Giga Chikadze (L) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

UFC on ESPN 32: Kattar vs. Chikadze Preview and Predictions

After an extended break over the holidays, the UFC returns in full force with a main event showcasing the top of the featherweight division with UFC on ESPN: Kattar vs. Chikadze.

Calvin Kattar has been on the shelf since last January when he took a walloping from Max Holloway over twenty-five minutes. Giga Chikadze has been more active and is riding a wave of success, culminating in a nine-fight winning streak. He is coming off massive victories over two longtime UFC contenders Cub Swanson and Edson Barboza.

The co-main event was slated to be a showdown between dynamic strikers Muslim Salikhov and Michel Pereira. Unfortunately, that fight had to be scrapped when Salikhov withdrew for undisclosed reasons. Instead, Andre Fialho stepped in on short notice to face Pereira. The temporary co-main event – now the fight prior – will be a women’s flyweight scrap between Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia. Both of these women competed unsuccessfully for the flyweight title against stalwart champion Valentina Shevchenko in 2020.


Also on the main card, top-ten men’s flyweights Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin will meet, as they look to make a big step forward towards a title shot. Heavyweights Jake Collier and Chase Sherman will also face-off, and opening the main card will be featherweights Bill Algeo and newcomer Joanderson Brito.

The UFC kicks off the calendar year in the friendly confines of the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nev. The preliminary fights get underway at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+ with the main card continuing on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Matt Petela and Andrew Sumian give their first preview and predictions of 2022 in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

It has been almost exactly one year since Calvin Kattar last fought, taking a lopsided decision loss against Max Holloway; how does the New England Cartel standout fare in his return against Giga Chikadze?

Sumian: For all intents and purposes, this is a featherweight clash between two very talented strikers who have quickly established themselves as supreme knockout artists. However, their tactics, approaches and skill sets are vastly different. In addition, the winner could find themselves a fight away from a title shot.

If there is one word to be used that describes Calvin Kattar, it is resilience. The New England native’s bout against Max Holloway was undoubtedly one of the most one one-sided affairs in UFC history. Nevertheless, Kattar showed the world he could take the best punches from arguably the most polished boxer in the UFC and still survive to tell the tale.
Kattar holds notable victories over Dan Ige, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas and Shane Burgos, which certainly puts him in the top 10 of the UFC featherweight rankings. He is a taller featherweight that stands five-foot-eleven and uses his reach to establish a long jab and blast his opponents with powerful hooks and elbows. However, he has been known for getting baited into close-range brawls that make him susceptible to big shots. Utilizing his length and staying on the outside is vital for Kattar’s success as he begins competing against the elite of the featherweight division.

Going into 2022, Giga Chikadze is likely the most intriguing featherweight in the world to watch. The Georgian native is a prolific striker who utilizes a style made of high-level karate and kickboxing to strategically dismantle his opponents from start to finish. After compiling a 4-0 record to begin his UFC campaign, he took 2021 by storm and finished Cub Swanson and Edson Barboza to earn himself a top-10 featherweight ranking. Chikadze’s length, reach and crafty striking makes him one of the most difficult match-ups to prepare for at 145 pounds.

This bout will be a great start to 2022 and feature some of the best action fans can possibly see at 145. Both combatants will come ready to strike and look for knockout opportunities early. After exchanging early and often in Round 2, it will be Chikadze who lands the more significant strikes to the body and face of Kattar to earn a hard fought unanimous-decision victory. Kattar will yet again prove he can hang with the best of the best at featherweight, but the more polished striking of the Georgian will be the difference maker. Expect Chikadze to turn a top-five opponent for his next UFC outing and be one step closer to a shot at the featherweight crown.

Petela: This fight is one of the most exciting that the UFC could have made to open up the new year. My colleague is correct in that this matchup pits top-level strikers against each other, who also have supremely different styles. Kattar will have to be aware of the patented “Giga kick” that knocked out Cub Swanson and the surprisingly speedy punch combinations of that stopped Edson Barboza. Chikadze will have to be on constant alert of Kattar’s punching power and his supremely technical boxing skills.

The biggest question mark heading into this fight is what version of Calvin Kattar comes into the cage this weekend. It’s not that he has been drastically up and down over his career but the beating he took in his last outing against Max Holloway is the type of drubbing that can alter careers. If he has permanently lost a step after that fight, this matchup with Chikadze will be disastrous for Kattar.

However, expect the year off to have done Kattar a world of good. He will come into this fight rejuvenated and show the best version of himself we have ever seen. His preparation with the underrated New England Cartel fight camp will have him poised and ready to go, and he will wind up timing a naked body kick by Chikadze and landing a counter right hand that floors Chikadze. That will be the beginning of the end, and a few follow-up shots on the ground will force the referee to halt the contest. Kattar will get the rebound win that he needs.

Two former women’s flyweight title challengers square off in a rematch on the main card; will it be Katlyn Chookagian or Jennifer Maia who walks away victorious?

Petela: Both women have bounced back after their championship losses, with Chookagian picking up three wins in her four fights since facing Shevchenko. Maia has only fought once since losing her title bid, picking up a clear-cut unanimous decision win over Jessica Eye.

This fight will look much different than the first time these two fought back in 2019, as both women have improved exponentially. However, the result will be the same with Chookagian coming away with a decision win. With the current shape of the women’s flyweight division, a statement victory might earn Chookagian another crack at the belt.

Sumian: It’s hard to disagree with my colleague’s assessment on this women’s flyweight bout. Both women are predominantly grapplers, who use their pressure and consistent clinch work to fluster their opponents and earn hard-fought decision victories. This bout will not turn any heads, or necessarily be entertaining. However, it will showcase two of the best women flyweights utilizing their similar skills against one another, which can be appreciated. Chookagian will be one step ahead of Maia and grind out a decision victory.

Joanderson Brito and Viacheslav Borshchev — do we need to know these names?

Sumian: Viacheslav Borschev has compiled a 5-1 record outside of the UFC, but is riding a three-fight knockout streak which includes a second-round KO over Chris Duncan on the Contender Series. Thus, there will be some smoke behind his name, but he will need several victories in the UFC before the hype continues to build.

Joanderson Brito’s debut is certainly different since the Brazilian has compiled a 12-2 record and is riding a 10-fight winning streak. Brito brings a fairly well-rounded game to the UFC and has compiled five wins by knockout and five wins by submission. He will take on Bill Algeo, who has compiled a 1-2 record since joining the UFC. Expect Brito to shine in his UFC debut and defeat Algeo by submission to lock up a “Performance of the Night” honors. The newcomer’s sophomore UFC appearance should prove to be very interesting.

Petela: I’m not nearly as high on either of these newcomers as my colleague. Borshchev is young in his career, but is already 30 years old. He may have a decent upside but his window is small and despite some early success, I don’t expect him to make any real waves before exiting his prime.

Joanderson Brito has an impressive record, but outside of Dana White’s Contender Series, and one fight in LFA, his experience has largely been in relatively unheralded regional organizations. It will be a rude awakening for Brito this weekend when he realizes how large the talent gap is between the UFC and every other mixed martial arts promotion.

What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?

Petela: Chase Sherman. This is Sherman’s second stint inside the promotion, and after starting off strong with a TKO win over Ike Villanueva, he has dropped his last two fights. He fell short against former champion Andrei Arlovski and then dropped a unanimous decision to Parker Porter. Should he come up short against Jake Collier, this will likely be the end of his current run with the UFC.

Sumian: Brandon Royval is nowhere near in danger of being cut, but he is certainly on the ropes when it comes to remaining a top contender in the UFC flyweight division. The Colorado native came in hot by defeating Tim Elliot and Kai Kara-France in his first two UFC bouts. Since then, he lost two in a row to now-champion Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja which are two of the top five flyweights in the world. Royval will need to defeat Rogerio Bontorin convincingly to ensure he remains a top-five flyweight who hopes to challenge for the belt in the coming years.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Sumian: Gabriel Bentiez and T.J. Brown will provide fans with one of the most fun and wild bouts of the night. Both are established finishers who combine for 32 finishes throughout their pro careers. They will be actively looking for the finish for as long as the fight lasts and will consistently take risks to get there.

Petela: Brian Kelleher vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov. Kelleher always delivers high-energy performances no matter the outcome. He will have a willing dance partner, both on the feet and in the grappling realm, with Kakhramonov, who has four wins by submission and three by knockout. This one will be non-stop action from start to finish, and the finish will likely come before the full fifteen minutes has elapsed.

Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?

Petela: Bill Algeo. “Senor Perfecto” is just 1-2 inside the Octagon, with losses to Ricardo Lamas and Ricardo Ramos and a win over Spike Carlyle. Luckily for Algeo, he is not fighting someone named Ricardo this time out and, instead, meets newcomer Joanderson Brito. This will give Algeo an opportunity to show off his unconventional striking and solid grappling skills en route to his first UFC finish and a post-fight bonus for his efforts.

Sumian: Jamie Pickett. Despite a 1-2 start to his UFC career, the Florida native will start off 2022 with a bang when he adds a ninth knockout to his professional career at the expense of Joseph Holmes. Holmes is riding an impressive seven-fight winning streak, but it will come to an end when he meets Pickett this coming Saturday.

Pair this card with…

Sumian: This night belongs to Chikadze and Kattar who get the privilege of kicking off 2022. Both are considered two the most exciting featherweights in the world and will deliver an action packed five-round war in the main event. While the remainder of the card is not the most enticing lineup, the evening should provide fans with several fun clashes throughout the evening. This event is a perfect evening to pair with the classic pizza and wings. Like the main event, pizza and wings always get the job done and are sure to take care of your food related needs.

Petela: We as MMA fans are certainly easing back into the swing of things with an average card that has a top-notch main event. So as you watch this event, ease back into it with a beverage that is satisfying but doesn’t set your hair on fire, Sam Adams Cold Snap. It also happens to be a Boston area product, just like this weekend’s headliner Calvin Kattar.

Fight Sumian’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
FW: Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze Chikadze Kattar
WW: Michel Pereira vs. Andre Fialho Pereira Pereira
Women’s FlyW: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia Chookagian Chookagian
FlyW: Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin Royval Royval
HW: Jake Collier vs. Chase Sherman Collier Sherman
FW: Bill Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito Brito Algeo
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
WW: Court McGee vs. Ramiz Brahimaj Brahimaj Brahimaj
FW: Gabriel Benitez vs. TJ Brown Benitez Benitez
LW: Dakota Bush vs. Viacheslav Borshchev Bush Borshchev
BW: Brian Kelleher vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov Kelleher Kelleher
StrawW: Silvana Juarez vs. Vanessa Demopoulos Juarez Juarez