After opening the new year just last week with a spectacular featherweight bout between Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze, the UFC draws in even more crowds for the two title fights that headline their first Pay-per view this weekend in Las Vegas. The lightest and the heaviest weight divisions have their titles on the line.
Recapping last weekend’s amazing featherweight bout between top 10 contenders Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze, begins with appreciating Kattar’s ability to remain an extremely competitive fighter against a wildly talented Chikadze over 5 rounds after suffering a 5-round beating to title contender Max Holloway one year ago nearly to the day. The fight went all 5 rounds with both fighters looking lethal across the first few rounds. As the fight went on, Kattar was able to defuse Chikadze’s high level striking in a manner that no other fighter has been able to do. Kattar was able to use his amazing boxing and defense to keep Chikadze in a range where he could not use his heavy hitting kicks and quickness. Chikadze also showed a side of himself unseen in the UFC with his ability to go into those championship rounds and still inflict and take an insane amount of damage, even eating a spinning elbow sometime in the 4th round that would have murdered your average person. Kattar took the unanimous decision in a clear win, but both fighters showed why they belong in the UFC among the best of the featherweight division.
The current flyweight champion Brandon Moreno takes on the former champion Davidson Figueiredo in their trilogy fight as the co-main event this weekend. Moreno, a Tijuana native, will defend his belt for the first time after winning it from Davidson Figueiredo in their second bout. The two have only fought each other in their last three fights. Their first bout back in 2020 ended in a 5 round draw which was also a fight of the year candidate. Their next fight in 2021 was an amazing display of dominance by Moreno whose improvements from the last fight made sure the fight ended in the third round by way of TKO. The top two contenders having fought only each other for the last three years has made the flyweight division quite stagnant. With the competition among the 125-pound division being nothing to scoff at, quality fighters are waiting for their chance at the belt, making the outcome of this fight a much anticipated one for the continuation of the division. Promising flyweights such as Alexandre Pantoja and Askar Askarov who sit at #2 and #3 in the flyweight rankings and are on 2-3 fight win streaks.
The main event and long anticipated fight of Francis Ngannou versus Ciryl Gane will finish off the night and change the face of the heavyweight division regardless of the result. The hardest hitting fighter in the UFC and current Heavyweight champion, Ngannou, will be taking on his former sparring partner and current interim title holder, Ciryl Gane. The two fighters represent completely different sides of heavyweight talent in the UFC with Ngannou representing sheer power and immovability expected from a man who cuts weight to make 265lbs versus a leaner, but still enormous, fighter in Gane whose quick feet and technical ability allows him to carry heavyweight power with the speed and grace of a welterweight. Gane has been able to dictate the pace of every single one of his fights in the UFC and remains undefeated through submissions, decisions, and knockouts while managing to leave all his fights without any significant damage. But will this ability be ability be enough to withstand the durability and power that an improved Ngannou provides along with the familiarity Ngannou has with Gane’s style of fighting? Both fighters present dangerous tools for the other to deal with. Ngannou has the ever-present danger of looping and straight strikes coupled with a near 7-foot wingspan that probably makes his fists feel like you are getting slapped with a Honda civic. Gane brings danger with his whole body, utilizing his Muay Thai skillset and excellent distance management to throw strikes and from any range he wants.
Having cleared his way through the division unscathed, were Gane to win this weekend, it would be hard to find anyone to usurp him. Unfortunately, a win for the champion might still see him leave the UFC as various contracts disputes see the champion looking to boxing for a bigger payday which would be a big loss for the UFC. The winner of this fight will likely have the opportunity to face the former light-heavyweight champion and cokehead Jon Jones in a massive super-fight that could potentially draw McGregor level PPV buys. Either way, I am excited to see two 240lb+ men swing bones at each other for however long this fight manages to last.