Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports activities Illustrated’s latest look at MMA. Each week, this column will provide perception and data on essentially the most noteworthy tales within the struggle world.
Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze headline this Saturday’s UFC on ESPN card, every searching for to take a step additional within the featherweight division.
For Kattar (22-5), this will likely be his first time again within the cage since final 12 months’s one-sided loss to top-ranked featherweight Max Holloway on Jan. 16. He wants a victory to carry onto his fifth spot within the rankings, however that will likely be no easy process towards Chikadze (14-2), who has rattled off 9 straight wins.
Chikadze bludgeoned MMA staples in his previous two bouts, shortly dominating Cub Swanson earlier than obliterating Edson Barboza. His previous three journeys to the Octagon have resulted in Efficiency of the Evening honors, a streak he want to lengthen on Saturday.
“My mission is to get the UFC belt,” Chikadze stated. “I’m getting nearer to creating that dream come true, and I’m doing it for Georgia, my residence nation. That’s what drives me ahead. I don’t take trip. I simply preserve working to maneuver ahead and get that title.”
Now eighth within the division, Chikadze is primed to proceed his ascent towards the title–and it feels as if Kattar is merely one other step on his climb towards the highest. Besides, after all, nobody knowledgeable that piece of knowledge to Kattar, who is sort of conversant in being neglected. Kattar has a lot to show on Saturday, and he plans on returning to the win column and resuming his personal championship-driven journey.
“I do know who he’s and I respect him, however hopefully he’s conscious of who I’m, too,” Kattar stated. “I do know all about his win streak. The child is on hearth. However he’s by no means confronted an opponent like myself. He’ll see that on Saturday.”
The breathtaking fantastic thing about MMA is on full show on this encounter. That includes two elite fighters from reverse sides of the world, each males will enter the Octagon with the identical goal: victory. But the paths traveled to reach at this time limit couldn’t be any extra totally different.
Chikadze was born and raised in Tbilisi, the capital metropolis of Georgia. He was solely three when the nation acquired its independence from the Soviet Union, and his nation performs a monumental position in his id.
“My nation is a very small nation, however we now have been battling for hundreds of years to maintain our territory,” Chikadze, 33, stated. “For us, to get punched and hit again is nothing new. That’s in my DNA.”
Fascinated at an early age by the artwork of struggle, Chikadze has devoted his life to changing into a fighter, one expert in all methods of contending.
“I began to coach after I was 4 and commenced competing after I was six,” Chikadze, 33, stated. “Once I was 5, me and pa rented a videotape and watched Royce Gracie. I wore a related outfit that he did, that Gi, and I believed that was me. That’s what I wished to be.
“Not everybody in my nation might perceive it then, however my dream was to develop into a UFC champion. I like all the pieces about this. It’s my all the pieces. It’s my passion. It’s my enjoyable. I used to be a skinny child, and realizing how one can struggle helped shield me.”
A multi-faceted offense provides Chikadze a right away benefit in his fights, and he’s the favourite coming into Saturday’s bout. He’s elite in karate, kickboxing, and muy Thai, together with a new concentrate on his jiu-jitsu. His biggest power, identical to Kattar, is his hanging–although Chikadze believes he has no peer in that specific realm.
“There are ranges to hanging, and I come from the best stage,” stated Chikadze, who moved to California in pursuit of his UFC goals. “I beat Cub and I beat Edson in my final two fights, and they’re legends of this sport, however Calvin Kattar is the strongest opponent I’ve ever confronted. Particularly with him coming off a loss, he will likely be much more motivated. He’s very sturdy, however at the tip of the day, he’s a striker.
“I’m the perfect striker within the recreation. I’ve a large benefit after we stand and struggle.”
If the struggle goes to the bottom, Chikadze is worked up for the possibility to unveil new items of his arsenal.
“I made a new submission, one my teammates name Gigablata,” Chikadze stated. “It’s a chokehold. I can not assure we are going to see it on Saturday. I’m going towards a striker and I wish to knock him out. However I even have some new takedowns. If he tries to carry me to the bottom, then you will note the Gigablata.”
Greater than 5,000 miles away from Tbilisi is Methuen, Mass. Based mostly within the coronary heart of the Merrimack Valley, the blue-collar metropolis is a stone’s throw away from Boston. Not like Tbilisi, brutally chilly winters and scorching Dunkin’ Donuts espresso are a lifestyle, as is a real devotion to Invoice Belichick and his New England Patriots.
“I can’t wait to observe the Pats,” stated Kattar, whose struggle conflicts with the Patriots-Payments Wild Card recreation. “As quickly as I get out of the cage, I’ll be watching.”
A fighter inside and outside of the cage, the 33-year-old Kattar grew up in New England throughout a time when battles with dependancy precipitated heartbreak everywhere in the area. Kattar misplaced one other beloved pal, Joel Gigliotti, in 2019, and he will likely be combating for him this Saturday.
“Combat night time is definitely his birthday,” stated Kattar. “He’s at all times on my thoughts. I’m at all times combating for those that aren’t right here anymore with us. Habit, all this sh–, it’s horrible. Not a day goes by after I don’t give it some thought or want they have been right here.”
Reaching the top-five of the division marked a monumental achievement for Kattar, one that can solely be topped by a title victory. Lengthy neglected within the division, a win towards Chikadze will function a stark reminder that Kattar is extra than simply an upper-echelon fighter; it’ll present that he’s elite. And after the limitless sacrifice it took to achieve his present place, Kattar has no intention of handing it over to Chikadze.
“It’s arduous to get so far and it’s even more durable to remain right here, however that’s nothing I didn’t already know,” Kattar stated. “I’ve been placing my head down and placing within the work.
“That is the most important struggle of my life, and Giga has my full and undivided consideration. I plan on taking this child out. Could the higher man win.”
With each fighters filled with conviction and confidence, there must be a breaking level on Saturday. Both Kattar reasserts his dominance, holding onto his top-five spot, or Chikadze continues his championship trajectory. This will likely be appointment-viewing for struggle followers, and it’s a bout that ought to function an absurd quantity of hanging. Whereas knocking out Kattar was a feat not even Holloway might obtain, Chikadze believes it will likely be his future on Saturday.
“I’ll do my finest to finish this as quickly as attainable within the first spherical,” Chikadze stated. “Perhaps it’s going to be the second, however I’m aiming to finish this within the first spherical.”
The Decide ‘Em Part:
Listed below are my picks for this weekend’s fights:
UFC featherweight bout: Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze
Decide: Calvin Kattar
ONE girls’s strawweight championship bout: Xiong Jingnan (c) vs. Ayaka Miura
Decide: Xiong Jingnan
UFC girls’s flyweight bout: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
Decide: Katlyn Chookagian
UFC flyweight bout: Brandon Royval vs. Rogério Bontorin
Decide: Brandon Royval
UFC heavyweight bout: Jake Collier vs. Chase Sherman
Decide: Jake Collier
UFC featherweight bout: Invoice Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito
Decide: Joanderson Brito
2021 report: 58-44
2022 report: 0-0