UFC Vegas 46 takeaways: Calvin Kattar's patience pays off in violent fashion vs. Giga Chikadze

·Combat columnist
·6 min read

LAS VEGAS — Calvin Kattar may want to rethink this strategy of fighting in the middle of January.

On Jan. 16, 2021, Kattar went to Abu Dhabi to face Max Holloway in what was a massive opportunity for him against a former featherweight champion. Holloway, though, set a record for most significant strikes landed and won a decision by scores of 50-43 twice and 50-42.

Kattar took an entire year off and went from facing Holloway, the best striker in the division, to meeting Giga Chikadze, one of the division’s most dangerous strikers, on Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 46 at Apex.

Just like a year earlier, Kattar absorbed a great deal of punishment. But he proved his courage and will are beyond reproach and dealt out a brutal beating of his own. Kattar won a unanimous decision, 50-45 twice and 50-44, before getting another trip to the hospital.

“I feel like s***, but I’ve also never felt better,” said Kattar, who entered the fight ranked fifth to Chikadze’s eighth but went off as better than a 2-to-1 underdog. “I don’t feel too great, but he’s a great fighter — 7-0 in the UFC, he’s doing something right.”

Kattar, though, did plenty right on this night. His legendary toughness was on display again. Chikadze came out fast and was piecing up Kattar early with kicks and punches.

When Chikadze slipped and went down, Kattar chased him and the remainder of the first round was a grappling match between two of the sport’s most dangerous fighters. Chikadze was never the same after that.

“There were a couple of things I think affected the fight,” UFC president Dana White said. “There was the wrestling and grappling in the first round, and then that spinning elbow [Kattar] hit him with.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 15: (R-L) Calvin Kattar elbows Giga Chikadze of Georgia in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 15, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
(R-L) Calvin Kattar elbows Giga Chikadze during UFC Vegas 46 at Apex on Jan. 15, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Chikadze was gassed by the end of the second round. Kattar’s forward pressure was relentless and he was attacking as if he were a truck storming downhill without brakes. His pressure limited Chikadze’s opportunity to use his kicks, one of his best weapons, and he took a lot of punishment the rest of the way.

Kattar’s decision to sit out an entire year after the Holloway loss instead of rushing back in also paid dividends. He allowed his body to recover and he was able to handle a fast pace and a strong attack from a quality opponent, winning a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus for the second bout in a row.

“After that fight with Max, you have to take a year off,” White said. “You have to. It absolutely, positively did [help Kattar]. He needed that time off.”

The bumps and bruises don’t hurt as much the day after, though, when you’re on the right side of a one-sided decision.

Krause was everywhere

James Krause is still an active fighter, but he’s going to make his greatest mark on the sport with his coaching ability. He’s already become one of the sport’s better coaches, and with time and experience, he could easily be the best in the business.

Krause had a busy night on Saturday. He worked four corners, including three of the first four fights. His only win came in the card’s opener, when T.J. Brown dominated Charles Rosa.

He worked Kevin Croom’s corner in Croom’s loss to Brian Kelleher in the second fight of the night, a decision for Kelleher. Croom took the bout on three days’ notice.

He closed out the preliminary card by working Joseph Holmes’ corner in a fight won by decision by Jamie Pickett. And then in the second fight on the main card, he worked Dakota Bush’s corner against Viacheslav “Slava Claus” Borshchev. Borshchev landed a perfect left to the body that dropped Bush and Borshchev quickly finished it.

So it was a 1-3 night and Krause wasn’t thrilled. He was asked about becoming one of the sport’s most sought-after and respected coaches, and grimaced.

“You ask me that tonight and it’s hard,” Krause said. “We were [1-3] but we had four really tough fights. But as a coach, focusing on the results is such a f***ing roller coaster. With wins come tougher opponents and that makes the wins harder. I try not to focus on the results so much, though I know it’s difficult because it’s a results driven sport. I try to focus on my guys’ performance and their improvement.

“Even though we were 1-3 tonight, I was really happy with my guys and I felt like there was a lot of improvement. Sometimes it’s hard to see that when they lose fights, but I very much believe in day-in, day-out consistency. That’s the key to being a good coach.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 15: (L-R) Court McGee and Ramiz Brahimaj trade punches in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 15, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
(L-R) Court McGee and Ramiz Brahimaj trade punches at Apex on Jan. 15, 2022 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Tough being nice all the time

Court McGee, whose battles with drugs and alcohol nearly took his life, won his second in a row Saturday after a three-fighting losing streak when he defeated Ramiz Brahimaj by decision.

A close friend of McGee’s urged him to be meaner and the results were there. He was all over Brahimaj and may have had a knockout had the first round been 15 or 20 seconds longer.

But after the bout, he had a line that summarizes who he is quite well. Explaining his nickname, “Crusher,” McGee talked about his tendency to be so easy-going.

“It’s tough trying to be kind all the time,” McGee said.

If only more of us had to deal with that same problem.

Chookagian's contract issues

For the second time in a little over two years, Katlyn Chookagian won a unanimous decision over Jennifer Maia. After the win at UFC 244 on Nov. 2, 2019, in New York, she earned a flyweight title shot against Valentina Shevchenko.

Chookagian was stopped by the champion on Feb. 8, 2020, but has won four of five since, including Saturday’s impressive win. She was asked if she expected another title shot, particularly since she’s ranked No. 2 at flyweight.

“This was the last fight on my contract, so the UFC needs to re-sign me before I think about that,” she said. “I’m on a three-fight win streak, all [against] Top 5 opponents, so you’d think they’d re-sign me. They didn’t want to extend my contract before the fight, so hopefully I proved I belong here. I’m No. 2 in the division and I’ve been at the top, No. 2 or No. 1 for three or four years.”

White, though, was non-committal.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. "We’ll get back in the room on Tuesday and figure out what’s next.