Tonight’s main event between top 10 ranked featherweights, Edson Barboza and Giga Chikadze, has the potential to be the fight of the year. Yes, fight of the year. That is how incredibly talented and entertaining both fighters are. Furthermore, they each fight similar to the other (elite kickboxing) so we likely won’t see one or the other have to resort to their secondary skillset. When you get two elite fighters together in the octagon, especially strikers like this, you’re not going to want to miss a second.
Barboza has great size and power for a featherweight. His 13 professional knockouts highlight his power but don’t do it justice. His kicks crack like thunder and his punches are lightning quick. Despite being 35, Barboza still has high-end cardio which allows him to move around the cage fluidly while keeping up a high output. Defensively, his movement makes him difficult to hit cleanly; but, when his opponent lands, historically, he can be rocked. Recently though, Barboza has been on an impressive resurgence where he’s looked great in all areas of the fight.
Chikadze entered the UFC in 2019 with back-to-back split decision wins. In those fights, he seemed to almost toy with his opponents, not pressing forward with any urgency. Then, he evolved and landed more output in his next two fights to earn unanimous decision wins. Finally, he’s won with first-round knockouts in his next two fights. The last of which, Giga “Giga-kicked” Swanson’s liver for the finish. Chikadze is a top-tier kickboxer who seems to fight better when facing better competition. Similar to how iron sharpens iron, as Chikadze has fought up the rankings, he’s only performed better. Regardless of the opponent, the Gorgonian pushes a high pace, is a solid athlete, moves fluidly, and can kick like crazy. His style and skill are similar to Barboza which is what makes this matchup so intriguing.
Barboza vs. Chikadze prediction
This fight should deliver on its high expectations. Because of that, picking a winner is difficult.
Both Chikadze and Barboza are assassins on the feet with the skill and variety to challenge for a title down the line. Barboza hasn’t been finished since Gaethje, one of the most powerful fighters in the UFC, in 2019. But, his age and chin might be in question. I haven’t seen any evidence recently to support it; but, 3 KO/TKO losses is a data point worth considering.
On the other side, Chikadze has not shown a weakness in the UFC. I am not saying he is flawless; however, we just don’t know what his weakness is yet. That means Barboza likely doesn’t either. His only real question is how he handles a step up in competition, again. He could answer the bell or fold to the pressure. From everything I’ve seen, I expect the former.
I think it is going to be an exciting technical war and could go either direction; but, I am ever so slightly picking Chikadze here.
Prediction: Chikadze to win