Giga Chikadze was there to prove a point in his first UFC main event. Facing one of the sports legends at Edson Barboza on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Chikadze flaunted his punching prowess and stopped Barboza in the third round after a flurry of punches. The former kickboxing star is officially a featherweight one to watch and has title aspirations with a legend after the Max Holloway fight.
Ahead of Chikadze’s performance, two new Ultimate Fighter Champions were crowned in Bryan Battle and Ricky Turcios, and Daniel Rodriguez continued his welterweight run with a victory over Kevin Lee. What’s the cap for Rodriguez, who entered this fight on just two weeks’ notice?
When Abdul Razak Alhassan returned to the UFC after a two-year absence, he didn’t pick up where he left off. After losing his last three fights, Alhassan had to find a way to defeat Alessio Di Chirico, and in just 17 seconds he did. With a knockout header, Alhassan returned to the limelight.
What have we learned from UFC Fight Night? Jeff Wagenheim, Brett Okamoto and Morgan Mularski react to another busy night in Las Vegas.
It’s time to stop doubting Giga Chikadze
Wagenheim: Giga Chikadze entered Saturday’s main event as the winner of eight consecutive fights. And yet, he had something to prove.
What he did.
Any doubts about the 33-year-old Georgian based on the level of competition he had faced since joining the UFC in September 2019 were cleared that night, as Chikadze was in the cage with one of the top forwards. of MMA. Before the fight against Edson Barboza, Chikadze, a longtime kickboxer and former Muay Thai world champion, had boldly asserted that he, and not Barboza or anyone else, was the best forward in the game.
Has he proven that this is the case? He showed up in a different class from Barboza, which is amazing in itself. Other than a short period in the second round when Barboza gained momentum, it was Chikadze’s fight the entire way. He was faster, busier, harder to hit and more diverse with his attacks, and in the end he had the power and finishing precision to knock out the Brazilian with punches at 1 minute, 44 seconds from the third. .
Still, there are other forwards, even there in the featherweight division, who will challenge Chikadze’s claim. Max Holloway comes to mind, and he’s not alone. We might actually get our answer soon, as Chikadze called Holloway in his post-fight interview.
The bigger question is how Chikadze will fare now that he’s squeezed into the outskirts of the 145-pound competitors. Fighters like Holloway and champion Alexander Volkanovski have the diverse skills to grab onto the feet of an elite striker and take him out of his comfort zone on the canvas. How will Chikadze do once he’s with a more experienced grappler? This remains to be determined. But damn it, is it going to be fun watching this next Chikadze test play out.
Daniel Rodriguez could be your new favorite fighter
Okamoto: So I’m not ready to say that our man D-Rod is ready to stage a UFC championship. I don’t know yet how he will fare against the top of the welterweight division. To be clear, I’m not the one doubting him, I really don’t know yet. He’s legit and entertaining, but can he beat guys like Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, Leon Edwards? No idea yet.
Finally, we’ll find out. But in the meantime, Rodriguez is set to have a job with the UFC for as long as he wants. He’s talented and he’s entertaining. He has a boastful air and a bravado towards him. He took Saturday’s fight on short notice, against a potentially tough style clash in Kevin Lee, and he won the fight with a very appealing mix of martial arts skills and good old-fashioned alpha mentality.
Rodriguez is a fighter. It exudes a lot from him. And if it turns out he can beat the best at 170 pounds, the UFC has a seriously marketable contender on its hands.
Welcome back, Abdul Razak Alhassan
Mularski: Seventeen seconds were all it took to return to the UFC spotlight that Alhassan once possessed. Not only was Alhassan’s header the knockout, it also made history as the UFC’s fastest header. The power of Alhassan is no joke.
Alhassan’s 11 wins come through first-round knockout, including five in the UFC. He joins Vicente Luque and Tai Tuivasa, who have also finished five times in the UFC first round since 2016 (but behind Francis Ngannou, who has seven KOs / TKOs). Alhassan became the seventh UFC fighter to score three knockouts in a minute or less.
It was exactly the result he needed after a three-game losing streak. In fact, he was an underdog for the first time in his nine career UFC fights. It’s funny to say that the power and patience he showed in 17 seconds was the perfect combo, but it’s true. It’s clear his new camp increased his explosiveness, and I think Alhassan even surprised himself with another quick finish.
“I had no intention of finishing it in the first round, I came here to dominate for the 15 minutes,” he said.
Alhassan has always been an exciting fighter to watch, and this knockout will be hard to beat. So welcome back to the spotlight, Alhassan. You have our attention.