The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 32

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2022

The Real Winners and Losers from UFC on ESPN 32

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    Sports fans were not at all without Saturday options.

    A full schedule of NBA games. A full schedule of NHL games. A pair of NFL wild-card playoff games.

    And into the jam-packed fray stepped the UFC with its first competitive show of the calendar year—a 10-bout card from the Apex facility in Las Vegas headlined by featherweights Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze.

    ESPN's Fight Night broadcast went live at 5 p.m. ET and ran through the main event's end just after 10 p.m., serving as a suitable appetite-enhancer for the promotion's next top-shelf showUFC 270which is set for Jan. 22 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and includes a pair of championship fights.

    In fact, Saturday's show was initially scheduled for 12 bouts, but illness scrubbed a welterweight match between Muslim Salikhov and Michael Pereira. Salikhov was replaced by Andre Fialho, whose date with Pereira will now take place at UFC 270.

    The story was similar for a strawweight bout matching Vanessa Demopoulos and Silvana Juarez, which was shifted to UFC 270 because of COVID-19 protocols.

    Remaining on Saturday's show was TJ Brown, who faced substitute Charles Rosa at lightweight after would-be featherweight foe Gabriel Benitez was an injury-enforced removal. Out because of COVID-19 protocols was bantamweight Saidyokub Kakhramonov, leaving Brian Kelleher to face Kevin Croom at featherweight.

    Needing no substitutions, the B/R combat sports team was in place for Saturday's show and took it all in while assembling a definitive list of winners and losers. Take a look at what we came up with, and let us know what you think with a thought or two of your own in the comments section.

Winner: Banging In the New Year

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    After one Fight Night card, it's the best fight of 2022.

    And don't be surprised if it's still in that spot come December.

    Top-10 contenders Kattar and Chikadze engaged in a consistently competitive and comprehensively violent five rounds of combat in their featherweight main event before Kattar—who arrived as a +195 underdog with DraftKings in spite of his No. 5 ranking—emerged with a unanimous decision.

    "This is what's been missing in my life," ESPN's Brendan Fitzgerald shrieked during a particularly hectic stretch of the bout, during which the fighters combined to throw nearly 900 strikes and land better than 400. "The Apex is on fire because of Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze. Wow."

    His hyperbole only barely exceeded the action.

    An aggressive Kattar was on the short end of a barrage of hard, sharp strikes from Chikadze in the opening 90 seconds before he pounced when his rival slipped to the floor on a left-leg kick attempt.

    The veteran took control and kept the fight there for the rest of the round, never landing particularly decisive blows but effectively draining a significant portion of Chikadze's gas tank.

    Kattar, who had not fought since losing a five-rounder to Max Holloway in last year's first main event, maintained his momentum on his feet in the second and perpetually plodded forward with jabs, crosses and elbows while forcing Chikadze to fight off the back foot.

    The Georgian bled from a gash on his right eyebrow from that round on and only intermittently reversed the flow as both Kattar's striking output and land rate rose through the third (25 of 87), fourth (36 of 102) and fifth (51 of 125).

    Chikadze had the open cut, two blackened eyes and blood spatter across his chest as Bruce Buffer read the 50-45, 50-45 and 50-44 scorecards, and Kattar acknowledged his own bumps and bruises in the aftermath.

    "I feel like s--t, but I've also never been better," he said. "This is no shape for a winner to be in."

    It was Chikadze's first loss in eight UFC appearances and just the seventh time he went past the first round in 17 career bouts. Kattar, meanwhile, upped his UFC mark to 7-3 and won for the third time in his fourth career five-rounder.

    "They all counted me out this fight, but like I've been saying, as long as you believe in yourself, that's all that matters," he said. "I knew what I had. I think everyone else is learning how good I am. He was a great opponent to test my skills against and prove I belong at the top of the division."

Winner: A Unique Prototype

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    Make no mistake, Jake Collier won't win a lot of bodybuilding contests.

    But the middleweight-turned-light heavyweight-turned-heavyweight is winning fights nevertheless.

    A 264-pounder with speed and head movement that bely his fleshy frame, Collier earned the fastest finish on Saturday night with a submission victory over Chase Sherman in their scheduled three-rounder.

    "I didn't think I was going to go for the finish," he said. "But it is what it is."

    The two combatants combined for better than 510 pounds and came out exchanging predictably heavy strikes, but the decisive sequence began when Sherman attempted a body kick with his left leg. Collier caught the kick and pressed forward to drive Sherman to the mat, landed a series of punishing elbows as his foe squirmed to escape and then took his back and locked in a rear-naked choke.

    Sherman quickly tapped, drawing a wave-off from Herb Dean at 2:26 of the first.

    "It's not my style, but I told my coach that if he went for a kick, I was going to catch it," said Collier, who evened his UFC record at 5-5 and pushed his career mark to 13-6. "Chase is a warrior. I knew he was going to come out with all guns blazing."

    Sherman dropped to a combined 3-8 in two UFC stints, losing his third straight fight and fourth by finish.

    "He caught the kick, forced him down and went to work," ESPN's Michael Bisping said. "That simple."

Winner: Doubling Down on a Result

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    Perhaps title shots can be better the second time around.

    At least that's what flyweight veteran Katlyn Chookagian will be hoping.

    The 33-year-old from the northern suburbs of Philadelphia was KO'd by 125-pound champion Valentina Shavchenko when the two met at UFC 247 in early 2020.

    The championship bout came three months after Chookagian had dispatched contender Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision, a task she accomplished once again Saturday night when the two met in a rematch in the main card's third bout.

    Now ranked second at flyweight, Chookagian swept all three scorecards by 30-27 margins after out-landing her foe across each five-minute session, scoring the fight's lone takedown in the first round and working well from the outside as the fourth-ranked Brazilian pressed for a late finish.

    "I'm really happy," Chookagian said. "I've been trying a lot of new things."

    The winner is 4-1 since her title-shot loss, and she pitched for another high-profile bout in the aftermath as Maia fell to 2-2 since the first Chookagian duel and 1-1 since her own loss to Shevchenko at UFC 255.

    "The goal is always to be UFC champ," Chookagian said. "If there's any girls left in the top 10 that I haven't fought, line them up and I'll fight them."

Loser: Having Krause in the Corner

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    Sometimes, it's just not your night.

    Though James Krause is one of the UFC's highest-profile trainers—in addition to being one of its most successful fighters—it's no guarantee that alignment with him guarantees success.

    The Missouri-based coach was in the corner for four of the first five fights on Saturday's show, but three of his charges made the walk back to the locker room after seeing the other fighter's hand raised.

    Team Krause representative Brown took two of three rounds from late sub Rosa to earn a slim unanimous decision in the card's first fight, but teammates Croom, Joseph Holmes and Dakota Bush subsequently came out on the short end, including Bush in the night's first finish.

    A 27-year-old who makes a three-hour drive to train with Krause at Glory MMA & Fitness, the frenetic Bush came out strong against Russian export Viacheslav Borshchev, scoring two takedowns and racking up 90 seconds of control time in the fight's initial three minutes. 

    He had held his own on his feet and landed 11 significant strikes, but the fight ended in a blink when Borshchev landed a devastating shot to the liver that instantly rendered Bush defenseless.

    He crumpled to the ground in a fetal position and took four more strikes until Dean intervened at 3:47 of the first, leaving Bush 8-4 in his pro career and 0-2 in the UFC.

    Borshchev, who celebrated with a mid-cage break dance session, won his Octagonal debut after graduating from Dana White's Contender Series in October.

Winner: Veterans on the Newcomer Stage

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    Preliminary cards are frequently a stage for young talent to emerge.

    But in Saturday's case, it was much more about the veterans.

    The fighters with more UFC fights had their hands raised three times on the evening portion of the show, including 37-year-old Court McGee and 35-year-old Kelleher at welterweight and featherweight, respectively.

    McGee swept all three scorecards in a brutal three-round schooling of 29-year-old Ramiz Brahimaj, more than doubling his foe's landed strikes and racking up nearly 11 minutes of ground control time.

    Meanwhile, Kelleher's bout with fill-in foe Croom was far more a competitive contest, with Kelleher succeeding with a grappling approach while Croom attempted to hold his own with his fists. Turns out Kelleher was able to do more, taking down his man six times and spending nearly half the 15 minutes of fight time with ground control to offset Croom's 83-67 edge in overall strikes.

    He earned a 29-28 edge on one scorecard and 30-27 margins on two others.

    The win was McGee's ninth in 18 UFC bouts, and Kelleher's was his eighth in 13 UFC tries.

    Also winning from the veteran's position was 33-year-old middleweight Jamie Pickett, who took 29-28 nods on all three scorecards and improved to 2-2 in the UFC against Octagonal newcomer Joseph Holmes.

    Pickett landed five fewer overall strikes than Holmes (54-59) but executed the bout's only two takedowns and actually out-landed Holmes in the second and third rounds.

    Lightweight Brown was the lone fighter with less UFC experience to win, defeating late sub Rosa by a unanimous decision that saw him win two of three rounds on all three scorecards.

    Brown has two wins in four UFC fights compared to Rosa's 5-7 mark.

UFC on ESPN 32 Full Card Results

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    Main Card

    Calvin Kattar def. Giga Chikadze by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-44).

    Jake Collier def. Chase Sherman by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:26, Round 1.

    Brandon Royval def. Rogerio Bontorin by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

    Katlyn Chookagian def. Jennifer Maia by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

    Viacheslav Borshchev def. Dakota Bush by KO (punch), 3:47, Round 1.

    Bill Algeo def. Joanderson Brito by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).


    Preliminary Card

    Jamie Pickett def. Joseph Holmes by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

    Court McGee def. Ramiz Brahimaj by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

    Brian Kelleher def. Kevin Croom by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).

    TJ Brown def. Charles Rosa by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).