As we kick off the first Fight Night of 2022, we break down the biggest and baddest matchups based on the numbers.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of January 13, 2022, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Calvin Kattar vs Giga Chikadze
Key Stats: 5.07 strikes landed per minute (10th), 42% striking accuracy, 50% striking defense
What It Means: Kattar is a fluid striker with a slick boxing base, but he’s not one-dimensional in his attack in any way. He’ll utilize some low kicks when at range, and his biggest strength is definitely his boxing. Kattar has shifty footwork even if he appears flat-footed, and he’ll switch stances momentarily to give a different look from his regular orthodox stance. His best combo is either a slap hook into a right cross or his 1-2. When Kattar sits down on his right hand, it’s a stunning punch. He’s also a good counterpuncher.
Key Stats: 1.17 knockdowns per 15 minutes (5th all-time among FW), +1.41 striking differential (10th), 64.7% significant strike defense (tied-9th)
What It Means: “Ninja” is well-known for his kicking game, which comes ferociously and quickly. Chikadze is a karate specialist and a sharp counter striker. He’s comfortable along the fence picking his moments to land a precise shot that rattles his opponent. When he has space to operate, he is particularly dangerous. He’ll switch up the target of his kicks, but his left body kick is especially potent. He doesn’t wind up much on the kicks, and once he feels comfortable, his variety of spinning and flying attacks come with real unpredictability. He also likes to blitz forward with a combination of punches.
What to Look For in the Fight: The easy way to look at this matchup is as a puncher (Kattar) versus a kicker (Chikadze). There’s nuance like there always is in fights, but Kattar will have to be mindful of the space he gives Chikadze. If he stays in that mid-range, he might get his legs chopped up, which opponents tend to attempt given his boxing prowess. Kattar might have success pushing a pace on Chikadze, but he can’t do so recklessly.
Chikadze is going to be comfortable fighting on the outside and countering, and the moment Kattar’s guard is a little high, he’s going to fire off a low or body kick that can have real debilitating impact. Kattar hasn’t been dropped in a fight, but that might be tested on fight night. If Kattar can get inside and defuse Chikadze’s kicking game, he might be able to dictate the tempo and distance of the fight, critical in what should be a high-level striking matchup.
Katlyn Chookagian vs Jennifer Maia
Key Stats: 7 wins (tied-2nd all-time among WFLW), 51.9% takedown defense (6th all-time among WFLW), 61.4% significant strike defense (7th all-time among WFLW)
What It Means: “Blonde Fighter” is a rock solid, well-rounded fighter in the flyweight division, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone on the roster more keenly aware of their strength in the Octagon. She’s a fundamentally sound striker who utilizes her long frame and footwork to stay in a comfortable striking range and keep herself out of danger. Chookagian enters and exits the pocket comfortably and often throws flurries of strikes. If she decides to grapple, she has shown excellent top control and ground-and-pound.
Key Stats: 14:56 average fight time (5th longest among WFLW), 53.8% takedown defense (4th all-time among WFLW), 3.97 strikes absorbed per minute (10th all-time among WFLW)
What It Means: Maia has a powerful striking style based on solid footwork and head movement. If she can catch a rhythm on the feet, she has a good flow, mixing kicks with boxing combinations and clinch work. Maia also possesses a good grappling base that allowed her to catch Joanne Wood with a submission from her guard and take Valentina Shevchenko down and maintain control as well.
What to Look For in the Fight: Chookagian often gives opponents a hard time because she is so consistently able to fight at her tempo and distance on the feet. If her opponent plods forward, she can piece them up with relative ease. The fun aspect to this fight is in the fact that this is a rematch, and so the adjustments each woman makes from their first fight is crucial. Maia could have some success if she can implement intelligent pressure and utilize her strength and leverage in clinches.
Other Fights to Watch (Brandon Royval vs Rogério Bontorin)
Key Stats: 3.44 strikes landed per minute, 1.7 submissions per 15 minutes, 6:28 average fight time
READ MORE: New Year, New Brandon Royval
What It Means: Royval can come off pretty chaotic in the Octagon, but that also gives him a level of ferocious unpredictability. On the feet, he is laterally quick and likes to blend high kicks into his combinations, and he’s been known to throw a spinning technique in there as well. His strength is his grappling, though, and he is quite scrambly once it hits the canvas. He exhibits good wrestling control, but he’ll flip for a submission in a blink once he catches a window of opportunity.
Key Stats: 1.68 takedowns per 15 minutes, 1.2 submissions per 15 minutes, 2.82 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: Bontorin has made his living on the ground snatching up submissions, but he is also a very capable striker with real pop. He’s a physically imposing presence at flyweight, and when he connects up top, it’s heavy. He has good leg kicks when he stays committed to them, and that allows him to close the distance even quicker with hefty hooks up top. If the fight hits the ground, he exhibits good control and ground-and-pound that open up opportunities for submissions.
READ MORE: Rogério Bontorin Learned The Right Lessons
What to Look For in the Fight: Royval is going to be the quicker fighter in there, so he might use that speed advantage to pick Bontorin apart from the outside, but he’ll need to be mindful of Bontorin’s explosions. When the fight gets in close, Bontorin should have the physical strength advantage, but Royval has a keen sense of angles, and he works tirelessly to improve his position.
*Hasn’t competed enough in weight class to qualify in UFC Record Book