The Featherweights take center stage in 2022’s first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event this Saturday (Jan. 15, 2022), which features a very violent ESPN+-streamed main event between Giga Chikadze and Calvin Kattar that could put the winner within spitting distance of a title shot. Also on tap are a pair of Flyweight battles, Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maya and Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin, plus a Featherweight clash between debuting finisher Joanderson Brito and all-action Bill Algeo.
Three UFC Vegas 46 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here). Shall we?
170 lbs.: Court McGee vs. Ramiz Brahimaj
Court McGee (20-10) — once the proud owner of a 5-2 UFC record — entered his May 2021 clash with Claudio SIlva in the midst of a 1-5 skid. He still proved more than “Hannibal” could handle, however, out-lasting the Brazilian en route to a unanimous decision victory.
He stands one inch taller than Ramiz Brahimaj (9-3) and sports a 3.5-inch reach advantage.
After a couple of false starts, Brahimaj got his Octagon shot in 2019, only to suffer a technical knockout loss to Max Griffin after his ear exploded (full details here). Nine months later, he returned to action with a first-round submission of Sasha Palatnikov.
All nine of his professional victories have come by submission, eight of them in the first round.
The sad thing about McGee is that he never learned to maximize the bottomless gas tank that is his key weapon. He never developed a consistent body attack and he’s weirdly reticent to use his takedowns, even against notoriously poor wrestlers like Ben Saunders and Carlos Condit. It’s gotten to the point where the only people he can beat are ones who reliably gas out on their own.
Brahimaj may generally rely on early finishes, but I’m not convinced he fits that bill. He’s younger, ostensibly the more physically strong of the two, and boasts some very solid wrestling with which to neutralize McGee’s pressure. Though McGee’s unlikely to get submitted and could theoretically grind out a win, he’s flubbed too many winnable match ups for me to put my faith in him. In short, Brahimaj grapples his way to a unanimous decision.
Prediction: Brahimaj via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Jamie Pickett vs. Joseph Holmes
Jamie Pickett (12-6) finally achieved his UFC dream after three appearances on Contender Series, only to drop his first two Octagon bouts to fellow alumni Tafon Nchukwi and Jordan Wright. He ultimately returned to the win column in Oct. 2021 with a unanimous decision over Laureano Staropoli in “Sin City.”
“Night Wolf” has knocked out eight professional foes and submitted one other.
Glory MMA’s Joseph Holmes (7-1) has not tasted defeat since his first professional fight, racking up a seven-fight win streak that includes a submission finish on Contender Series. Though the win failed to earn him a contract, he kept the momentum up by starching Jhonoven Pati in his fifth fight of 2021.
“Ugly Man Joe” steps in for Caio Borralho on less than two weeks’ notice.
While this is a more winnable fight for Pickett than Borralho would have been, he’s still in for a rough evening. Holmes is one of the only men on UFC’s roster who can match Pickett’s reach and he’s a damn sight better at actually using it. Indeed, he’s sharper with his combinations, manages distance better, and is much more consistent with his output.
Holmes also appears to be the superior grappler of the two, and considering how easily Staropoli just walked into the clinch, that’s a feasible back up plan if things somehow go south at range. Either way, Holmes should cruise to a wide decision win.
Prediction: Holmes via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. T.J. Brown
Though he came up short on the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Latin America season, Gabriel Benitez (22-9) started his UFC career 5-2, scoring a bonus-winning knockout of Humberto Bandenay along the way. He now sits at 1-3 in his last four, most recently succumbing to BIlly Quarantillo’s pace in July 2021.
“Moggly” gives up an inch of height and reach to “Downtown.”
T.J. Brown (15-8) capped off a four-fight win streak with a dominant finish of Dylan Lockard on Contender Series to earn himself a UFC contract. He fell short in his first two Octagon appearances, but some shaky judging carried him past Kai Kamaka III in May 2021.
His 13 professional finishes are split 9/4 between submissions and knockouts.
There’s something genuinely tragic about Brown, an incredibly adept finisher held back by extreme fragility. He absolutely has the skills to win this because Benitez has never managed to parlay his ferocious kicking game into a marquee victory and is definitely out-classed on the ground. Brown had the skills to win all three of his UFC bouts, though, and something gave out on him each time.
Whether it’s Brown’s chin, legs or body, Benitez is going to smash something before “Downtown” can build any momentum. Once the dust settles, “Moggly” returns to the win column with a violent finish.
Prediction: Benitez via first-round technical knockout
UFC Vegas 46 is not the most spectacular way to kick off a year, but it should be a solid appetizer for UFC 270. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2021: 187-91-2 (2 NC)
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 46: “Kattar vs. Chikadze” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.