Following a stacked and commercially successful card this past Saturday night, the UFC keeps the events rolling on Fight Island. Wednesday’s event live and free on ESPN will be headlined by featherweights Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige. Let’s dive in for what you can expect:
The main event of the evening will be between rising featherweight contenders as Boston’s Calvin Kattar (21-4 Career, 5-2 UFC) squares up against Hawaii native Dan Ige (14-2 Career, 6-1 UFC). While these two aren’t household names quite yet. A win here, especially in dramatic fashion, can mean major championship implications for the victor.
This will not be Kattar’s first post-COVID scrap. He was on the main card of UFC 249 in Jacksonville, where he made a statement in the UFC’s return event by knocking out veteran Jeremy Stephens in dramatic fashion.
Currently, the UFC has him ranked 6th in the world, having gone 3-1 in his last 4 fights. His only loss in that run was against top contender Zabit Magomedsharipov. This fight was only three rounds, and with Kattar surging at the end of the fight, some suggested that two more rounds would have been all he needed to knock off the Russian standout.
Across from him Wednesday will be the dangerous Dan Ige, who is on a six fight win streak, and has not lost since a close decision in his UFC debut in early 2018.
It isn’t just that he is on a hot streak, it’s the dangers of the opponents he’s beaten. Kevin Aguilar was 17-1 when Ige defeated him, and in his next fight he was able to grind out a decision against the grueling Mersad Bektic.
Most recently, Ige welcomed lightweight human highlight reel Edson Barboza down to 145 lbs, where Ige found himself victorious again.
Both featherweights in the main event know that a win, specifically in decisive fashion, can cement their place in the top 5 and make themselves a candidate to face champion Alexander Volkanovski next.
How do I see it playing out?
If this isn’t the first preview you’ve read of mine, you have probably heard me reference the term “striker vs. grappler matchup” before. Kattar vs Ige definitely fits in that category.
Ige is a high level black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under 4th degree black belt Jeff Doner, who is the face of BJJ in Hawaii. 11 of 14 of Ige’s wins are by submission or decision. His goal – take you to deep water and strangle you.
Calvin Kattar is on the opposite end of the MMA spectrum. He wants to stand right in front of his opponent, take punches and deliver them back with knockout power. Kattar has won the majority of his fights by knockout, and has never been knocked out himself.
I do not think this bout will end quickly. I think both fighters are going to be going through a gritty affair that either ends late or goes to a decision. The way Kattar was able to neutralize great grapplers like Chris Fishgold and Ricardo Lamas, I think the burden will be on Ige to prove he can get this fight where he wants it.
Unfortunately with Frankie Edgar v Pedro Munoz being postponed, moving to the co-main is still the thrilling affair of tough veteran Tim Elliott (15-11-1 Career, 4-9 UFC) taking on Ryan Benoit (10-6 Career, 3-4 UFC).
This is a pretty bizarre matchup for a co-main event even for a mid week cable tv card. I’m not mad at it, but I would have never guessed this fight to be in this position on the card a month ago. I’m thinking the UFC knew the capability of this fight being chaotic and a back and forth war to entertain the masses.
Fans most likely know Tim Elliott for winning the reality series The Ultimate Fighter Season 24. The UFC had this wacky fucking idea where whoever won the season would not only earn a UFC contract, but actually fight for a UFC Title immediately against pound for pound king at the time – Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Believe it or not, Elliott held his own, but lost a decision.
Recently, it’s been a tough road for Elliott. He has dropped 4 of his last 5 fights, but it is important to know that those 4 losses were against the best the UFC can offer at flyweight.
Benoit is another fight in the same boat as Elliott. He is 2-3 in his last 5 fights, but that includes a split decision loss to Tijuana’s monster Brandon Moreno. He’s never been knocked out, and holds upset wins over Sergio Pettis and Ashkan Mokhtarian.
How it will go
Predicting the outcome is tricky, but I am confident that whatever happens, it is going to be wild. I think both fighters know that a boring fight in their current stage of their career could cost them their contract, and both men will go for broke, as they usually do, for all three rounds.
Wouldn’t assume there is going to be a stoppage in this one, but I’m going to predict one, and it will be courtesy of Benoit who has won 8-10 wins by KO.
Fighters to Watch
Abdul Razak Alhassan
Following a nearly two year absence from MMA due to a legal battle in which he was acquitted on all charges, fight fans will witness the return of Ghanaian wrecking machine Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-1 Career, 4-1 UFC).
If you haven’t seen him before, Alhassan is terrifying. Besides his lone loss, a split decision with top ranked Omari Akhmedov, Alhassan has won all 10 career fights by first round knockout. His most recent appearance in September 2018 was a 43 second mauling of top welterweight Niko Price.
He unfortunately missed weight for tomorrow’s fight against Mounir Lazzez (9-1 Career, 0-0 UFC), which I suppose is to be expected when a fighter has been out so long. But Alhassan vs a fighter making their UFC debut? Don’t blink – it could get crazy.
To be perfectly honest, hype is what really drove me to put Khamzat Chimaev (6-0 Career, 0-0 UFC) on my list of fighters to watch here. I’ve heard excellent things about him, and have tremendous curiosity on how he will look Wednesday.
Chimaev has been described as the best welterweight prospect in Europe in 2019. He has won all six fights by finish, and will be fighting up at middleweight in his UFC debut.
He hasn’t been given a free pass. He will be fighting John Phillips (22-9 Career, 1-3 UFC), a Welsh power puncher with UFC experience and coming off a win.
I am excited for the hype train to arrive for the last fight on the prelims. From what I have seen of Chimaev, his well rounded approach should serve him well.
Main Card (7pm PST, ESPN)
Calvin Kattar def. Dan Ige (KO)
Ryan Benoit def. Tim Elliot (KO)
Jimmy Rivera def. Cody Stamann (CLOSE decision)
Molly McCann def. Talia Santos (Decision)
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Mounir Lazzez (KO)
Prelims (4pm PST, ESPN)
Khazmat Chimaev def. John Phillips (Submission)
Lerone Murphy def. Ricardo Ramos (KO)
Modestas Bukauskas def. Andreas Michailidis (KO)
Chris Fishgold def. Jared Gordon (Submission)
Liana Jojua def. Diana Belbita (Decision)
Jack Shore def. Aaron Phillips (Submission)