The UFC returns this weekend for the first time in 2022 as American striker Calvin Kattar takes on Georgian kickboxing sensation Giga Chikadze and in the co-main Women’s Flyweight contenders Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia battle it out.
For the first time for 2022 we look at my best bets on the card below from the UFC Apex Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Calvin Kattar put in a tough display against Max Holloway last time out, where he was brought down to earth a little bit falling short to a superior striker. Kattar went into the Holloway fight on the back of a two-fight winning streak but the American just couldn’t get going against the agile boxing of the former champ.
Giga Chikadze has been outright dominant in the UFC to date. The Georgian has won 7/7 in the UFC and has knocked out his last three opponents inside the Octagon. I personally don’t see this going any other way than a Chikadze victory. In a straight striking battle, there is no way Kattar comes out on top. Kattar will need to get in the pocket to trade and mix in takedowns, something he has not shown in his UFC tenure to date. In fact, neither men have particularly stout wrestling, as shown by Kattar’s 0.37 takedown average across 15 minutes and Chikadze’s 0.33 average.
Kattar is also incredibly hittable, with stats showing he absorbs an average of 8.16 strikes a minute compared to Chikadze’s 2.69. Chikadze will keep him at range and pick him apart, While I believe Kattar will likely last the full 25 minutes, the Georgian Ninja should win comfortably on the judges scorecards putting himself right in the title picture.
Brandon Royval may be on a two-fight skid but those two were against current champion Brandon Moreno and top contender Alexandre Pantoja. This time out he faces fellow grappler Rogerio Bontorin, which in all honesty is a serious step down in competition. Royval has an incredible 100% takedown accuracy and for mine he is the stronger grappler of the two and has the better submission skills. Also in Royval’s favour is that he is the more complete striker so he should dominate all exchanges of this fight. Royval’s boxing has improved greatly and he also blitzes well to initiate takedowns. Simply back Royval to get his hand raised with confidence.
Brian Kelleher comes into this bout as an underdog once again, which just is completely opposite to the market I have. Kelleher is an incredibly strong fighter with great stand up and decent wrestling. Saidyokub Kakhramonov made his UFC debut in fine style securing a guillotine choke submission over Trevin Giles.
This is one of the markets which as a punter makes me rub my hands together in glee.
Why the odds boggle my mind is Kakhramonov’s biggest win is over Giles who is 13-7, far from an impressive record. The agencies have disrespected Kelleher his whole career and once again we see him as an underdog against a young and upcoming fighter. When it is a proven class veteran taking on an incomplete rising fighter, more often than not the experience shows and with the odds on offer, Kelleher is an absolute steal. I’m backing Kelleher to control the fight and land the more telling blows. A dabble on Kelleher by knockout also may be worth some loose change.
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