*This was originally posted on January 16, 2022
The first event of the year did not disappoint as we were treated to a fight of the year candidate in the main event between Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze, an incredible debut by a recent Contender Series alum. ‘Slava’ Borshchev and a bunch of tightly contested fights throughout the night. All of the bouts from UFC Vegas 46 are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of the night: the BLÜ BONUSES.
TJ Brown def. Charles Rosa by Unanimous Decision
The first fight of the year did not disappoint. The first round was back and forth on the feet with Brown landing some big right hands and Rosa landing a slew of calf kicks. Thanks to his ground control and more accurate striking though, Brown edged ahead on the cards early. The rest of this fight was all TJ Brown controlling Rosa along the fence and on the ground. Rosa had a couple of submission attempts at the end of the 3rd round but it was nowhere near enough to win the decision.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Brian Kelleher vs. Kevin Croom
Originally, this bout was scheduled to be between Kelleher and Kakhramonov; although that would’ve been a much more entertaining matchup, this was still a fight you’d want to see. Kelleher has always brought the excitement whenever he’s in the Octagon. Since the start of 2020 he’d fought a total of 6 times with a 4-2 record. Those 2 losses were to Cody Stamann and Ricky Simon, both of whom had been ranked at some point the past year and both of those losses were by decision. His last win was just a few months ago against Domingo Pilarte. As for Croom, he only had 2 fights in his UFC career but had nonetheless been an exciting addition to the roster. In his first bout, Croom got a performance bonus for locking in a submission within the first 30 seconds of the fight (this was later ruled a no contest due to marijuana use (ridiculous)). Most recently he lost in a decision to the newly ranked Alex Caceres. Kelleher had the clear advantage in terms of experience, physically though, Croom had a wild, 9 inch reach advantage; this is HUGE at featherweight. Despite that reach advantage, especially since this was a last minute matchup and Croom didn’t know he would fight until Thursday, there seemed to be a fairly clear mismatch in favour of Kelleher here. Croom already had some losses by submission and with an extreme reach advantage, it seemed like he’d be using striking to keep Kelleher at a distance. Due to of that, I believed Kelleher would use his experience, being that he’s fought MUCH tougher opponents and has numerous submission wins, to pressure Croom and get him to the ground. My prediction was that Kelleher would likely get a finish on the ground, either by submission or ground and pound.
Kelleher by Finish
Right from the first bell, this was just as exciting as we thought it would be. Thanks to his huge reach advantage, Croom was certainly the more active fighter, landing twice as many strikes in the first round. That being said, Kelleher may have actually won the first after dropping Croom and landing a late takedown at the end of the round. The second round continued that trend with Croom landing more shots and opening up Brian and Kelleher landing another late takedown. In the third, the momentum clearly shifter towards Kelleher with a dominant display of grappling, landing multiple takedowns, sinking in countless submission attempts and getting in some solid ground and pound. This one came down to how each of those judges saw the rounds. Interestingly, two of the judges saw this as a dominant 30-27 win for Kelleher.
Brian Kelleher def. Kevin Croom by Unanimous Decision
Court McGee def. Ramiz Brahimaj by Unanimous Decision
UFC veteran Court McGee came out strong and dominated the first round with control on the ground, along the fence and a knockdown that could’ve ended the fight right as the horn blew to end the round. The rest of the fight was a clear win for McGee as he continued his dominance on the ground, containing all of Brahimaj’s offence and sinking in some deep submissions.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Jamie Pickett vs. Joseph Holmes
The featured prelim of the card was an intriguing bout between an exciting Contender Series alum., Jamie Pickett, and a UFC newcomer who was also on DWCS, Joseph Holmes. Pickett has had a rough start to his UFC career with 2 losses to Tafon Nchukwi and Jordan Wright but may have brought it back with a convincing decision win over Staropoli just a couple of months ago. As for Holmes, he was 6-1 in his MMA career with 4 wins in 2021 including one on the contender series a couple months ago. This was another complete tossup. Pickett looked good in his last bout, but Holmes had a lot of momentum with 4 wins last year. Not only that, Holmes was 7 years younger. Considering the inexperience of Holmes, it was certainly plausible that Pickett could use his unbelievable power to finish him, but that was the problem that Pickett has had his whole UFC career; he has the power but can’t seem to use it. I said that if he could figure out how to use his power, Pickett should win. However since he’s this deep into his career, I thought it may be too late and Holmes would either edge ahead on the cards or get another early finish.
Holmes by Finish
The first two rounds of this matchup were dead even and realistically could have gone either way. As the fight progressed, the momentum began to shift towards Pickett as Holmes began to tire out, get slower and ended up finding himself along the fence on many occasions. Although not the most dominant performance, it seemed fairly clear that Pickett won 29-28, possibly even 30-27.
Jamie Pickett def. Joseph Holmes by Unanimous Decision
Main Card Action
Joanderson Brito vs. Bill Algeo
The main card opened up with two fighters that were fairly new to UFC audiences. Brito was recently featured on the Contender Series where he won by a technical decision. He looked very impressive throughout the bout, but I distinctly remember this fight due to his blatant eye pokes (which is what led to that technical decision). On the other side, Algeo was 1-2 in his UFC career with a win over Spike Carlyle and losses to Ramos and Lamas. Algeo was 6 years older and brought a minimal 2 inch reach advantage into this fight. Although I’m not a fan of Brito’s eyepokes, there was no denying that he looked incredible on DWCS and is fairly large for the division. Algeo just hadn’t looked all that impressive, so it seemed likely that Brito would win this one. I predicted it would likely end by decision as Algeo hadn’t been finished since his first few fights in his career, but Brito could have broken that streak if he used his power and skill on the ground to get a finish.
Brito by Decision
This fight brought the fireworks right away with some explosive offence from both men. This momentum continued into the second and third with some crisp striking from Brito. Sadly for Brito, likely due to his inexperience, he seemed to tire out a bit near the end of each round and would then give up some control time on the ground. Overall, it was an impressive debut for Brito with his aggressive striking, but thanks to the last couple minutes of each round, Algeo stole the win away from him.
Bill Algeo def. Joanderson Brito by Unanimous Decision
Dakota Bush vs. Viacheslav Borshchev
Bush only had 1 fight in the UFC and it was a loss earlier last year to Austin Hubbard by a decision. Borshchev is brand new to the UFC, just winning his contract on the Contender Series with an impressive 2nd Round TKO win. Physically speaking, Bush had a slight 4 inch edge in reach and was a few years younger. This seemed tight on paper, but, in spite of the slight physical differences, appeared to lean in the direction of Borshchev. He had 3 KO/TKO finishes in 2021 so he had the clear edge in momentum and looked very impressive on DWCS. It’s tough to pick between two fighters that are new to the UFC (which is why it’s strange this was on the main card), but I went with the momentum of ‘Slava Claus’.
Borshchev by Decision
Finally, an absolute banger to wake up the fight fans! Both men were throwing HUGE shots for as long as the fight lasted, it seemed inevitable that we would finally see the first finish of 2022. In the end, it was ‘Slava’ who got the finish after landing an absolutely devastating hook to the body, folding Bush who fell to the ground immediately. He then celebrated by showing off his incredible dancing skills.
Viacheslav Borshchev def. Dakota Bush by TKO in the 1st Round
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
Originally scheduled as the co-main, we had the first big women’s fight of the year between the number 2 contender, Katlyn Chookagian, and the number 4 contender Jennifer Maia. Chookagian has been on a rampage in the flyweight division the past few years with wins over Calvillo, Araujo and a win over her current opponent. Her only losses the past few years have come to the champ, Shevchenko, and the number 1 contender, Jessica Andrade. Maia has been having an impressive few years as well with wins over Jessica Eye and Joanne Wood since her loss to Chookagian. She also made it to the final bell with Shevchenko just a little over a year ago which, if you’ve seen Valentina fight, that’s pretty impressive. In their last meeting, Chookagian won by unanimous decision. Being that this fight was just over two years ago, the safe bet was that Chookagian would likely edge ahead by decision once again. It should also be noted that she had a slight reach advantage over Maia.
Chookagian by Decision
Just as we predicted, this one was close the whole way through; both women had chances to pull ahead on the cards. It seemed as though Chookagian was just a slight bit ahead of Maia when it came to the exchanges. That being said, Maia was never in any real danger of getting finished; she was just getting outworked and that’s what led to the decision win.
Katlyn Chookagian def. Jennifer Maia by Unanimous Decision
It’s tough to say at this point what Chookagian should do and she mentioned this a bit in her interview; she seems to beat anyone who’s not Andrade or Shevchenko. Essentially, that means she can gate-keep and fight the women who are close to fighting Valentina OR she can fight her again. But the thing is.. she clearly had no chance. If Maia was never in any real danger in this fight, what can you offer someone as supremely dominant and skilled as Valentina Shevchenko? Maybe we’ll see her get a rematch against Andrade.
Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin
On one side we had Brandon Royval who was ranked 5th, on the other, Bontorin. Although he fought his last one up at bantamweight, Bontorin was still ranked 7th in the flyweight division. Royval was on a 2 fight losing streak, but you had to consider the fact that those two losses were to the current champ, Brandon Moreno, and the number 3 ranked Pantoja. As for Bontorin, he won his fight at bantamweight, but lost to Kai Kara-France and Ray Borg before that. As expected between a number 5 and number 7 contender, this was set up to be a tightly contested fight. Although Royval had lost his last two, it was to two of the best in the division. He also had a 3 inch reach advantage which usually helps in such a small division. Since Royval is an expert on the ground, we could have seen a submission win, but Bontorin is also skilled on the ground. This kind of matchup usually leads to a standup fight. I figured that Royval would use the experience from the last two fights to win by decision OR that he’d be able to overwhelm Bontorin on the ground and get a finish there.
Royval by Decision
Here we had a classic flyweight bout; both men were extremely quick, landed a lot of shots with plenty of scrambling on the ground. The first two rounds seemed to be in favour of Bontorin as he landed the cleaner shots, stumbled Royval and took him down so many times he had more takedowns than his last 6 fights combined. Then in the final round, Royval came back strong and did everything he could to try and end the fight; he even sunk in a deep armbar, so deep it sparked a debate online as to whether Bontorin had tapped (he kinda did). Like most other people, I had it as 29-28 Bontorin, but somehow Royval ended up with the split decision win.
Brandon Royval def. Rogerio Bontorin by Split Decision
I said this in December after Kara-France beat Garbrandt, having these two fight again would make a lot of sense. Now that we saw Royval struggle against Bontorin, this matchup makes even more sense. Royval and Kai Kara-France should fight and the winner should likely get a title shot or be next in line after Pantoja or Askarov.
Chase Sherman vs. Jake Collier
In the co-main, we had a battle between a couple of the big boys. After a promising start to his UFC career with a 2nd round win, Chase Sherman was on a 2 fight losing streak with a couple of decision losses to Arlovski and Parker Porter last year. Jake Collier, on the other hand, has been in the UFC since 2014 with a record of 4-5. The most recent of those fights was a split decision loss to the new contender Carlos Felipe. On paper this was dead even. Both men had a similar reach and age, the only difference was that Collier tends to come into the fight a little heavier than Sherman. Leading up, it seemed as though Sherman likely had the speed advantage and could win by decision, but because Collier lost by split decision to Felipe, I thought he had the skill, power and chin to finish Sherman.
Collier by Finish
The fight was a short one but it was all action! Sherman landed a couple of strikes but ultimately this was a showcase of Collier’s power on the feet AND on the ground. He landed some bombs, got Sherman on the ground and got a rare submission win in the heavy-handed heavyweight division.
Jake Collier def. Chase Sherman by Submission in the 1st Round
In his post-fight interview, he mentioned Andrei Arlovski because he had a close fight with Sherman and because Arlovski is a legend. I agree and I’d love to see it!
Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze
Closing out the first card of 2022 was a thrilling matchup between two featherweights that like to brawl. Calvin Kattar is a boxer who last fought almost a year ago today against Holloway and was on the wrong side of one of the most impressive performances in UFC history. Before that he had just beaten two impressive strikers in Dan Ige and Jeremy Stephens and had a loss to one of the most dangerous (yet recently inactive) fighters in the division, Zabit. As for Giga, there was a reason he was getting a lot of hype behind his name before this fight; he was 7-0 in the UFC with recent stunning wins over Edson Barboza and Cub Swanson. On paper, this was a razor-thin matchup, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be as close as it seemed. Kattar is an impressive boxer, but Holloway showed that you need more than just boxing, you need a variety of strikes. As a kickboxer who’s well known for his “Giga kick”, Chikadze is capable of some elite level striking. Not to mention, he proved against Barboza that he can overwhelm one of the best strikers in the UFC. Kattar showed against Holloway that he’s got a ridiculous chin, so I wasn’t sure if Chikadze could get him out of there, but I predicted Kattar had another long night in the Octagon ahead of him.
Chikadze by Decision
This is the fight we were all waiting for; it’s the fight we needed in order to properly open up 2022. As expected, this fight was action-packed the whole way through. In the first round, Giga was showing his edge on the feet with his incredible striking ability, especially his kicks. Unfortunately for Chikadze, that’s when the fight took a drastic turn. When throwing a kick, Giga slipped on the canvas, fell to the ground and was immediately jumped on by Kattar. He was controlled on the ground and was visibly exhausted after the exchange. In the 2nd round it was back and forth with both men getting rocked and leaking some blood. From the third round on, Kattar started to really pile up the punches, stumbling Giga, turning his face into a bloody mess. Giga was still landing a decent amount of strikes, the problem was that he had lost all of his power, making it easy for Kattar to walk forward and land big shots at will. In the end, it was an easy decision for the judges to make as Kattar won 50-45, 50-45 and 50-44.
Calvin Kattar def. Giga Chikadze by Unanimous Decision
Featherweight is completely jammed up at the top. Of course there’s Volkanovski who will likely be fighting the Korean Zombie next, Ortega likely won’t be fighting for a little while after his title shot, Emmett is fresh off a win and Rodriguez looked fantastic against Holloway. Keeping all that in mind, it would make sense for Kattar and Rodriguez to fight and the winner might get the next title shot. Honestly, anyone in the top 6 could fight each other and we’d get a Brawl of Night, likely even a Brawl of the Month contender.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 4-2
KO of the Night: Viacheslav Borshchev
Sub. of the Night: Jake Collier
Brawl of the Night: Kattar vs. Chikadze
Most Valuable Fighter
After getting beat down like that against Holloway a year ago, this was the perfect way to come back and it really showcased how much skill he has. This was the perfect example of what they always call ‘fighting spirit’; he overcame his loss, came back strong and dominated a tough opponent who was on a 7 fight win streak.