Calvin Kattar (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Allen Preview and Predictions

After Islam Makhachev captured the lightweight title, he had an in-cage faceoff with featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, and all signs point to the Australian looking to become a two-division champion. While he is off chasing greener pastures, the rest of the featherweight division doesn’t stand still, and, this weekend, two contenders look to make a step forward towards challenging for that belt, as Calvin Kattar and Arnold Allen meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Allen.

Kattar will be making the walk for his fifth straight main event this weekend, the last three of which have earned him “Fight of the Night” honors. In those three bouts, Kattar’s record ended at just 1-2, dropping a unanimous decision to former champion Max Holloway and then a split decision to Josh Emmett in his most recent bout. He has a very tough challenge ahead of him once again, as he meets the methodical striking of the surging English fighter Allen. Allen hasn’t dropped a bout since 2014, including holding a perfect 9-0 record since joining the UFC. He looks to become the face of British mixed martial arts by extending that mark to 10-0 inside the UFC and becoming the first person to stop Kattar with strikes.

In the co-main event, longtime promotional veteran Tim “Dirty Bird” Means looks to get back to his winning ways after being submitted by Kevin Holland the last time he took to the Octagon, halting a three-fight winning streak. His opponent finds himself in the same position as Max Griffin dropped his last bout against Neil Magny, which ended his own three-fight winning streak. Both of these men are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning and closer to 40 years old than 30. A run towards the championship is likely not in the cards for either man, regardless of the outcome, but the two look to show that they still belong among the best fighters in the world.


UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Allen will be held inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 29. The event airs in its entirety live on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Dan Kuhl and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.

Last time out, Calvin Kattar dropped a close split decision to Josh Emmett; does the Massachusetts fighter get back on track and defeat the streaking Arnold Allen?

Kuhl: Calvin Kattar is tough as nails, and that’s an understatement. The guy has not been stopped since his lone submission loss over 14 years ago, and he finished veterans Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas in the Octagon. He has been a bonus winner in five of his 11 UFC appearances, with the Emmett fight being the most recent. The two featherweights had an all-out war that could have gone either way, after Kattar had a slightly higher striking output and significant strikes landed. His next opponent Arnold Allen is a different animal.

Allen is undefeated in nine UFC fights, and he is still only 28 years old. One notable caveat to that would be the fact that five of those nine fights have been on his home turf in England, but whether or not that has had an effect on his UFC career would be subject to much debate. To his credit, not only has won every fight in the Octagon, but he has beaten veterans Gilbert Melendez and Nik Lentz by decision, and, in his most recent fight, he stopped Dan Hooker halfway through the first round of their battle last March.

Kattar and Allen is an interesting match-up. They hold a blue belt and a purple belt, respectively, in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but both of them have decent submission grappling and great takedown defense. Both have solid striking and great training camps. This is one of those match-ups that almost forces you to look at the basic stats.

Kattar has height and reach advantages, but Allen is six years younger. Kattar is more of a stand-and-trade striker, both dishing out and receiving more strikes per minute, while Allen is more accurate, even with a lower output. Allen lands more takedowns on average, but Kattar’s takedown defense is a whopping 91 percent. At this point, I am tending to lean toward Kattar.

The Massachusetts native has experience in headliners, and the Englishman is fighting back in the U.S. for the first time in over a year and a half. And, while Allen has successfully gone the distance with gritty vets, he hasn’t fought anyone like Kattar while they were still in their prime. I have Kattar taking this one by decision.

Petela: There was a time not too long ago where I thought it was inevitable that Calvin Kattar would become a UFC champion. Then he fought Max Holloway and took a beating for the ages. He certainly showed a level of toughness in that fight that makes him stand out even amongst some of the baddest men on the planet. Other than showing that he is made out of vibranium, what stood out to me in the Holloway fight is that Kattar doesn’t like to veer off course if Plan A isn’t working. He is going to stand in boxing range until his opponent tries to take him down, he’ll defend the takedown and get right back to trying to punch a hole through his opponent’s face. Eight, maybe nine, out of ten times that will work just fine for Kattar, because he is such a talented boxer. But, every now and then, when he goes up against another elite striker who can withstand his attack, he is going to come up short.

That’s what I expect to happen in this weekend’s main event. Arnold Allen will frustrate Kattar with his methodical and pinpoint-accurate striking, stellar defense and head movement. I’m not a huge believer in statistics determining the outcome of a fight but in this fight there is one that stands out. Allen absorbs 2.22 strikes per minute, while Kattar takes an average of 7.15 strikes per minute. Sure, that speaks to his previously discussed otherworldly durability, but it also speaks to his lack of commitment to being defensive. Even with a lower output than Kattar, Allen will use his solid defense to land more significant strikes than Kattar from start to finish. This won’t be the same level of beating that Holloway gave Kattar, but it will be clear when the final bell sounds that Allen is a legitimate threat to one day wear the division’s crown. It will also be evident that Kattar is going to have to add something to his bag of tricks if he wants to climb back and chase the title himself.

Tim Means had a three-fight winning streak snapped in his last bout; how does the “Dirty Bird” fare this time around against Max Griffin?

Petela: Frankly, I’m surprised that Tim Means was able to put together that three-fight streak after losing to Daniel Rodriguez. I thought for sure that was the end of his run, the guy has been fighting in the UFC since 2012. This fight with Max Griffin is actually not a bad matchup for Means, as Griffin won’t try to take the fight down to the canvas and submit Means. Means has been susceptible to being submitted, and he was forced to tap in both of his last two losses. With this fight likely staying upright for the bulk of the bout, Means will be able to hold his own throughout.

Griffin comes into the fight on the same path as Means, dropping his last contest after rattling off three straight wins. After failing to defeat Neil Magny, he will be looking to add a veteran name like Means to his resume to prove that he belongs in the promotion and is making his climb into contender status. Unfortunately for him, this will be another setback. These two will trade back and forth, mostly in boxing range, with both men doing a fair bit of damage. It will be a late elbow by Means, something he is known for landing, that proves to be the difference maker in this one. Expect him to catch Griffin off guard in the third, during a frenetic exchange, and land an elbow that wobbles his opponent and leads to a TKO stoppage and proof that I was wrong and that the Dirty Bird is not done just yet.

Kuhl: I’ve been watching Tim Means rather closely since his days as a lightweight fighting Justin Salas in the Octagon 10 years ago. Means, who trains under longtime coach Tom Vaughn at Fit NHB in Albuquerque, not only has been training full-time for over 15 years, but he also coaches youth wrestling and has worked with anti-bullying programs. His life revolves around fighting.

The biggest problem with Means is that he is super long, even for a welterweight, and he finishes people with his long-range, laser-like striking. This is the reason why four of his 10 UFC losses have come by submission. It’s not because he’s weak on the ground, but rather because those opponents knew it was not a good idea to try to stand and trade with him. And, while 10 losses sounds like a lot, that is out of 25 walks to the Octagon, and two of the last five were by split decision. Means is one of those guys who, when he isn’t ranked, is often just outside of the top 15.

Max Griffin is no slouch on the feet either, and, like Means, he either finishes his opponents with strikes or he goes the distance. He’s never been submitted and only been knocked out once. While Means will have his usual height advantage, Griffin has a one-inch reach advantage, and under the tutelage of Dave Marinoble, he has a very finely tuned and creative striking style.

Both of these guys are brawlers, but Means has the slight edge from the scrappy, street-fighting perspective. And, his height and experience are both big advantages. Also, he does not go down easily. Griffin, on the other hand, hasn’t beaten quite the quality of opponents that Means has, and he has never fought somebody with the Dirty Bird’s build.

This one really could go either way, but I have Means outpointing Griffin on his way to a unanimous decision.

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

Petela: Probably Josh Fremd. His UFC debut didn’t go as planned, as he dropped a unanimous decision to Anthony Hernandez. He takes on Tresean Gore in his sophomore appearance and if he comes up short again it will be tough to maintain his spot on the roster. “The Big Yinz” is probably heading for a trip back to the regional circuit for a little while to hone his skills before being called back up to the big show.

Kuhl: While I don’t agree with my colleague regarding Fremd, a loss to Gore would look pretty bad. However, the clear fighter who is staring down the barrel of a pink slip is Marcos Rogerio de Lima. I mean, at first glance, it appears that nobody he has beaten in the UFC is even in the promotion anymore. In fact, some of the guys he has lost to aren’t even on the roster today. A loss to Andrei Arlovski will almost certainly seal his fate. Below, I will discuss why this fight could very well be the sleeper bout.

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

Kuhl: Somehow, as the second-to-last fight on the preliminary card, Andrei Arlovski is fighting Marcos Rogerio de Lima, and it is flying way under the radar. This fight could be a real banger. This battle of big men has the longtime veteran Arlovski, who is riding a four-fight winning streak, taking on the Brazilian knockout artist, who sent Ben Rothwell packing last November. De Lima dropped his last fight to Blagoy Ivanov in May, but he still has the ability to beat Arlovski. While the big men, in general, have been known for putting on some boring fights, but, I think this one will end in a big finish. And, for de Lima, a loss could spell the end of his UFC career, which puts his back against the wall.

Petela: Chase Hooper vs. Steve Garcia in the featherweight division. Chase Hooper is a prospect who came in with a lot of hype at a very young age because of his stellar grappling. Steve Garcia didn’t join the promotion with nearly as much fanfare and hasn’t had a ton of success since making his debut as a replacement fighter in the lightweight division but he is a proven finisher with 9 knockouts in his 12 professional wins. With Hooper’s grappling pitted against Garcia’s heavy hands this fight will very likely not go the distance and someone will walk away with a highlight reel finish.

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

Petela: Dustin Jacoby. He comes into this fight after winning a post-fight bonus by knocking out Da Un Jung in his last fight. That victory made it four in a row in the win column and extended his unbeaten streak to nine fights. He’s got a favorable matchup this weekend against Khalil Rountree Jr. who will willingly engage in a stand-up battle. The former GLORY kickboxer will make it back-to-back knockouts with another stoppage before the first round comes to a close.

Kuhl: 23-year-old Chase Hooper. This kid is a BJJ black belt, and has put together nine finishes in 14 fights with four of them coming by knockout. Steve Garcia is only 1-2 since officially joining the UFC roster, and if Hopper gets him ton the ground, he will most certainly walk away with a performance bonus.

Pair this card with…

Kuhl: Looking up and down this card, I would pair it with a stocked cooler right next to the couch. Sandwiches, cold beverages, and anything else ready-to-go will be essential in this one. Either the fights are going to end quickly, or they will be wars that go the distance. On the main card, Dustin Jacoby is fighting Khalil Rountree, and Jared Vanderaa is facing Waldo Cortes-Acosta. One the preliminary card, featherweights Chase Hooper and Steve Garcia should not go the distance, nor should the flyweight opener. This will be one of those smaller cards that could deliver a lot of excitement.

Petela: Candy corn. First of all, it’s Halloween weekend, so there’s reason enough to load up on the sweets. Second of all, this card isn’t one that you should be excited for after the star-studded show last week at UFC 280. But, once you tune in for the prelims, you won’t be able to change the channel. That’s exactly how I feel about candy corn. It’s not appealing until you have one, and then you can’t stop until the bag is half gone. This fight card is definitely the candy corn of UFC events. Surprisingly enjoyable even though it should probably kind of stink.

Fight Kuhl’s Pick Petela’s Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
FW: Calvin Kattar vs. Arnold Allen Kattar Allen
WW: Tim Means vs. Max Griffin Means Griffin
HW: Waldo Cortes-Acosta vs. Jared Vanderaa Cortes-Acosta Vanderaa
MW: Josh Fremd vs. Tresean Gore Fremd Gore
LHW: Dustin Jacoby vs. Khalil Rountree Jr. Jacoby Jacoby
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 4 p.m. ET)
MW: Phil Hawes vs. Roman Dolidze Hawes Dolidze
HW: Andrei Arlovski vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima Arlovski de Lima
MW: Joseph Holmes vs. Junyong Park Park Park
FW: Chase Hooper vs. Steve Garcia Hooper Hooper
FlyW: Carlos Mota vs. Cody Durden Mota Durden
BW: Christian Rodriguez vs. Josh Weems Rodriguez Rodriguez