After an agonisingly long wait for fights, the UFC returns this weekend to kick off 2022 with a bang.
All odds featured are available at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Barring a brief moment in time where Nicco Montaño ruled over 125lbs, Valentina Shevchenko has reigned as the undisputed queen of the UFC's women's flyweight weight class ever since its inception.
With six defences to her name, The Bullet has faced some of the toughest contenders in her division, including Jennifer Maia and Katlyn Chookagian, who face off against each other in Saturday's main card.
Despite losing to Schevchenko in 2020, Maia did what so many challengers before had and definitively won a round against the champion before going on to defeat fellow former title challenger Jessica Eye in her lone Octagon appearance of 2021.
Meanwhile Pennsylvanian BJJ brown belt Katlyn Chookagian has gone 3-1 since she was defeated by Schevchenko at UFC 247, and is coming into this contest off the back of decision wins over standouts Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araújo.
It is also worth noting that the pair have actually met inside the Octagon before. In a featured prelim bout at UFC 244, Chookagian utilised her technical striking offence to nullify much of Maia's aggression on the feet, ultimately winning a unanimous decision.
So, why are we backing Maia to avenge the first fight and emerge victorious on Saturday? The Brazilian demonstrated an improved ability on the feet, which will be crucial if she is going to prevent her opponent from dictating the range of the fight as she did previously. This, combined with the fact that Maia is an underdog going into the rematch, leaves us convinced that Maia getting the win via the judges is a good bet.
There has never been a better time to be a UFC flyweight.
Despite rumours just a few short years ago that the UFC was considering culling the division, 125lbs has flourished in recent years, ironically following the departure of its two biggest stars, Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo.
With the trilogy fight between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo to crown the true flyweight king set to take place just two weeks from now, the fight between Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin is the perfect opportunity for either fighter to catapult themselves into title contention.
While Royval did fall to a defeat against Moreno at UFC 255, the Denver native suffered an injury during one of the frantic grappling exchanges between the pair, and the former LFA Flyweight Champion will be itching to get another shot at Moreno at the earliest opportunity.
This fight also marks the first time that Royval will enter the Octagon as a betting favourite during his UFC, and we are backing him to make good on this evaluation by bringing an end to his winless streak and getting his hand raised on Saturday night.
In a battle of heavyweight contenders both coming off losses and looking to establish themselves in the 265lb division, Chase Sherman versus Jake Collier has all of the makings of a great fight.
A young heavyweight at 33, Jake Collier began his UFC tenure all the way back in 2014, initially competing in the middleweight division. After a win over Marcel Fortuna at UFC Fight Night 120, Collier entered a nearly three-year-long absence from the cage before returning in 2020 as a heavyweight but has since gone 1-2 in his last three trips to the Octagon.
His opponent on Saturday night is Chase Sherman. After initially going 2-5 in the UFC between 2016 and 2018, Sherman returned to the organisation in 2020 after a stint in bare-knuckle-boxing with a knockout win over Ike Villanueva but has since suffered back-to-back losses to Andrei Arlovski and Parker Porter.
Historically, fighters often produce some of their finest performances when their backs are against the wall. So, with both Sherman and Collier's UFC status potentially in jeopardy with a loss this weekend, expect fireworks from the big men from the opening bell, with Sherman ultimately utilising his size, movement, and leg kicks to get his hand raised.
In the first UFC main event of 2022, we have been blessed with two of the top featherweights in the world facing off inside the Octagon over the course of five rounds.
GLORY kickboxing veteran Giga Chikadze had something of an inauspicious start to his MMA career, losing both his MMA debut and his first appearance on Dana White's Contender Series back in 2018. Since then, however, the Georgian has done what so many kickboxers before him have failed to by successfully adapting his high-level striking for use inside the Octagon.
Looking to derail the ever-growing hype surrounding Chikadze is #5 ranked featherweight Calvin Kattar.
With wins over Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, and Dan Ige, Kattar had established himself as one of the hottest prospects at 145lbs, with some of the crispest boxing in the entire division.
Unfortunately for the New England native, Kattar's most recent Octagon appearance saw him on the receiving end of a vintage Max Holloway performance during which he sustained more than 400 significant strikes from the former champion.
While Kattar's decision to take a year out following the loss will no doubt prove to be a wise decision for his health, stepping back in to fight the surging Chikadze will be no easy rebound. Currently riding a seven-fight UFC win streak, including three back-to-back Performance of the Night honours, Giga is in the form of his life. So, unless Kattar can establish his boxing and use his wrestling to disrupt the Georgian's fierce striking arsenal, this one looks set to be a decision win for the Ninja.
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