Sunday, May 22, 2022

UFC Vegas 35: Barboza vs. Chikadze Preview/Prediction

Fast-twitch strikers will meet in the middle of the Octagon on Saturday night as Giga Chikadze and Edson Barboza look to make their featherweight ascent.

After a turbulent string of losses in the 155-pound weight class, the hard-kicking Brazilian moved down in weight to hunt gold in a different division. The two featherweights will throw down inside of a relatively quiet UFC Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. Make no mistake, when punches and kicks go flying, the Apex will be anything but quiet when the main event is underway.

In addition, UFC Vegas 35 will crown the winners of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Volkanovski vs. Team Ortega on ESPN+, where both 135-pound and 185-pound winners will be awarded UFC contracts and the title of “The Ultimate Fighter”.

Barboza made his featherweight debut in May of 2020 against Dan “50K” Ige. The newly-minted featherweight Barboza lost by a controversial split decision to the Hawaiian striker in Jacksonville, Florida. While Chikadze has had more featherweight fights in the UFC, Barboza will bring the edge in experience when the two meet. Despite losing in some pivotal outings, Barboza has mixed it up with the best, having faced the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.

Following what many perceived as a win for Barboza, the 35-year old bounced back from the official loss with his first featherweight win on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. The former lightweight was paired with Makwan Amirkhani and won the fight by a unanimous decision victory. After his win over “Mr. Finland,” Barboza sent shockwaves through the 145-pound weight class when he cracked Shane Burgos with a debilitating right hook to end the fight in round three.

In the lead-up to UFC Vegas 35 with Georgia’s Chikadze, “Junior” has been adamant that if Chikadze chooses to stand and trade, that it will more than likely lead to his demise. Since Barboza tends to operate with an orthodox stance, Giga Chikadze’s liver kick will be readily available more than if he were facing a southpaw fighter. This tendency is underlined in his wrecking of perennial contender Cub Swanson with his signature “Giga Kick”.

Making his UFC debut back in 2019, Chikadze hammered his way into the top-10 of the featherweight rankings. Of the Georgian’s thirteen professional wins, eight of those have resulted in a TKO or knockout. Focused on scoring the finish, the 33-year old is an imposing striker to prepare for. In the fight against Swanson, “Giga” kept the outside distance to establish his kicking efficacy early. Chikadze cloaks his liver kick by prodding with his power leg, after he goes high a few times, the Georgian adjusts and starts launching liver kicks to catch the opponent off guard.

The fight has the makings to be a slugfest and both are brimming with confidence as we inch closer to fight night. In fact, Chikadze is so sure of his own striking ability that he believes he will turn Barboza into a wrestler. In particular, the 33-year old indicates that his pressure will force the Brazilian to shoot for takedowns. With an eight-fight win streak intact, there is a fair amount on the line for both fighters to make something big happen Saturday night.

Chikadze and Barboza like to stand and trade, so it will be telling if either advance for a takedown. Barboza has a good eye for managing distance, a useful tool in what many believe will be a striking battle. As the pair of strikers like to offer up offense methodically, there might be a feeling-out process at first. Rest assured, Barboza and Chikadze both put forth an active pace so if the striking is close, conditioning will play a major role in who emerges victorious at UFC Vegas 35.

Prediction: Edson Barboza def. Giga Chikadze by knockout round 3 (high kick)

Who do you think will walk away with the victory at UFC Vegas 35?

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