UFC featherweight Calvin Kattar was not going anywhere after his unanimous decision win over Giga Chikadze. He put on a show and momentarily stopped Chikadze’s hype train in the featherweight division.
Kattar checked into the fight as the No. 5 ranked featherweight and he preserved his spot as one of the best fighters in the division. It was one of the best performances of his career because his back was against the fence, literally and metaphorically. This bout was meant to be Chikadze’s coronation as the next featherweight star.
Chikadze had title aspirations for 2022. When Max Holloway pulled out of his championship fight at UFC 273, Chikadze threw his hat in the ring as a replacement opponent for featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Even though the UFC selected Chan Sung Jung as the replacement, Chikadze had his eyes on a title fight in the near future.
Unfortunately for Chikadze, Kattar had his own set of plans. Kattar set up a masterful strategy and it derailed Chikadze from winning the fight. Chikadze seemingly overlooked Kattar and he paid the price for it. Kattar implemented his grappling skills into the game plan, as well as his boxing. He crowded Chikadze for the entire fight and made it difficult for Chikadze to land any meaningful kicks or strikes.
Nothing but respect between warriors 🤝
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2022
Kattar admitted in the post-fight interview that it was not one of his cleanest performances, but it was a win that proved how good he was. “I knew what I had, I just think everyone else is learning,” Kattar said. “Still have to clean this stuff up. This is no shape for a winner to be in.”
In all fairness to Kattar, that was his first fight after one year away from the sport. His previous fight was on Jan. 16, 2021, against Holloway. He suffered a devastating unanimous decision loss where Holloway broke striking records against Kattar. He was expected to have some sort of rust after being out of commission for one year.
People expected Kattar to fall to another top featherweight in consecutive fights, but he believed in himself when no one else did. Kattar’s career as a title contender was on the line and he saved it. He was forced to sit out of competition for nearly 365 days and it was not an easy road back to where he was before his loss to Holloway.
Other names will be mentioned when talking about the best featherweights, but Kattar’s name belongs at the top of that discussion. On Saturday night, Kattar proved why he is still an elite featherweight.