The UFC kicked off its 2022 slate of events on Saturday with UFC Vegas 46. The card was a bit of a slow burn in the early going, but things picked up as the main card progressed — and the main event delivered and then some. It’s a bit much to pick a Fight of the Year after the very first show, but Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze could very well be in the running.
What comes next for Chikadze and other fighters who fell short on Saturday? Read on.
Giga has skill, and Giga has heart. He simply didn’t have enough of the two to get past Calvin Kattar on Saturday. By the end of the fifth round, it felt like the bout could have been stopped, but the Georgian was just too tough to go out like that.
What’s next for Chikadze is time off. He needs it, after that war. A nice six month break at least. Kattar himself took a year off after his loss to Max Holloway, and it most certainly paid dividends. A year might be a bit much, but give Chikadze time to regroup.
When he comes back — that’s where things get interesting. If The Korean Zombie comes up short against Alexander Volkanovski in April, that fight books itself. The two have traded some barbs online and in the media in recent weeks. If Zombie wins the title, then a fight with Dan Ige could work, depending on when the Hawaiian is ready to return.
Chikadze’s next fight: The Korean Zombie or Dan Ige
Heavyweight Chase Sherman admitted ahead of UFC Vegas 46 that his career was at a crossroads going into the fight. A loss would mean three consecutive defeats, and could potentially send him packing.
Sherman then found himself submitted against Jake Collier, which was Collier’s first submission win in the UFC.
Sherman is 1-3 in his current run with the promotion, after going 2-5 in his earlier stint. The only saving grace here might be that heavyweight needs bodies, and Sherman is capable of some fun fights. At 32, he’s still young in the sport. If the UFC keeps him around, a fight with Harry Hunsucker works. If not, it might be back to the bare knuckle realm, where Sherman is a former BKFC champ.
Sherman’s next fight: Harry Hunsucker
Brazil’s Rogerio Bontorin is in a bit of a pickle. Flyweight has been red-hot the past year and a half, but it’s not the deepest division. That makes Bontorin someone you’d like to keep around. But technically, he’s 0-3 right now. He would have been 1-3, but a win against Matt Schnell was overturned to a No Contest thanks to the Brazilian using a banned diuretic. He also missed weight for that fight.
Still, there’s a chance Bontorin sticks around — and we’re here to play matchmaker, not judge whether someone should or not should lose their job. So assuming Bontorin’s UFC career continues — he had been ranked #7 ahead of the fight, after all — let’s pair him up with someone on the opposite trajectory. Manel Kape had a bit of a scare when he started his UFC run, despite being highly touted. Now, he’s won two straight, but is behind Bontorin in the rankings. Kape last fought in December, so the timing is pretty solid.
Bontorin’s next fight: Manel Kape
Jennifer Maia has now lost to Katlyn Chookagian twice, making it pretty clear who the better flyweight is.
A former Invicta FC champ, Maia’s UFC run has been inconsistent at best — but she held her own against champ Valentina Shevchenko when she did get a title shot. In fact, she looked better than most of Shevchenko’s opponents, who rarely make it to the final bell these days.
Maia has a history of missing weight at 125, though it seems well behind her, but it’s unlikely she could move down. She’d be undersized as a bantamweight, so a move up is out as well. She’s probably, like Chookagian (who became a free agent after the fight) going to have to play gatekeeper for a while.
That brings us to Andrea Lee. “KGB” has won two straight, and battered Cynthia Calvillo back in November — leading to a corner stoppage after the second round. After enduring a three-fight skid, Lee has bounced back nicely. Now, let’s see what her ceiling really is, and if she’s ready for the top 5 of the division. With Lee ranked #8 and Maia #4 at least prior to UFC Vegas 46, it’s a pairing that makes sense.
Jennifer Maia’s next fight: Andrea “KGB” Lee
The kind of history you don’t want to make: being the first UFC fighter of the year to be finished. That’s what lightweight Dakota Bush had to endure at UFC Vegas 46, put away by “Slava Claus” himself.
Bush is now 0-2 in the UFC, and badly needs a win. Alex Munoz is in a similar spot. Put these two together. Someone gets their first win inside the octagon.
Dakota Bush’s next fight: Alex Munoz
Featherweight Joanderson Brito nearly had to pull out of UFC Vegas 46 due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Luckily he was able to stay on the card after being re-tested; not so luckily, he lost a decision against Bill Algeo.
That was Brito’s UFC debut. TJ Laramie debuted for the UFC in 2020, losing his first fight. He was forced out of a couple of bouts in 2021. If he’s ready to return, a match-up with Brito works.
Brito’s next fight: TJ Laramie