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Giga Chikadze puts on striking clinic to finish Edson Barboza in UFC Vegas 35 main event, calls out Max Holloway

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UFC Fight Night: Barboza v Chikadze Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Giga Chikadze has been calling himself the best striker in the featherweight division and he took a big step towards proving it with his win in the UFC Vegas 35 main event.

Taking on one of the nastiest knockout artists in UFC history in Edson Barboza on Saturday night, Chikadze put on a clinic while showcasing a nasty array of kicks and lighting quick punches as he picked apart the Brazilian on the feet while never taking too much damage in return. The end came for Chikadze after he got aggressive at the start of the third round and he put Barboza on wobbly legs following a blistering combination with his hands.

From there, Chikadze nearly locked up a D’arce choke but instead he continued to punish his opponent with punches until Barboza staggered to the canvas, which forced the referee to stop the contest before any more damage was done. The stoppage came at 1:44 in the third round.

“Edson one more time, big shout out to you,” Chikadze said afterwards. “Keep doing your thing. You are a big motivation.

“This fight was a challenge. I said the words what I really mean. I prove everything with my punch, kick, whatever it comes. I wanted to finish. As you guys know, I said earlier, my ground game is improving. This is preparation for a lifetime. I’ve been doing this since I was four years old.”

There was no feeling out process with Barboza and Chikadze both launching some powerful kicks with each trying to earn the competitive advantage. In a surprise to some, Chikadze appeared to be the faster fighter as he was tossing out lighting quick kicks followed by punches that were just a bit ahead of Barboza.

As his confidence continued to grow, Chikadze started targeting the head with his kicks, which then opened up the body for one of his infamous “Giga kicks.” When the liver kick landed, Barboza took the brunt of it to his midsection, forcing him to reset and Chikadze immediately came after him as he looked to take over control of the fight.

To his credit, Barboza seemed to settle down as the second round got underway as he started digging to the leg with a number of nasty kicks. The difference for Barboza was his forward pressure as he continuously kept Chikadze on his back foot.

That all changed at the start of the third with Chikadze stalking Barboza across the ring while moving away from his kicking game and instead focusing on his boxing. After tagging Barboza with a right hand, Chikadze went in for the kill, which led to the fight finishing sequence.

While Barboza complained at first about the stoppage, it was clear he was nearly out on his feet and Chikadze had done more than enough to secure the TKO win.

With that victory, Chikadze has now won seven straight in the UFC and he’s looking to put himself into title contention while offering to serve as a backup for the featherweight championship bout between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega at UFC 266.

If that’s not available, Chikadze is aiming for the top of the division and a showdown with former champion Max Holloway.

“I finished the guys who are absolutely legends in this sport,” Chikadze said about his last two wins over Barboza and Cub Swanson. “Honestly, I’m here to fight the best fights, the biggest names, if it’s a title shot, I would love to cover the title shot and be a replacement fighter. If not, somebody Hawaiian who’s leaving the division.

“[Max Holloway] knows my name. I saw the interviews somebody asked him and he said like this ‘oh yeah, I heard this Giga guy who kicks.’ I’m not just a Giga guy. I kick the sh*t out of people. Let’s go. I’ve been waiting for this moment.”