The main event on ESPN features a fun featherweight fight between two fantastic strikers.
Quietly crafting his tools in and out the regional scene for roughly a decade, Calvin Kattar stepped onto the UFC stage with some fundamentally sound striking and well-earned hype.
Whether he is coming forward or sticking and moving, Kattar does a great job of keeping his feet underneath him, occasionally shifting stances when he finds his groove. Typically working behind a high guard, Kattar maintains a solid shoulder and head position that helps him protect his chin from a lot of the big punches that come his way.
Kattar, who trains with a lot of pro boxers, also does well at diversifying his shot selection from a boxing perspective. From slipping offline to changing his level, he offers options to both the body and the head.
Wielding a stinging jab (both defensively and offensively), Kattar will either use it to disrupt his opponent’s striking rhythms or allow it to help set up punishing uppercuts and crosses once establishing his range. That said, Kattar will likely need to be mindful of both his weight distribution and high guard, given the kicking acumen of his current counterpart.
Enter Giga Chikadze.
Born into fighting (thanks to his father), Chikadze grew up practicing the art of Goju-Ryu karate, eventually earning his black belt and multiple European championships. Chikadze later shifted his sights over to muay Thai as a teenager, smartly moving shop to Mike’s Gym in the Netherlands in order to expand his skills as a martial artist.
After making this move, the difference in Chikadze’s style became somewhat immediate, as the Georgian fighter started to both attack and counter with leg kicks more often. However, as Chikadze transitioned over into mixed martial arts, he ended up setting up shop stateside in Southern California at Kings MMA.
There, under the care of Rafael Cordeiro, Chikadze has steadily built around his vaunted “Giga kick,” which is basically a powerful liver kick delivered with a bit of a traditional martial arts touch to it. The strong and unique mechanics that Chikadze utilizes on his left kicks command defensive respect while also making question mark kick attachments difficult to read in the moment.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) January 11, 2022
Although Chikadze will still throw his favored kick naked, he has done a better job at disguising his shifts and weight transfers off of the committed right crosses that he tends to throw both coming forward or off the counter. Chikadze will also throw a majority of his axe kicks and spinning assaults from orthodox, but suspect his newfound love for jabs and calf kicks will serve him well considering Kattar’s previously-mentioned guard and stance.
Nevertheless, Chikadze will still need to respect the fact that he’s in there with a more experienced MMA fighter who has more than one way of changing the complexion of the fight.