Calvin Kattar really did something remarkable last night.
The man was not set up for success. Following one of the most damaging losses in UFC history, UFC did not throw the top-ranked contender a softball in an attempt to build him back up. No, instead they pitched Giga Chikadze, a highly experienced kickboxer with a penchant for kicking livers into dust.
Despite his higher ranking, Kattar did not enter as the favorite. Most expected Chikadze, highly active and winner of seven Octagon bouts in a row, to keep the ball rolling. Some feared that Kattar might be done entirely — that’s how nasty the Max Holloway loss was.
Apparently, Kattar eats adversity for breakfast. A year long layoff did not seem to bother him in the slightest, nor did Chikadze’s remarkably fast start. It’s a scary feeling to have an explosive athlete like Chikadze ripping kicks and punches while fresh, particularly when there’s a bit of cage rust and the sting of a prior loss in the air.
Kattar remained unbothered. He converted an early slip into a takedown, buying himself a moment to breathe and wasting some of Chikadze’s early explosiveness. It was in the second round, however, where Kattar’s true game plan came into effect. Kattar refused to take a backwards step. Even when Chikadze landed genuinely hard hooks on his advancing foe, Kattar immediately answered with the poke of a jab or a heavy right hand.
Against such relentless aggression, Chikadze couldn’t kick very often.
Initially, it was his punches that did the damage, as well as allowed him to work into the clinch. As each man tired and the distance grew closer, Kattar did a great deal of his damage with elbows. The situation was unique; has any UFC fighter began so many combinations with elbows? Outside of ground-and-pound, have so many elbows ever been landed in a fight period?
Kattar did it all. He lead with elbows over the top, up the middle, and chained elbows together. He switched stances then threw an elbow. Chikadze surely wanted to stand his ground more often than he did, but it’s far more comfortable to attempt to slip and return vs. a punch than an entire elbow, particularly after feeling the effects of a few of them.
By the end of five rounds, Chikadze’s face was simply destroyed. Against the division’s hottest up-and-comer, Kattar carved a crimson mask, proving his greatness and skill once again.
Could we ask for a better return to the win column?
For complete UFC Vegas 46: “Chikadze vs. Kattar” results and play-by-play, click HERE!