko via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
Nice left hand from Jotko to open up the fight as Strickland takes the centre and looks incredibly calm as he steps forward. Jotko more lively, bouncing on his toes and throwing a couple of kicks too, then lands another nice left hand. Strickland coming forward again with intent now and lands a stiff jab down the middle, then a right cross that wobbles Jotko. Strickland lands a nice left hand and uppercut and Jotko is hurt, so Strickland goes in for the kill and Jotko shoots for a takedown. Strickland denies it but Jotko moving his head well and recovers without taking more damage. Jotko lands a reverse elbow Yair style right on the chin but Strickland eats it and continues to come forward. Strickland throws a flying knee that just misses but lands a nice right hand before he lands and the round comes to an end. 10-9 Strickland.
Strickland comes out very controlled in the second round and he starts landing the jab well. Jotko still circling on the outside and Strickland is starting to cut him off now as per the advice of his corner, but eats a big left hand as he does so. Strickland with a stiff jab again and then a nice body kick. Jotko goes for a spin kick and misses but it allows Strickland to move and launch a big power strike that whistles past the chin of Jotko. Jotko slowing down now as Strickland marches him down, then eats another stiff jab. Strickland catches a kick and goes for a big right overhand but Jotko avoids it and fires back with one of his own. Strickland’s calf kicks starting to have an effect as the round comes to an end. 20-18 Strickland.
Jotko becoming very predictable looking for the big left hand as Strickland just in cruise control in this fight at the moment. Flying knee attempt from Strickland misses and Jotko goes for a big right hand that doesn’t come anywhere near landing. Stiff straight right hand from Strickland lands but Jotko trying to come forward more now as we hit the halfway point of the round. Strickland takes back control of the centre now, landing a big front kick to the body and then another low kick. Strickland goes for a body kick and then follows up with a big right hand before a flying knee lands too. Bit of a wild exchange as the fight comes to an end, but it’s a comfortable 30-27 for Strickland here.
Ion Cutelaba vs Dustin Jacoby – Split Draw – (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)
Nice start to the fight from Jacoby as he uses his length well to land some nice jabs and two heavy leg kicks too. Cutelaba sticks a jab and misses with a hammer of a right hand, before landing two big right hands and shooting for a takedown. Cutelaba locks his arms around the body and starts dragging Jacoby to the ground over and over again while landing some big ground and pound strikes too. Cutelaba starts landing some huge short ebows to the head and Jacoby is getting pieced up and just about surviving as Cutelaba drags him down again and continues pounding him out. Cutelaba goes for a judo throw but Jacoby grabs the cage to prevent it and the referee warns him but does nothing else as the round ends. 10-8 Cutelaba.
Jacoby opens the round with a body kick attempt and immediately gets taken down by Cutelaba. He lands a nice knee and right hand as they break, but Jacoby comes forward with his jab now. Cutelaba goes for another takedown but Jacoby stuffs it this time and Cutelaba is slowing down already. Another attempt denied by Jacoby as he lands a nice uppercut, but Cutelaba keeps going despite him clearly being tired now. Jacoby doing so well to land at range and Cutelaba isn’t even shooting anymore. Jacoby lands a big right hand and Cutelaba is rocked! Cutelaba shoots but it’s denied and the round ends. 19-18 Cutelaba going into the third.
Good start again from Jacoby in this final round as he opens with a leg kick and then lands a heavy body kick. Cutelaba standing and trading in the centre, nice jabs and uppercuts while Jacoby trying to evade and counter. Nice left hook from Jacoby as Cutelaba threw a jab and then Jacoby lands a huge right hand again. Cutelaba is still there throwing bombs though, but Jacoby staying behind his jab and landing. Cutelaba goes for a huge elbow that just misses and both men land a nice left hook, before a double jab-cross combo from Cutelaba lands on the chin. Jacoby goes for a knee and Cutelaba catches it and goes for the takedown but Jacoby defends well and reverses the position to put Cutelaba against the cage. Final minute and Jacoby goes for a single leg but Cutelaba avoids it then throws a nice right hook as they clinch up again. Jacoby gets a takedown right at the end to finish up on top, this could be a draw. 28-28.
Giga Chikadze def Cub Swanson via Knockout, Round 1 (1:03)
Chikadze opens up early with some kicks to the body and a straight right, while Swanson tries to jump in and close the distance. Chikadze throws his trademark left kick to the body and Swanson is down! Chikadze hits some ground and pound as Swanson curls up and this one is over! First round knockout for Chikadze! Wow!
Jiri Prochazka def Dominick Reyes via Knockout, Round 2 (4:29)
Both men looking to claim the centre of the octagon as this one starts with a heavy low kick from Reyes and a body kick from Prochazka. Prochazka keeping his hands low and bouncing around as usual, with Reyes more traditional with his hands high looking for his straight left hand. Prochazka just misses with a three hit combination and Reyes lands a nice left hand down the middle. Prochazka responds with a big right hand of his own that wobbles Reyes and sends him backwards. Reyes shoots in for a takedown and gets it, but Prochazka is able to just power out and get back to his feet. Prochazka continues to just come forward and Reyes is landing straight punches but he’s just walking through them. Big combination lands from Prochazka and Reyes is hurt! Prochazka going for the kill but Reyes continues to circle and fire back. Prochazka lands a flurry of strikes again but Reyes sees out the round. 10-9 Prochazka.
Second round and Reyes taking a more measured approach, keeping his distance and looking to land counter strikes as Prochazka comes forward. Prochazka applying so much pressure and Reyes is just not wilting, firing back with huge strikes of his own. Prochazka chasing Reyes around the octagon with combinations and kicks to the body and Reyes’ face is absolutely battered and bloody. Reyes lands a nasty left that wobbles Prochazka and forces him to shoot for a takedown. The stand again and trade against the cage. Prochazka goes for an elbow and just misses, then spins and lands a huge spinning elbow that knocks Reyes unconscious! Oh my God! What a knockout!
The big boys are back on show in the main event at UFC Vegas 25 as Dominick Reyes takes on Jiri Prochazka in the light heavyweight division.
After back-to-back title fight defeats, Reyes looks to get back to winning ways to show he is still a contender at light-heavyweight. Elsewhere on the card, Cub Swanson makes a return to the octagon too as he takes on Giga Chikadze in the co-main event in what should be an absolute banger in the featherweight division.
Last time out at UFC 261 we had a great night, going 10/13 in our predictions with two perfect picks to move to 294/462 (63.64%) with 129 perfect picks (43.88%). Lets see if we can improve on that with our main card picks, having predicted the prelims already.
Merab Dvalishvili (12-4) vs Cody Stamann (19-3-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Both guys will without a doubt look for takedowns and top control, but the big difference between the two is that Merab’s gas tank is absolutely ridiculous and he marches his opponents down. Stamann is happy to use strikes to set his takedowns up and it seems unlikely that will work in this fight. Merab is so physically strong and literally doesn’t stop for the entire 15 minutes.
Work as usual for Merab in this one as he overpowers Stamann and gets the fight to the ground and works ground and pound for another decision win. PICK – Merab Dvalishvili via Decision
Sean Strickland (22-3) vs Krzysztof Jotko (22-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
Both guys are really fun strikers to watch, which should make this a great fight. Strickland is a really good boxer with good knockout power and great combinations, while his volume and gas tank make him a nightmare for everyone in the division. Jotko is a clean, technical striker himself but he doesn’t have that power to go with it although his kicks are better than Strickland’s.
While both guys are strikers, Strickland’s striking style should really suffocate Jotko’s counter heavy style and while I don’t think he gets the finish I do think he gets a comfortable decision. PICK – Sean Strickland via Decision
Ion Cutelaba (15-6) vs Dustin Jacoby (14-5) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Cutelaba has never had a boring fight in his life, as he walks forward with heavy hands looking to take someone’s head off but he also has good grappling skills too. Jacoby is a skilled kickboxer with good power and a much more measured approach but his grappling game isn’t the best.
Cutelaba will use his physicality and overwhelm Jacoby early on and he hits hard enough to potentially get a finish in the first five too. PICK – Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 1
Giga Chikadze (12-2) vs Cub Swanson (27-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Chikadze is a brilliant kickboxer with brilliant kicks and cross punches, but his volume is always a bit on the low side for what it should be for a man of his talent. Swanson is a talented striker with great boxing skills, but he’s also an elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Chikadze will likely take note from the Pineda fight and fire a lot of leg kicks Swanson’s way, while also using his great speed to get in and out. That said, Swanson will never let him rest. He will push the pace, come forward and look to eventually get the fight down to the ground if he can.
Swanson is a really good fighter and has surprised me in the past, but I think Chikadze should be able to use his kicks well and stay at range enough to outland him and get the decision win in a really entertaining fight. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Decision
Dominick Reyes (12-2) vs Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)
Reyes is a specimen of an athlete who has tremendous boxing skills and a lethal left hand, while he also has some good leg kicks and a nice body kick too. Prochazka is a wildly unorthodox striker who often walks his opponent down his hands down, but 24 knockouts in 27 career victories tells you just how hard he hits. Reyes’s skillset is fairly limited and Blachowicz showed in his last fight just how to shut him down completely.
Prochazka is just ridiculously powerful and his head movement is great. His aggression could land him in trouble if Reyes lands that straight left, but Prochazka will almost certainly be prepared for it and after being knocked out violently last time out I think Reyes goes to sleep again. PICK – Jiri Prochazka via Knockout, Round 3
Note – Ian Heinisch vs Brendan Allen was cancelled a few hours prior to the card starting due to a positive COVID-19 test. The card will proceed with 10 fights, with Giga Chikadze vs Jamey Simmons moving to the main card.
Gustavo Lopez def Anthony Birchak via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1 (2:43)
Quick start to the round by Lopez, who comes out and lands two big left hooks and drops Birchak! He has Birchak wobbled against the cage and changes levels quickly to take the fight to the ground. He swarms Birchak, who is defending but can’t quite do anything to keep Lopez off him. Lopez gets his back and starts landing ground and pound, which opens up a rear naked choke opportunity which he sinks in and gets the tap. Very impressive performance.
Max Griffin def Ramiz Brahimaj via Knockout (Injury), Round 3 (2:03)
Slow start to this fight as both men circle each other and throw pot shots as they try to figure each other out. Both fighters landing the odd jab but nothing significant as we enter the final 90 seconds of the round. Brahimaj lands a right hook and then Griffin throws a nice left hand as the two engage in a clinch to end the round. Could be scored either way in honesty. 10-9 Griffin.
Second round begins with Brahimaj coming out with a nice one two before Griffin goes for a body kick but lands flush on the cup so there’s a pause in the action. Griffin starting to throw body shots and combos to open up the guard of Brahimaj. Nice one-two by Brahimaj lands clean but Griffin returns with a straight right through the guard. Griffin is piecing Brahimaj up on the feet and has opened up a cut in this round. Once again the round ends with a clinch between the two but that was much more of a Griffin round. 20-18 for me, could be 19-19.
Faster start to the round for Brahimaj as he looks to press forward but another accidental groin strike pauses his momentum. Griffin has been cut over his right eye now, but he lands a nice combo which wobbles Brahimaj. The two clinch up against the cage as Griffin tries to go for a finish and he lands a huge elbow that essentially rips the ear off Brahimaj’s head. The two continue fighting for a few seconds before the referee spots the injury and stops the fight! TKO win for Griffin but that is nasty!
Darren Elkins def Eduardo Garagorri via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3 (2:22)
Immediate takedown from Darren Elkins opens the fight up as he looks to take it to the ground immediately. A bit of ground and pound before Garagorri gets up before being put straight back down several times over. Elkins really wearing Garagorri out with these constant takedown attempts, not allowing him any space to breathe. They finally break with a minute to go and Garagorri lands a head kick but Elkins eats it, then catches a second attempt and ends up in full guard to end the round. 10-9 Elkins.
Elkins comes out and the two look to exchange strikes this time and Garagorri gets the better of it with some nice left hands. At that point Elkins decides enough is enough and puts him on the mat with another takedown, this time holding him down and landing some ground and pound. Garagorri gets back to his feet and breaks away this time, landing a nice spin kick to the body before missing with a big uppercut and allowing Elkins to hold onto him again. Garagorri landing with the left hand a lot more in this round and he’s hurting Elkins, so Elkins goes straight back to the takedown and slams him down onto the mat. The round ends with both guys exchanging strikes on the ground but should be another Elkins round. 20-18.
Both guys showing they’re tired in this round, with Garagorri landing some nice shots once again. A big left hand snaps Elkins’ head back and hurts him but he goes for a flying knee and ends up getting his back taken instead. Elkins locks in a body triangle and makes Garagorri carry all of his weight, while landing big shots and then sinking in a rear naked choke for the tap. Great performance.
Alexander Romanov def Marcos R. de Lima via Submission (Arm Choke), Round 1 (4:48)
Very interesting start to the fight as de Lima throws two big leg kicks to open before a power double leg from Romanov puts him on his back. Romanov looks to pass to a head and arm choke but de Lima explodes back to his feet and lands some heavy punches. More leg kicks from de Lima causing Romanov problems and then he lands some big combos that look to hurt Romanov! Another two takedown attempts against the cage but de Lima defends really well until Romanov explodes and trips him to end up on top. Big ground and pound strikes and then Romanov thrusts his forearm into the throat of de Lima and chokes him out! First forearm choke in UFC history! de Lima is OUT! Hugely impressive win.
Trevin Giles def Bevon Lewis via Knockout, Round 3 (1:26)
Fun start to the round as Giles comes straight out for a takedown and the two clinch against the cage, testing each other’s physical strength early. Giles gets the better of the exchange mostly before they separate and he connects with a couple of nice shots. Another clinch and once again they break, with both guys firing in big shots and Giles landing harder. Big elbow attempt by Lewis against the cage but he doesn’t land and the clinch continues into the final minute. The fighters break and Giles lands a beautiful jab that drops Lewis! Giles gets on top and controls position for the final 30 seconds. 10-9 Giles.
Slower second round as both guys try to feel each other out a bit more on the feet here. Giles trying to work his way into boxing range to use his jab more, but Lewis using his size to stay out of range mostly. Giles’ speed advantage is the difference at the moment as he’s landing first and able to slip out of the way too. Giles lands a big right hand against the cage and Lewis is struggling to find an answer or throw any real volume to trouble him. 20-18 Giles.
Lewis comes out looking for the knockout with heavy strikes being thrown. Giles avoiding them all though and forces Lewis to shoot for a takedown, which he stuffs with a perfect sprawl. A scramble ensues and they get back to the feet. Giles throws a huge one two which rattles Lewis’ brain, then he follows it up with two more strikes that knock Lewis down and the referee steps in to end the fight. Big win and very impressive from Giles.
Yan Xiaonan def Claudia Gadelha via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Good opening to the round for both women, as Gadelha comes out and exchanges in the pocket with Yan before securing a clinch and a takedown. Yan gets back to the feet as Gadelha clinches against the cage once again looking for another takedown, but Yan defends really well until the referee breaks them up. Yan throws a low kick that Gadelha catches and she does get the fight down to the ground again and starts landing some big ground and pound. Big elbow lands and lots of body shots as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Gadelha.
Yan keeping her hopes alive in this round, landing lots of stiff shots and staying out of the range for Gadelha’s takedown hopes. Lots of quick jabs that are being followed with a right cross and she’s marking up the face of Gadelha. Gadelha looks very slow and laboured in this round and Yan continues to press forward with pressure but Gadelha ends an exchange with a nice hook. Yan throws a beautiful right hand straight down the middle that lands flush and she’ll take this round. 19-19.
Yan comes out popping that jab once again but this time Gadelha closes the distance with a clinch against the cage. Yan defends it really well and lands some nice strikes of her own before breaking away. Another laboured attempt from Gadelha but Yan defends again and continues to land strikes from distance. Gadelha is exhausted but goes in for another clinch against the cage but Yan is fresh and strong enough to defend while also attacking from the cage. Big flurry of punches ends the round and should be a win for Yan Xiaonan. 29-28.
Giga Chikadze def Jamey Simmons via Knockout, Round 1 (3:51)
Interesting start to the round as Chikadze shows patience to try and feel out Simmons early on. A few jabs and body kicks but nothing too significant, as Simmons looks for a takedown but is stuffed twice by the Georgian. Big body kick from Chikadze hurts Simmons and then he follows it up with a big head kick that drops Simmons! He jumps on him with ground and pound and the referee calls it off! Comfortable win for Chikadze.
Raoni Barcelos def Khalid Taha via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Fun start to the fight as both men come out swinging hell for leather early on. Barcelos chops at the leg of Taha and drops him with it before landing a nice jab. Taha fires back but another leg kick drops him again. Barcelos keeping a relentless pace and lands some huge punches, then throws some big Muay-Thai knees to the head. Taha fires back with some big punches of his own and Barcelos goes in for a takedown. Dominant on the floor, he’s transitioning from position to position and tries to sink in a rear naked choke but Taha is able to defend it and eventually reverses the position. Barcelos throws up an armbar but again Taha is able to defend before they get back to the feet and the round ends. 10-9 Barcelos, great round.
A blistering pace to this fight so far as both men look to push the other to their limit. Barcelos firing in low kicks but Taha reading well and returning with hooks. Both men exchange in the pocket and Barcelos fires in a beautiful flying knee that lands clean but Taha just eats it. Accidental groin strike from Barcelos causes a pause in the action halfway through the round. Barcelos countering Taha’s strikes beautifully but he’s sticking around and proving why he’s in there to begin with. Head kick attempt from Barcelos followed up by hooks, and straights from Barcelos. Final 10 seconds and Barcelos lands a big left hand that hurts him! He’s looking for the finish and lands a big combo but Taha is saved by the buzzer! 20-18 Barcelos.
Final round and Barcelos is looking to start where he left off with big shots. Leg kicks are really hurting Taha and he’s following it up with huge combinations that are rocking Taha. Barcelos picks the leg and takes the fight to the ground as he takes his back and looks for a rear naked choke. Taha defends it well but Barcelos goes into half guard and starts rattling off ground and pound. The fight gets back to the feet and Taha lands two big hooks as Barcelos starts showing some signs of slowing down. Stiff right hand from Barcelos rocks Taha again but he refuses to go down. Leg kick again as Taha walks forward in the final minute before another leg kick drops Taha again! Taha shoots for a takedown with 20 seconds left but Barcelos stuffs it and then they start swinging wild hooks at each other as the round comes to an end. What a fight. 30-27 Barcelos.
Andrei Arlovski def Tanner Boser via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Standard slow start for the big boys as both guys look to feel each other out early on. Boser throws a couple of leg kicks that Arlovski tries to check, before fainting with the jab. More leg kicks before Arlovski throws a jab and leg kick of his own. Arlovski flies in with a head kick attempt but Boser steps out of the way unfazed. Big overhand right lands from Arlovski right at the end of the round but still a Boser round for me. 10-9.
Another slow start to this round as Boser once again comes out with leg kicks, while Arlovski seems to be hanging back looking for counter striking opportunities. Arlovski lands a big overhand right that Boser eats, before landing another straight right moments later. Boser continuing to try and throw leg kicks and then lands with a nice left hand. Neither fighter really committing to offence but Boser is throwing leg kicks a lot. Pretty dull round overall. 19-19.
Final round and both guys come out a little quicker this time around but Boser is continuing with the attack on the legs. Nice jab from Boser is followed by a big right cross by Arlovski but once again he just eats it. Boser still doing lots of fainting but Arlovski isn’t biting. Nice right hand lands again from Arlovski as we enter the final minute of the fight. Fight ends with nothing significant happening. Scorecard could be anything.
Quick start to the round as Santos comes out early and establishes himself with some body kicks. Suddenly he explodes with a huge right hook and lands a big combination that drops Teixeira! He goes for the kill but Glover looks for a takedown, Santos continues striking hard but Glover eats them and eventually stalls the attack. Glover moves to the back and slams Santos down to the mat and moves straight into mount. Glover spends the rest of the round dominating position from the top and landing some nice ground and pound. Somehow, its a Glover round. 10-9.
Strong start to the second round from Glover as he gets an early takedown and moves straight back into top control again. Big elbows from the half guard by Glover and hammer fists land hard as he looks to progress into full mount. Santos doing next to nothing to get back to his feet and Glover is having his way with him on the mat. Glover moves into side control and lands big elbows again in the final minute of the round but that’s a dominant round from the 41 year old. 20-17 for me.
Third round starts with a bang! Santos stuffs the immediate takedown attempt from Glover and lands a massive left hand that drops him! He jumps on him for the finish again but Glover defends well from the bottom but Santos unloading with ground and pound. Glover eats the shots and somehow reverses the position, ends up on Santos’ back, sinks in a rear naked choke and gets the tap. What a fight! Unbelievable performance from Glover Teixeira.
There are currently scheduled to be 11 fights on this card, with six prelim bouts followed up by a five-fight main card.
Last time out I secured a great round of predictions with 10/11 correct picks, including four perfect picks. Lets see if I can’t improve that this time around, starting with the prelims picks here.
Gustavo Lopez (11-5) vs Anthony Birchak (15-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A short notice fight put together to open the card sees a return to the UFC for Birchak against Lopez, who looks to get the first win of his UFC career. Lopez was completely dominated by Merab Dvalishvili in his debut back in June, while Birchak is on a three fight winning streak with three first-round finishes although he hasn’t fought in over a year. It’s a tough fight to call, with Birchak’s ground game significantly improved from his previous run in the company but with a big break in competition and the short notice influence I think Gomez could get a win here. His kicking game is good and he’s the powerful striker on the outside, so I think he is able to stuff the takedowns and control the fight on the feet for a decision win. PICK – Gustavo Lopez via Decision
Max Griffin (15-8) vs Ramiz Brahimaj (8-2) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Max Griffin is a UFC vet, but one who hasn’t been super successful during his tenure. He is 3-6 in the company and has lost four of his last five fights, including his last two via decision. Brahimaj on the other hand is making his UFC debut finally, after his original debut in June was scrapped following one of his cornermen testing positive for COVID-19. Brahimaj is a stud grappler, with 8 submission wins from 8 career wins but his wrestling is just average. If the fight goes to ground he’s dangerous but Griffin has a big edge on the feet in this one and a three inch reach advantage to boot. Griffin is also a strong wrestler if he needs to take the fight down for top control but with good cardio and a solid game-plan, ‘Pain’ should be able to take a fairly comfortable decision on the feet. PICK – Max Griffin via Decision
Darren Elkins (25-9) vs Eduardo Garagorri (13-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very strange match-up in this one, as Darren Elkins looks to snap a four-fight losing streak against Uruguayan fighter Eduardo Garagorri. Garagorri won his UFC debut by comfortably out-striking Humberto Bandenay, before being choked out by Ricardo Ramos in November last year. Elkins has lost his last four in a row against some top quality opposition, although his most recent bout against Nate Landwehr. This match up however is perfectly set up for him. ‘The Damage’ usually has a game plan of walking through his opponents attacks to get a takedown and dominate from there. Garagorri showed how much he struggled against strong wrestlers in the Ramos fight and this could go a similar route. Elkins will take some shots to get the takedown but once he’s there, he grinds out a win. PICK – Darren Elkins via Decision
Alexander Romanov (12-0) vs Marcos Rogerio De Lima (17-7-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Another match up that one paper seems pretty one-sided. Romanov made his debut in September with a stunning demolition of Roque Martinez inside two rounds, while Marcos Rogerio De Lima has alternated wins and losses since December 2014. De Lima has stunning power, but he prefers to fight at light heavyweight but can’t cut anymore. He’s hopeless on the mat, despite a decent jiu-jitsu background and Romanov is going to eat him alive. The Moldovan will trap him against the cage, grab him, literally throw him into the air and just dominate until he gets a stoppage or a submission. It won’t last too long for my money. PICK – Alexander Romanov via Submission, Round 1
Giga Chikadze (11-2) vs Jamey Simmons (7-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Yet another mismatch on the UFC card as the highly impressive Chikadze takes on debutant Jamey Simmons. The Georgian fighter outclassed Omar Morales last month to make it six wins in a row, while Simmons has been thrown to the lion’s den in a three-fight win streak. Simmons has decent wrestling skills but his stand-up isn’t great and he’s coming up against a truly top class kickboxer. Chikadze has good counter wrestling these days too so that’s Simmons’ only path to victory firmly shut off. ‘Ninja’ Chikadze will use his huge striking and height/reach advantage and get his first stoppage victory in the UFC. PICK – Giga Chikadze via Knockout, Round 1
Trevin Giles (12-2) vs Bevon Lewis (7-2) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A clash between two perennial underachievers in the UFC as both Giles and Lewis look to make it back-to-back wins. It’s an uninspiring match up in all honesty, but Giles is the more complete and well rounded fighter. Lewis is a striker who’s output is very low and he has zero takedown threat, although his takedown defence is at 100% so far in the UFC. Giles has shown a wider skillset during his tenure and despite the reach disadvantage, I think his experience will come into effect and he should be able to to just out-grind Lewis for a decision. PICK – Trevin Giles via Decision