This weekend (Sat., Jan. 15, 2022), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 46. It’s been the better part of a month since UFC held an event, and the return to action is ... well, it should be looked at as more an appetizer ahead of UFC 270 rather than a full meal. Of course, several cancelations in the last couple weeks didn’t help things, but ultimately, there are still some fun fights to enjoy prior to the main event clash of Giga Chikadze vs. Calvin Kattar.
Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:
Women’s Flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
Best Win for Chookagian? Viviane Araujo For Maia? Joanne Calderwood
Current Streak: Chookagian has won two straight, whereas Maia returned to the win column last time out
X-Factor: Will Maia look to strike or wrestle?
How these two match up: My first instinct regarding this match up was, “I feel like this has happened before.” Low and behold, the two fought in 2019 with Chookagian taking the decision nod.
At any rate, Chookagian is one of the more consistent contenders at 125 pounds. She’s a high-volume kickboxer with a solid ground game, and she’s only lost to the absolute top-tier of her division in recent years. Maia is recently removed from a title loss of her own, but the well-rounded Brazilian is perhaps best known for her physicality.
Frankly, this doesn’t feel like a rematch that really needs to happen. I went back and watched the first fight — which I had definitely seen already but did not remember due to its wholly unremarkable nature — and the outcome was decisive. Chookagian was pretty consistently able to land her jab and low kicks from distance, and she was largely successful in denying her opponent’s takedown attempts.
Maia threw a lot, but she didn’t land too often. Given that original fight wasn’t all that long ago, and neither woman seems to have spectacularly improved, it’s hard not to bet on a repeat.
Prediction: Chookagian via decision
Flyweight: Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin
Best Win for Royval? Kai Kara-France For Bontorin? Raulian Paiva
Current Streak: Royval has lost two in a row, while Bontorin picked up a win at Bantamweight last time out
X-Factor: Royval promised to fight smarter, and Bontorin faces a severe cut to 125 pounds.
How these two match up: Ah, here’s a fun scrap!
Royval is chaos inside the cage. “Raw Dawg” puts on an incredible pace, throwing punches-in-bunches alongside dangerous kicks and spins. Whenever his fights hit the mat, Royval is quick to throw up submission attempts and remains very dangerous in scrambles.
Fortunately for fight fans, Bontorin is not one to slow the pace either. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is aggressive on the feet, but his main goal is to gain top position. Often, Bontorin does so with high-amplitude slams and big takedowns.
There are really two outcomes here. On one hand, Royval is simply the more dangerous and damaging fighter. He has a great gift for opportunism, as he’s able to land big shots in wild exchanges that can turn the tide. Even if nothing huge connects, Royval is likely to do more damage more consistently and win on the feet.
However, none of that matters if Bontorin is successfully able to ground him. Last time out, Alexandre Pantoja endured Royval’s chaos until he was able to take his back and promptly strangle him, nullifying any previous good work. Bontorin will surely look to that fight for inspiration, as all of Royval’s activity definitely provides opportunities for his opponents.
Both men are likely to have their moments, but overall, I trust Royval’s scrambling to bail him out of a couple bad positions and allow him to keep momentum in his corner.
Prediction: Royval via decision
Heavyweight: Jake Collier vs. Chase Sherman
Best Win for Collier? Gian Villante For Sherman? Damian Grabodwski
Current Streak: Collier lost his last bout, while Sherman has come up short twice in a row
X-Factor: Sherman’s face serves as a magnet for punches
How these two match up: Low-level Heavyweight BANGFEST coming up!
Collier deserves credit for originality. Originally, the Missouri “Prototype” was a scrappy Middleweight. Over the years, he’s inflated up to Light Heavyweight and now full-on Heavyweight, where Collier reappeared after a three year layoff. Throughout his entire UFC career, Collier has alternated wins and losses.
Sherman is unlikely to ever grow to become a contender, but the man can be trusted to provide “Fight of the Night”-type scraps. He’s durable, hits hard and can chop down opponents with his low kicks, but the former bare knuckle boxer just gets hit so often ...
Would a Collier knockout shock me? No, he’s aggressive enough and carries some pop in his hands. At the same time, the man is not a true Heavyweight, he’s just in bad physical shape and is content to scrap with bigger men.
That’s not a long term recipe for success, and a single win over Gian Villante is not going to convince me otherwise. Sherman is an imperfect brawler, but he’s a real Heavyweight, and his low kicks can take some of the sting off Collier’s punches that are still sure to land.
Prediction: Sherman via knockout
Featherweight: Bill Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito
Best Win for Algeo? Spike Carlyle For Brito? Diego Lopes
Current Streak: Algeo came up short last time out, whereas Brito will make his UFC debut on an 11-fight win streak
X-Factor: UFC jitters
How these two match up: This should be a great fight ...
Algeo is a gamer. His technical game is a fun combination of Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu, but Algeo just tends to find himself in absolute scraps. On the flip side, Brito is an aggressive and powerful athlete. He’s happy to throw himself into the fray and swing big shots, but he’s also got some skill on the mat.
While a fun fight is seemingly guaranteed, this one could go in several different directions, as it’s the classic battle of technique vs. physicality. Algeo has a lot of craft to his game, but he’s definitely taken losses to stronger men like Brito over the years. He’s got a great chin, but it’s likely to be tested here ... but at the same time, if this one goes long, it’s likely to favor the more experienced and technical man in Algeo.
Until we see Brito against proven UFC opponents, it’s hard to be too confident. Still, he’s done a tremendous job on the regional scene against excellent opposition at just 26 years of age, so I’ll side with “Tubarao” to keep the ball rolling in his UFC debut.
Prediction: Brita via decision
Final ‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 38-24-2 (1)
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.
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