The world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion begins its 2022 campaign this Saturday evening (Jan. 15, 2022) with a pivotal Featherweight clash at the helm. Fast-rising Giga Chikadze squares off with veteran contender Calvin Kattar in UFC Vegas 46’s main event, while former Flyweight title challengers Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia collide one fight prior.
UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, also hosts a potential “Fight of the Night” between Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin, plus Chase Sherman vs. Jake Collier up at Heavyweight.
155 lbs.: Dakota Bush vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Dakota Bush (8-3) won four of five en route to his UFC debut, which pitted him against veteran Austin Hubbard. Bush banked the first round with some solid striking, but faded down the stretch en route to a unanimous decision loss.
“Hairy” will enjoy a four-inch reach advantage despite being the shorter man.
Viacheslav Borshchev (5-1) — the head striking coach at Team Alpha Male — found success in both kickboxing and boxing before turning his attention full-time to MMA. His efforts in the cage earned him a Contender Series shot, which he capitalized on by knocking out Chris Duncan via contract-winning check hook.
Four of his five MMA victories have come by knockout.
UFC brass knew what it was doing when it put this fight together. Bush relies more on athleticism than technical prowess on the feet, allowing “Slava Claus” to showcase the terrific striking offense that is his trademark, but “Hairy” also has enough of a wrestling pedigree to put Borshchev’s all-important takedown defense to the test.
Personally, I think it’ll pass. While he can’t always stop takedowns perfectly, Borshchev is highly adept at scrambling to his feet. As a result, Bush is unlikely to reliably hold him down, and he’ll have more and more trouble doing so as the fight progresses and Borshchev’s withering body attack begins taking its toll. In the end, Borshchev chops him down until he’s stationary enough to take one flush to the chin.
Prediction: Borshchev via second round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov
Brian Kelleher (23-12) — once the victim of two consecutive stoppage losses — now sits at 4-2 in his last six UFC bouts. His last appearance saw him rebound from a decision loss to Ricky Simon by overpowering Domingo Pilarte in Aug. 2021.
“Boom” will give up two inches of height and three inches of reach to Kakhramonov.
Uzbekistan’s Saidyokub Kakhramonov (9-2) punched his ticket to the world’s largest fight promotion by knocking out Tycen Lynn for the CFFC Bantamweight title in March 2021. This set up a late-notice debut against Trevin Jones, and though the Team Oyama product missed weight, he ultimately finished Jones with a guillotine late in the third.
He has scored four wins by submission and three by knockout.
This isn’t the closest fight on the “Prelims” in terms of odds, but it’s definitely the most competitive and interesting match up of the lot. Kakhramonov has a clear edge in size and stopping power, plus the wrestling chops to shut down Kelleher’s takedown offense. He’s struggled under pressure in the past, however, and Kelleher is nothing if not absolutely relentless. We also saw Jones find success trapping Kakhramonov against the fence, giving Kelleher a potential avenue of victory.
Still, I find myself leaning Kakhramonov’s way. He’s one of the rare Bantamweights who can match Kelleher’s pace, and though both men’s chins have failed them in the past, Kakhramonov strikes me as the likelier of the two to land a game-changing punch. In short, physicality and raw power should carry him to victory.
Prediction: Kakhramonov via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Silvana Gomez Juarez vs. Vanessa Demopoulos
Silvana Gomez Juarez (10-3) — whose only prior losses came against future UFC competitors Poliana Botelho and Ariane Lipski — rode a three-fight win streak into her short-notice UFC debut. The momentum wasn’t to last, as she succumbed to a first-round armbar from Lupita Godinez.
She replaces the injured Ashley Yoder on two months’ notice.
Vanessa Demopoulos (6-4) came up short against Cory McKenna on Contender Series, then lost her LFA title to the aforementioned Godinze her next time out. She returned to the win column by knocking out Cynthia Arceo, but couldn’t overcome J.J. Aldrich in her own short-notice Octagon debut.
She has won three professional fights via submission.
It really is heartbreaking to see someone as gutsy and technically adept as Demopoulos undone by one massive flaw. Though she’s extremely skilled on the ground and admirably aggressive on the feet, Demopoulos’ complete lack of wrestling chops force her to constantly fight in her opponents’ wheelhouses and rely on inconsistent quick-kills.
That looks to doom her once again against Juarez. The Argentinean does leave herself open to takedowns by backing up to the fence and showed some submission vulnerabilities against Godinez, but Demopoulos lacks the skills to reliably take things to the mat. This leaves her at the mercy of Juarez’s faster, more powerful striking, which figures to carry Juarez to a comfortable win.
Prediction: Juarez via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Vegas 46 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including the late-notice debut of a Middleweight Contender Series veteran. Same time tomorrow Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 46 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 46: “Kattar vs. Chikadze” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.