UFC On ESPN 32 kicks off the promotion’s 2022 fight schedule tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze
Kattar came into 2021 high on confidence after back-to-back victories in the previous year, but was then badly beaten up over five rounds courtesy of a striking clinic from Max Holloway and then perhaps wisely sat out and recovered for the rest of the year.
It’s perhaps a little cruel then that upon his return to action Kattar finds himself going up against another striking standout in Chikadze, who has gone 7-0 in the promotion so far and is coming of TKO’s of two other talented veterans in Cub Swanson and Edson Barboza.
Chikadze was actually a high-level kickboxer before turning his attention to MMA and it’s proven to be a successful transition for him, with his speed, power in both his kicks and punches and calculated precision in the heat of battle making him a fearsome opponent.
Kattar is a good striker in his own right though, operating from a boxing base and possessing heavy hands that have to be respected, along with being very durable and having good cardio.
Nevertheless, I think Chikadze is in that elite striking category that Kattar is going to struggle to match and will prove to be more slick, explosive and composed while also having a significant advantage with his kicking game, which will lead him to a decision victory.
Pick: Giga Chikadze wins by decision.
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
This is a somewhat curious rematch in that they fought before in 2019 with Chookagian earning a unanimous decision victory and there hasn’t really been much of a push for them to run it back again since.
Nevertheless, they are closely ranked, with Chookagian currently the no.2 contender after going 3-2 since their last fight, while Maia is No.4 after going 2-1, including each having had an unsuccessful attempt to defeat dominant champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Stylistically it doesn’t feel like much has changed from the last time they met, with Chookagian continuing to successfully frustrate opponents with her high-volume kickboxing from range, which sees her opts to stay active constantly, even if her output isn’t always the most effective.
It’s proven to be an effective way to keep opponents at bay and while Maia has relatively solid muay thai, I think that technically she will struggle to navigate her way into range and match Chookagian’s output, and it’ll also prevent her from being able to bring the fight to the mat, which is where she’s at her best via submission.
So I think this will end up looking similar to their last outing with Chookagian again managing to outstrike and outwork Maia to claim a decision win.
Pick: Katlyn Chookagian wins by decision.
Rogerio Bontorin vs. Brandon Royval
After back-to-back losses, Bontorin ended last year on a better note with a decision win over Matt Schnell, while back in September of 2020 Royval was coming off four submissions in a row, but has since lost two fights in a row by TKO and submission respectively.
Despite his recent losses, Royval remains a talented fighter. He’s the lankier of the two here, being 4″ taller than Bontorin, though only have 1″ extra in reach. He fights aggressively on the feet with kicks and punches from range, but also blends in spinning attacks that make him more fluid and unpredictable.
Despite that he’s not a big finisher on the feet, but on the mat it’s a different story as he’s a good scrambler and crafty submission specialist, which accounts for a high percentage of his career victories to date.
Bontorin is the shorter, stockier fighter and he doesn’t fight at the same tempo as Royval, instead looking to load up on one or two big power punches at a time. He’s a strong grappler though and can control opponents on the mat and has a good record of submitting opponents frequently on the regional scene, though he’s not yet replicated that in his five fights in the UFC so far.
This is a nicely matched fight, but I think it’s one where Royval’s higher workrate and output should serve him well on the feet, while he should also be able to stay out from under Bontorin on the mat for the most part on his way to a decision victory.
Pick: Brandon Royval wins by decision.
Jake Collier vs. Chase Sherman
Neither of these two heavyweight has made a significant impact in the UFC so far, with Collier having gone 4-5, while Sherman has a 3-7 record spread out over two runs in the promotion.
Collier actually used to fight at middleweight, but has piled on the pounds in recent years and certainly doesn’t look like an athlete with his portly frame these days. Nevertheless he does still fight with a high-volume style for the weight class and moves relatively well for his size, though without carrying a great deal of power.
Sherman is also a surprisingly volume-heavy striker for a heavyweight and his frame is more naturally suited to the division and he has more finishing power, but he’s not defensively sound and can be hit more often than he should.
So we can expect to see a lot of fists flying here and if it goes the distance Collier might edge it, but I think the fact that he is essentially a blown-up middleweight who has been stopped by strikes before even in that weight class will cost him here, with Sherman’s power advantage leading him to a second round stoppage victory.
Pick: Chase Sherman wins by TKO in Rd2.
Bill Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito
Algeo first arrived in the UFC as a late replacement and performed well despite losing, and has gone 1-2 overall in the Octagon so far, while Brito makes his debut after winning 12 fights in a row, including a victory on the Contender Series.
These are two hard-nosed competitors who will bring the action from the opening bell. Algeo is more technical on the feet and will look to implement high-volume attacks rather than just going for a big finish and he has the deeper gas tank here too.
Brito is the shorter fighter, giving up 4″ in height to Algeo, but he’s only losing an inch in reach and is the stronger, more athletic fighter of the two.
Brito is something of a wildman on the feet and will close the distance winging big power punches and he can finish fights that way, though he’ll also look for opportunities to land slamming takedowns in order to set up his good submission game.
Algeo can handle himself on the mat fairly well and does possess a submission threat too, but he can be taken down a little too easily and there is a risk he’ll be outmuscled in the grappling exchanges.
Brito’s somewhat reckless style concerns me, but I’m still going to pick him here to get the better of the early rounds, though Algeo’s durability and cardio may well make the final five minutes interesting.
Pick: Joanderson Brito wins by decision.
Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Court McGee
Gabriel Benitez vs. TJ Brown
Viacheslav Borshchev vs. Dakota Bush
Saidyokub Kakhramonov vs. Brian Kelleher
Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez
Joseph Holmes vs. Jamie Pickett