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IT’S TIME! The first UFC event of 2022 kicks off this weekend with a striker's delight in the featherweight division between New Englander Calvin Kattar taking on fast-rising Georgian Giga Chikadze, but before that fun match up, let’s take a look at some undercard fights.
-350 Michel Pereira (26-11: 10 KOs, 7 SUBs) vs. Andre Fialho (14-3: 11 KOs, 1 SUB)
Just a few days before the fight, Andre Fialho is stepping in to replace Michel Pereira’s originally scheduled opponent Muslim Salikhov and try to pull off a major upset in his UFC debut. In different circumstances, (when Fialho would have a full training camp) this would be closer to a coin toss, but a fully equipped Pereira is a dangerous opponent for any welterweight. Pereira is incredibly acrobatic and has shown some unorthodox ways to mount offense, but since he’s turned the showmanship down a notch and focused more on technique and getting a win, he is on a three-fight win streak. I expect Pereira to get out to an early lead with a disciplined approach. However as the fight unravels, Fialho the Bellator and PFL vet, has enough skill and veteran savvy to make it to the final horn.
Selection: Pereira wins via Decision
-180 Katlyn Chookagian (16-4: 2 KOs, 1 SUB) vs. +142 Jennifer Maia (19-7-1: 4 KOs, 5 SUBs)
A rematch that has been over two years in the making has two elite UFC flyweights squaring off to remain in their winning ways and separate themselves from the pack in hopes of another title shot. Chookagian possesses more tools compared to Maia and showed that in their first meeting. Since then, Maia has elevated herself when she took on flyweight Queen, Valentina Schevchenko, to the final bell in a gritty five-round affair. Though I expect the winner of this fight to win by a razor-thin decision. I see Chookagian rinsing and repeating on Saturday night for another victory.
Selection: Chookagian wins via Decision
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-170 Brandon Royval (12-6: 3 KOs, 8 SUBs) vs. +135 Rogerio Bontorin (17-3: 3 KOs, 11 SUBs)
Royval is a big talent in the UFC’s flyweight division, but has lost two consecutive fights for the first time in his career. Royval, a Factory X gym product, has the beautiful striking and grappling skills to be a champion but at times has lapses in focus. He is in a must-win situation now facing a stocky power puncher in Rogerio Bontorin. Though Royval won’t want to test his chin too much against Bontorin, he seems game enough to be able to take a couple of heavy shots if it comes to it. He'll need it to survive every entanglement that Bontorin may try to initiate en route to a decision victory.
Selection: Royval wins via Decision
-135 Jake Collier (12-6: 5 KOs, 3 SUBs) vs. +108 Chase Sherman (15-7: 14 KOs)
This heavyweight matchup pits two men who’ve had subpar stints inside of the UFC against one another. Collier is 4-5 in the UFC while Sherman is 3-7. Sherman is in a must-win spot here and needs to hit the gas pedal early and often if he wants to remain on the roster. While Collier has avoided long losing streaks, he hasn’t performed up to his potential. I see Sherman putting all the pieces together, using his solid footwork and boxing but this time with a little more emphasis on doing damage.
Selection: Sherman wins via Decision
-135 Joanderson Brito (12-2-1: 5 KOs, 5 SUBs) +108 Bill Algeo (14-6: 3 KOs, 6 SUBs)
Water meets rock. Bill Algeo is a very smooth taekwondo artist who is yet to find his groove inside the UFC. Algeo hasn't won two in a row on the world’s biggest MMA stage and it doesn't get any easier this weekend against Brazilian brawler Joanderson Brito. The Brazilian has a smashing style and won’t be shy to walk through Algeo’s offense to land some huge shots of his own. While octagon experience leans heavily towards Algeo, I like Brito to control the action and steal a round or two because of his noticeable powerful advantage.
Selection: Brito wins via Decision
-160 Saidyokub Kakhramonov (9-2: 3 KOs, 4 SUBs) vs. +130 Brian Kelleher (23-12: 8 KOs, 10 SUBs)
This fight has all the makings for fight of the night as these two sporadic and well-rounded fighters get matched up. UFC newcomer, Saidyokub Kakhramonov, gets a perfect challenge in Brian Kelleher, who’s a veteran fighter capable of finishing the fight in any position. Kakhramonov is scrappy, hard to get ahold of and has the ability to scramble out of bad situations. Kakhramonov has fast footwork and though he isn’t the cleanest striker out there, his athletic ability saves him a lot. With Kelleher being at an important point of his career it’s vital that he pulls a rabbit out of his hat and remains in the win column. I expect Kelleher to be locked in and stop Kakhramonov in his tracks.
Selection: Kelleher wins via 2nd-Round Submission
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