Calvin Kattar kicked off the UFC 2022 slate in style with a vicious beating of Giga Chikadze en route to a unanimous decision in a high-octane featherweight battle Saturday night in Las Vegas.
The two kept up a frantic pace, but Kattar’s relentless pressure and exceptional boxing dropped Chikadze over the course of 25 minutes and handed the Georgian his first loss in the UFC. After taking a one-sided choke from Max Holloway a year ago, Kattar returned to the Octagon wanting revenge.
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Chikadze deployed leg kicks early on. Kattar tried to apply pressure, but could not find his mark. Just when it seemed like Chikadze was in control and throwing multiple punches, a missed kick gave Kattar a chance to lunge in for a takedown. Fortunately for Chikadze, he avoided taking damage and Kattar was able to secure only a couple of submission attempts.
That round was an outlier; the next four were fought on the feet, with No. 5-ranked Kattar delivering a steady diet of punches, elbows and power shots that racked up damage.
Chikadze did his best to fend off the pressure and returned to his attacking game in the second round. He landed several kicks to the body while mixing his punches from different angles. The varied approach seemed to keep Kattar off balance until “The Boston Finisher” steadied himself with a jab and pressure to force Chikadze to defend. A short knee from Kattar and a left hand rocked Chikadze. Just as Chikadze seemed to be receiving the mass from Kattar, he ran into a spinning elbow that hit him.
Chikadze continued to absorb the punishment but refused to wilt under the pressure. In the third round, he briefly buzzed Kattar with a combination but found himself on the wrong end of a persistent jab and power shots. Chikadze wore a crimson mask in the fourth round for the punishment he absorbed, but kept fighting. Kattar, however, continued to elbow and punch his opponent’s face. A pair of elbows staggered Chikadze in the final round and a combination dropped him in the closing seconds of the fight.
Kattar’s continued assault earned him scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 50-44. He is back in the hunt for the featherweight title after a performance that is sure to put the division on notice.
In the co-main event, it took only one round for Jake Collier to submit Chase Sherman in a heavyweight matchup.
Collier wasted little time applying pressure. “The Prototype” landed heavy bombs early, secured a takedown, found Sherman’s back and sank into a rear-naked choke to get back into the win column after suffering a loss to Carlos Felipe last June.
Sherman found himself in an early war when Collier let go of his hands. Eventually, Collier scored an unlikely takedown and leveled Sherman with ground and pound until his opponent turned around to give his back. Collier wrapped his arm around Sherman’s neck and earned the submission at 2:26 of the round.
Elsewhere on the card, Kaitlyn Chookagian was back in contention for the title by securing a unanimous decision in a rematch with Jennifer Maia.
Chookagian and Maia met in 2019; the “Blonde Fighter” also won by unanimous decision. On Saturday, Chookagian used a healthy mix of precision punches and wrestling to go 2-0 against his rival.
After back and forth punches that included Maia landing a hard right hand, Chookagian secured a takedown midway through the first round and controlled his opponent to the end. An ultra-aggressive Maia managed to lick and open Chookagian’s left eye in the second and kept up the pressure. But Chookagian used Maia’s aggression against her and kneed Maia’s chin in a failed takedown attempt. Maia attempted a Judo throw towards the end of the round and gave up.
Chookagian showed his strong punch in the final round and stopped Maia’s advances. The former contender continually stung Maia with a jab followed by a right hand. Maia couldn’t mix her punches enough as Chookagian got a definitive read on her opponent. With a clean sweep on the scorecard, Chookagian may be one win away from another shot at the women’s flyweight belt in the hands of Valentina Shevchenko.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.