Matches to Make After UFC on ESPN 32

    After absorbing a record-breaking beating in his last fight,
    followed by a full year away, there were plenty of questions
    hovering over Calvin
    on Saturday night, and he answered them in resounding

    In the main event of UFC on ESPN 32: Kattar vs.
    at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, “The Boston Finisher”
    smashed Giga
    for five full rounds that were just as one-sided — if
    not quite as statistically ridiculous — as the defeat Kattar
    himself suffered at the hands of Max
    last January. In so doing, Kattar blunted the
    trajectory of perhaps the fastest-rising fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as Chikadze had
    been on a seven-fight win streak in the Octagon, and might well
    have parlayed a win over Kattar into a featherweight title

    Even more impressive than the simple fact of the win is the manner
    in which Kattar accomplished it. While he employed his wrestling in
    the first round to rack up dominant positions, submission attempts
    and nearly three minutes of top control, for the remainder of the
    fight, Kattar took it to the former Glory Kickboxing champ on the
    feet, and dominated there as well. Kattar’s relentless forward
    pressure, constant stance switches, clever short elbow strikes and
    above all, his accurate jab, combined to make a bloody mess of
    Chikadze’s face while denying him the space and time to get his
    vaunted kicking game going.

    In the wake of “UFC Vegas 46,” here are some matches that ought to
    be made for the triumphant Kattar and the rest of the main card

    Given the relatively recent loss to Holloway, Kattar is further
    from the title picture than Chikadze would have been had the roles
    been reversed, but he did show fans as well as the UFC’s
    matchmakers that he is still very much a factor. What he needs is a
    matchup with a featherweight of similar ranking and momentum whom
    he hasn’t faced yet. While there are several fighters who fit that
    description, including Chan Sung
    , who is now set to replace Holloway in a short-notice
    title shot in April, Emmett won just last month at UFC 269 and
    should be ready to fight around the same time that Kattar is. The
    Team Alpha Male product is on a four-fight win streak, yet flying
    slightly under the radar due to the injuries that have kept him on
    the shelf for long stretches. At 36, if he’s going to make a title
    run in earnest, he needs a signature win just as badly as
    When Collier came back to the Octagon last summer after nearly
    three years away from the sport, he barely looked like the same
    person. Formerly a light heavyweight — and before that, an
    absolutely ripped middleweight — he had put on what appeared to be
    50 pounds of fat, and now pushed the heavyweight limit. The jokes
    came quickly and easily, especially when he got splattered in 45
    seconds by Tom
    . However, Collier has gone 2-1 since then, with the
    sole loss coming in a narrow split decision against Carlos
    . In Saturday’s co-main event, “The Prototype” absolutely
    ran through Chase
    , hurting him on the feet, hauling him to the canvas and
    choking him out in just under half a round. In his postfight
    interview, Collier was offered Justin
    , to which he replied that it would be fine,
    assuming Tafa could make weight this time.
    Zingers aside, that
    matchup would indeed be suitable, but Barnett would be even better:
    a scrap between two rotund, yet nimble big men, and two of the more
    surprising success stories at heavyweight right now.
    You can make a pretty good argument that “Raw Dawg” is one of the
    five best flyweights in the UFC right now. His 3-2 mark in the
    promotion is deceptive; his wins all range from good to elite —
    finishing Kai Kara
    is becoming a serious feather in the cap — and his
    losses came against now-champ Brandon
    and his most recent challenger, Alexandre
    . Due to timing, however, Royval’s next step will
    probably need to be a lateral one, especially if Moreno retains his
    title in his trilogy fight with Deiveson
    next week. Perez and Schnell fight at UFC 271 next
    month. Whoever emerges victorious should face Royval, with the
    winner right on the door of a title shot, though it’s worth noting
    that Perez’s recent loss to Figueiredo should have him watching
    next week’s title fight with a similar, but opposite rooting
    interest to Royval’s.
    Chookagian is, to put it bluntly, a huge problem for the UFC
    flyweight division. A nightmare. She’s the clear No. 3 woman in the
    group after Valentina
    and Jessica
    , but her losses to those two were so brutal and
    one-sided that it will be a long time, if ever, before we need to
    see either rematch. She’s simply too good for just about anyone
    else to handle, and she’s one of the busiest fighters in the
    division, meaning she will continue knocking off other contenders
    and prospects at an alarming rate unless otherwise occupied. That
    conundrum, combined with her not generally being very exciting to
    watch — she set a UFC record Saturday by making it to 10 wins
    without a single finish — makes “Blonde Fighter,” as I say, a
    problem. Hence her matchup on Saturday, a rematch of a tepid but
    uncontroversial win over Jennifer
    that took place barely two years ago, and with no
    particular reason to think it would go any differently the second
    time. The only rationale behind that rematch is that Maia has
    already lost to Shevchenko as well; it was a keep-busy fight that
    didn’t move either woman appreciably closer to another title shot,
    but at least didn’t send any fresh faces to the back of the

    OK, fine. Chookagian vs. Taila

    One left-field choice to throw out for Chookagian’s next opponent
    would be Bellator MMA flyweight champion Velasquez, or at least
    one of her top contenders such as former champ Ilima-Lei
    . The move might actually benefit both promotions,
    and would it be any more surprising than Demetrious
    or Corey
    being let go? However, as a naïve idealist, I’m not
    going to be the one calling for what would amount to firing a woman
    on a three-fight win streak. Given her disinclination to move up to
    bantamweight, Chookagian’s next opponent needs to be ranked highly
    enough to be able use her as a springboard into the title picture;
    otherwise there’s no reward for the promotion’s risk. That rules
    out the way-too-green prospects like Erin
    or Casey
    . Santos, who blasted Joanne Wood
    in November to notch her fourth straight win since dropping her UFC
    debut and looks very much like the real deal, is the call.
    On a night that three highly touted debuting prospects entered the
    Octagon as betting favorites over veterans, Borshchev was the only
    one to emerge unscathed. Better yet, “Slava Claus” delivered
    himself a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus by paralyzing
    with one of the nastiest body shots you’re likely to see
    all year. Given that his appearance on the Contender Series last
    fall ended with a one-shot knockout as well, there’s an obvious
    temptation to see what the man can do next. However, after only two
    and a half years and seven fights as a professional mixed martial
    artist, he’s almost certainly not ready for even a Top 25 opponent
    — yes, Khamzat
    is the exception that proves the rule. “Gritz” is no
    stranger to testing UFC blue-chippers, as he fell short against
    last month at UFC on ESPN 31.
    “Senor Perfecto” pulled off a gutsy win over fellow Dana White’s Contender Series alum Joanderson
    on Saturday, getting slammed around for much of a rough
    first round, then taking over and tuning up the fatigued Brazilian
    for the balance of the fight, even threatening to finish in the
    closing seconds. Afterward, Algeo got on the mic with a bizarre
    callout of Chikadze that wasn’t funny or insulting so much as
    confusing, leaving plausible doubt that he knew the difference
    between Georgia the state and Georgia the country. In any event,
    the truly ridiculous part of the speech was the idea that at 2-2 in
    the UFC, Algeo had any chance of actually getting a fight with a
    contender. However, it was his second time outlasting and grinding
    down a more heralded prospect in the Octagon, and may go down as
    his best win so far. In the ultra-deep featherweight division,
    Algeo’s job is probably more than safe, but he needs at least three
    more wins in a row to even make a blip on the rankings radar.
    Brown, who defeated Charles
    on Saturday’s undercard, is also 2-2 in the UFC, also
    coming off his best performance, and finds himself in the same spot
    as Algeo, professionally speaking. Easy match to make.

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