UFC 46 Kicks Off New Year in Vegas

It’s the first event of the year for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC 46 pits featherweights Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze against each other in the main event, preceded by 12 other contests.

Kattar, Chikadze Top UFC 46 Bill

Kattar and Chikadze rank in the featherweight Top 10, and both are after a title shot. Last year at this time, when Kattar lost to Max Holloway, he dropped two spots to No. 7. Chikadze, on the other hand, is trending in the other direction. If he defeats Kattar on Saturday, the No. 4-ranked fighter could get a shot with current champion Alex Volkanovski.

Oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook have Chikadze the overwhelming favorite at -240, with Kattar at +200. The big reason: Kattar’s recent pummeling by Holloway, who landed a UFC record 445 significant strikes on the 33-year-old. It was a miracle Kattar was still standing at the end of the bout, losing in a unanimous decision.

Chikadze, meanwhile, has won his last three fights by TKOs, dispatching of Top 20 contenders, Edson Barboza and Cub Swanson.

Kattar will be a test for Chikadze, but he should pass pretty easily. His aggressiveness is too much for Kattar to handle, and a knockout is a definite possibility.

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Winning Streaks on the Line for Salikhov, Pereira

When Michel Pereira faces Muslim Salikhov in a welterweight bout on Saturday, both fighters will be looking to move up the rankings.

Pereira is the favorite at PointsBet at -125, but Salikhov isn’t far behind at +100. Salikhov is on a five-fight winning streak, his last victory coming in June against Francisco Trinaldo. Pereira has won his last three, the latest a decision over Kalinn Williams 13 months ago.

Pereira’s coach, Rafael Alejarra, told reporters the Brazilian will have to bring a more predictable style to the octagon.

“Michel knows how important this fight is and he knows when he can or can’t do the things people love to watch,” Alejarra said. “He’ll end up doing it in this fight if he sees an opening, but notice he didn’t do it against Khaos Williams. He fought seriously because that fight was important and that guy was dangerous. I think this is a good fight for him, but we have to be careful, because this Russian is no fool.”

Will Pereira rein in his wild side and exhibit a more disciplined fighting style? If not, Salikhov might pull off the upset.

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Chookagian-Maia First Step to Rematch with Champ

Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia will meet in a rematch of their 2019 fight (a Chookagian victory). Since then, both women have lost to flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, and whoever wins this one will have a shot at a rematch with the champ. Chookagian is the -180 favorite at PointsBet. Maia is at +142.

If Maia is to prevail, she has to get near Chookagian, a skilled defensive fighter. Maia had some success with that strategy in the first fight, but ultimately could not overcome her opponent and lost by a decision. If Chookagian maximizes her style as a striker, she should win another decision.

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Royval, Bontorin Search for Consistency

Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin are two flyweights in desperate need of career stability. That might begin this Saturday when the two face off. Royval, the No. 5 ranked contender in his division, is a -170 pick at Caesars over Bontorin, who’s at +145.

Both fighters are looking to get in the win column after some sketchy performances. Royval has lost two of his last three fights, but they were to formidable foes, including champion Brandon Moreno.

Bontorin has problems of his own. He’s also lost two of his last three bouts, but a three-month suspension in May and his failure to make weight in a bantamweight fight have cast suspicions on his career.

Bantorin can answer a lot of questions with a victory over Royval, but to do that, he’ll have to deal with the southpaw’s grappling style. This could be too big an ask. In this one, look for Royval to win, most likely by decision or submission.

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