UFC Fight Island 1: Calvin Kattar vs Dan Ige Preview

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Official UFC Fight Night Poster

Intro

Following on from the huge success of UFC 251, fight fans have another sumptuous fight night card to look forward to just four days later.  UFC 251 and “Fight Island” lived up to the hype and closed in on nearly 1.5 million PPV buys.  The sport has brought in thousands of new fans during the pandemic and the prospect of Kattar (#6) and Ige (#10) throwing down will likely increase that number further. 

This fight has so much to offer.  Both Kattar and Ige have had terrific runs over the last three years and this fight comes at a great time for the pair.  They’ve also improved with every minute spent inside the Octagon over the course.  This is an exciting potential title-contented eliminator with two guys reaching the peaks of their prime.

Kattar Background

Kattar has become a real fan-favorite over the last several years.  He’s beautiful to watch, he’s been involved in multiple wars, he has zero quit and has been knocking people dead in the process.  He’s also got four TKO/KO finishes in his last 6, but, strangely, it was his decision loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov that really got people talking about him.  Now, at 21-4, coming off a devastating finish over UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens, he knows a win over Ige would place him firmly in contention for eventual title talks.

OIP
Zabit and Kattar exchange blows. Photo by Getty Images

Despite the deserved hype around Kattar, he’s got a tough test in Ige.  Ige is someone that flies under the radar because of his calm personal demeanor, but he’s not to be taken lightly.  That said, Kattar perhaps deserved a crack at a top contender because of his recent run.  But, Kattar is as game as they come and took this fight without question, which will only continue to build his brand.  With knockouts over Shane Brugos, Ricardo Lamas, and Jeremy Stephens, he’ll look to add Ige to his already impressive resume.  Particularly as Ige has never been finished in his MMA career.  

Kattar is known to have the “prettiest hands in the sport”, so he’ll hopefully look to put on a show for us fans once again.

Ige Background

As already mentioned, Ige has flown under the radar in the UFC thus far.  Ige carries himself very well professionally, and in a division of killers, he’s been quietly going about his business.  And with great success. While he may not have the excitement factor that Kattar has, he’s on a 6-fight win streak and just put in his best performance against Edson Barboza.  He won a razor-close contest but showed he has the capabilities to hang with the best in the sport. 

Ige lands a heavy right on Barboza. Photo by: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports

Ige is a well-rounded mixed martial artist.  He can take the fight wherever it needs to go, has high fight IQ and has never been finished in his 16-fight career.  Ige is also only 28, and at 14-2, a win over Kattar would be massive for him to continue his surge up the Featherweight rankings.  One major difference between the two is that Ige has relied mostly on decisions throughout.  This may work in his favor, however, as Kattar’s only losses in the last three years have been two decisions.  If he can outpoint Kattar and stick to his game plan, he could upset the bookmakers.

Fight Breakdown

This is a contest between two very different fighters.  Kattar has developed scary KO power later on in his career.  At 32, his recent run has been reminiscent of Robbie Lawler’s late resurgence.  He hasn’t just finished people; he’s put their lights out and looks a threat at all times.  He has some of the best boxing in the sport and sets himself up to land those KO shots with that foundation.  Just like he did against Stephens when he landed THAT elbow.  He sticks and moves, he’s a precision striker and is super aggressive when he senses an opening.  He also has the defensive prowess to not be lured into a brawl. 

Kattar has also faced tougher competition.  Despite the loss against Zabit, the defeat was a close decision that many argued he should’ve won.  He landed more strikes against a terrifying striker in Zabit and had him hurt on several occasions.  His boxing and Muay Thai looked terrific and he was able to control the range against Zabit, who is one of the longest featherweights in the sport.  Additionally, the experience gained against the likes of Ricardo Lamas and Moicano’s caliber gives him the edge.

Ige, on the other hand, was slightly fortunate to have his hand raised against Barboza.  While he looked phenomenal against his toughest test to date, it was a controversial decision.  That said, in a fight that largely took place on the feet, Ige looked very well out together technically.  Against one of the most feared strikers in the UFC to boot.  He matched Barboza blow-for-blow and announced himself as a genuine threat in a stacked Featherweight roster. 

Ige lands an elbow of his own against Barboza. Photo by: Jasen Vinlov, USA TODAY Sports

It may not be in Ige’s best interests to showcase his striking against Kattar though.  Ige is a BJJ blackbelt and a Judo brown belt with a wrestling background.  If he can get the fight to the ground, he certainly holds a clear advantage.  Five of Ige’s eight finishes have come via submission.  This is an area of Kattar’s game that Ige has got to try and exploit. Being lured into a striking contest is not advisable against Kattar.  Particularly for one’s health…

Fight Prediction

This will likely be a standup contest.  Kattar does a great job of staying just on the outside which will make things difficult for Ige to get the fight to the mat.  He then closes distance rapidly and efficiently, which will make it even more difficult for Ige to assert his will.  Kattar is also much taller with a four-inch height advantage over Ige.  Kattar can rely heavily on his dynamite hands. He won’t need to throw many kicks, which removes the element of being taken down when trying to go to the legs. 

Kattar has become incredibly difficult to predict too.  He throws constant feints which tend to lead to his opponents dropping their hands.  He then capitalizes rapidly as seen against Burgos and Lamas.  Like most great boxers, he sets his combinations up with his jab, then level-changes and attacks the body, then goes back to the head.  He throws 2-4 punch combinations with ease and his straight right and uppercuts are lethal.  And once he has someone hurt, he follows up with violent ground and pound.  That often results in giving referees no other option but to stop the fight. 

Ige is much more traditional in his striking, but he’ll need to ensure he mixes in his wrestling.  He found success against Barboza when he eventually got him down.  This is where many believe he stole the round and ultimately the fight.  Once he had him down, he was able to control Barboza and had his moments with solid ground and pound. 

Barboza is also similar in height and reach to Kattar, so Ige likely wouldn’t have had to change much during his camp.  However, Kattar is far more aggressive and has much more power in his hands.  Ige will have to get in and out of range quickly.  This is a tough ask against someone as mobile and quick on their feet as Kattar.  Ige has a big advantage in grappling and will need to try and make this as ugly as possible to ensure Kattar doesn’t settle into his groove.

As alluded to previously, Kattar holds the clear advantage in speed, power and technical striking.  While Ige is far from a slouch on the feet, he must disengage and steer clear of standing in the centerline.  If he can engage in the clinch, tire Kattar out up against the fence and work to take Kattar down, This is where Ige has the best chance of victory.  He cannot get caught in a firefight with Kattar and needs to wear him down.  Unfortunately for Ige, no one has really succeeded in doing so against Kattar thus far. 

Pick

Kattar will likely be too much for Ige to handle.  Ige has never really fought anyone with Kattar’s boxing capabilities and will have to avoid trading with him.  And while Ige has a strong wrestling base, Kattar has shown good TD defense so he can’t be reliant on that either.  Overall, Kattar will likely be able to keep this on the feet and he may be the first man to finish Ige in MMA.

Official Pick: Kattar via TKO (Round 3)


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