Giga Chikadze (-275) vs Calvin Kattar (+200)
I’ve long followed Giga Chikadze’s combat sports career, including both mixed martial arts and kickboxing competitions. He’s always been a fighter I’ve enjoyed watching and it’s nice to see him finally get some recognition and even a bit of hype from the general fanbase. That said, we may have reached a boiling point where that hype has surpassed his skill level.
Is Giga a tremendously potent, laser-accurate, highly technical striker? Absolutely. Can he put anyone in the division down with a clean punch or flush “Giga kick”? Of course. But there’s more to MMA than flashy knockouts and the glue that holds Giga’s game together concerns me. Even if he goes out and effortlessly dusts Kattar on Saturday, this will still be a concern going forward against the featherweight division’s elite. The fact that the Georgian requires a particular range and pace is a serious concern against a durable, high-paced pressure boxer like Calvin Kattar who can get in his face and make this fight ugly.
I do have legitimate concerns about Kattar’s form considering he’s coming off one of the most lopsided beatdowns in MMA history against Max Holloway. Those types of beatings can permanently change a fighter and at 33 Calvin is no spring chicken to begin with. The biggest concern after a slaughter like that is the fighter becomes extremely hesitant and gunshy. That would be an unmitigated disaster against Chikadze, who would pick Kattar apart and likely stop him with strikes early.
Assuming Kattar is in good form after taking a full year off to recover, there is a real chance he can make this fight a close-range slugfest. If so, he has a great shot at securing the victory. We saw Edson Barboza give Giga a real challenge last fight, as he had success with forwarding pressure and boxing combinations along with the occasional kick. Ultimately Barboza’s poor durability failed him as it has many times in the past, but had been more durable like Kattar, he very well may have gone on to score the upset. This has been a trend throughout Chikadze’s career: lower to mid-level opposition has been able to seriously test him with pressure before ultimately losing due to their own shortcomings.
Calvin’s durability and pressure boxing, along with an underrated grappling game and solid cardio, give him a great chance to test Giga in various ways. There are serious concerns with the layoff post-Holloway beatdowns, plus Chikadze can put anyone out with a flush strike early, but I can’t shake the notion that a good version of “The Boston Finisher” can give Giga fits.
The pick: Calvin Kattar by stoppage mid-to-late in the fight.