For the second straight year, a bloody war of attrition involving Calvin Kattar kicked off the first main event of the UFC’s calendar.
Unlike Kattar’s brutal loss at the hands of Max Holloway in 2021, however, this time around it was Kattar who shined. The 33-year-old featherweight demolished Giga Chikadze in the headlining attraction of UFC Vegas 46 on Saturday night, winning a lopsided unanimous decision at the UFC APEX in Kattar’s return to action after a year on the shelf.
“That was an absolute war,” UFC president Dana White exclaimed at Saturday’s UFC Vegas 46 post-fight press conference.
“The first fight of the year and a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate already. That’s the way to start it. That’s the way to start the year. It was incredible. And you know what’s funny ... it’s almost like everybody forgot about Calvin Kattar [after] Max Holloway. You know what I mean? A lot of people were counting him out tonight — and he looked unbelievable.”
Saturday was a much-needed moment of validation for Kattar. The No. 10 ranked featherweight on MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, Kattar (23-5) was forced to take off the rest of 2021 after losing to Holloway in historic fashion last January — a fight that saw Holloway set numerous UFC striking records and land a staggering number of 445 significant strikes.
White noted that the year-long layoff was something that Kattar “absolutely, positively needed to take” after the hellacious beating he sustained at Holloway’s hands. He also gushed about Kattar’s ability to bounce back from such a one-sided loss with a performance that saw him batter one of the most credentialed strikers in the division.
“That guy’s an absolute dog, man,” White said. “Now if you look at the fights that he’s had in the UFC, but specifically now Holloway and Giga, he’s a special kind of guy. He’s a f*cking warrior, man.
“[Kattar] kept constant pressure on him, he stayed in his face, he kept moving him backwards, and it looked like Giga was out of it halfway through the second round.”
With the win, Kattar will likely move back into the thick of the title chase at 145 pounds. The Massachusetts native has now won three of his last four bouts — a run that includes impressive victories over Dan Ige and Jeremy Stephens — and there’s little doubt Kattar belongs in the conversation with the elite of the division.
Saturday’s result also quashes any lingering debate about whether the UFC should’ve waited for the result of Kattar vs. Chikadze to book a replacement against UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski following Holloway’s recent injury withdrawal. Chikadze had criticized Volkanovski and the UFC’s decision to book Chan Sung Jung into the open title opportunity, but White is content with how things worked out.
“Giga didn’t even fight yet,” White said. “You know what I mean? So we’re looking to put together these fights and they’re like, ‘Oh, the Korean Zombie got the fight. Giga should’ve gotten the fight.’ Giga’s got a fight — tonight. And in this sport, man, you never know. You think you know, but you don’t. None of us know. It’s what makes this sport so great. You never know what the hell is going to happen with these guys.
“We’ve got to lock in dates for fights and Zombie is absolutely, positively the guy that should’ve gotten the fight, so it worked the way that it should’ve worked out.”