*This originally was posted on January 14, 2022

It’s the first card of 2022 and we’re starting the year off with an action-packed headliner between two top featherweight contenders Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze. Not only that, on the main card we’ve got the first big women’s fight of the year; a rematch between top flyweight contenders Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia. Just after that, the men’s flyweight division is also on display with top contenders Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin. Other exciting bouts include a heavyweight matchup between Chase Sherman and Jake Collier in the co-main as well as the UFC debut of two DWCS alumni., ‘Slava’ Borshchev and Joanderson Brito. All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and features BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds.

Main Card (4:00 PM PST)

Joanderson Brito vs. Bill Algeo

BET99 Odds

Brito: -137 Algeo: +110

Over 2.5: -158 Under 2.5: +122

The main card is opening up with two fighters that are fairly new to UFC audiences. Brito was recently featured on the Contender Series where he won by a technical decision. He looked very impressive throughout the bout, but I distinctly remember this fight due to his blatant eye pokes (which is what led to that technical decision). On the other side, Algeo is 1-2 in his UFC career so far with a win over Spike Carlyle and losses to Ramos and Lamas. Algeo is 6 years older and brings minimal 2 inch reach advantage.

Although I’m not a fan of Brito’s eyepokes, there’s no denying that he looked incredible on DWCS and is fairly large for the division. Algeo just hasn’t looked all that impressive, so it seems likely that Brito will win this one. I’m predicting it’ll likely end by decision as Algeo hasn’t been finished since his first few fights in his career, but Brito could break that streak if he uses his power and skill on the ground to get a finish.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Brito by Decision

Dakota Bush vs. Viacheslav Borshchev

BET99 Odds

Bush: +160 Borshchev: -200

Over 2.5: +128 Under 2.5: -163

Originally scheduled as a prelim, this was moved up to the main card today (Thursday) after some late week cancellations and movement. Bush has only got 1 fight in the UFC and it was loss earlier last year to Austin Hubbard by a decision. Borshchev is brand new to the UFC, just winning his contract on the Contender Series with an impressive 2nd Round TKO win. Physically speaking, Bush has a slight 4 inch edge in reach and is a few years younger.

This seems tight on paper, but, in spite of the slight physical differences, appears to lean in the direction of Borshchev. He had 3 KO/TKO finishes in 2021 so he has the clear edge in momentum and looked very impressive on DWCS. It’s tough to pick between two fighters that are new to the UFC (which is why it’s strange this is on the main card), but I will be riding with the momentum of ‘Slava Claus’.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Borshchev by Decision

Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia

BET99 Odds

Chookagian: -184 Maia: +145

Over 2.5: -375 Under 2.5: +275

Originally scheduled as the co-main, we’ve got the first big women’s fight of the year between the number 2 contender, Katlyn Chookagian, and the number 4 contender Jennifer Maia. Chookagian has been on a rampage in the flyweight division the past few years with wins over Calvillo, Araujo and a win over her current opponent. Her only losses the past few years have come to the champ, Shevchenko, and the number 1 contender, Jessica Andrade. Maia has been having an impressive few years as well with wins over Jessica Eye and Joanne Wood since her loss to Chookagian. She also made it to the final bell with Shevchenko just a little over a year ago which, if you’ve seen Valentina fight, that’s pretty impressive.

In their last meeting, Chookagian won by unanimous decision. Being that this fight was just over two years ago, the safe bet is that Chookagian will likely edge ahead by decision once again. It should also be noted that she has a slight reach advantage over Maia. That being said, these two women are very close in skill and both have the potential to win this fight; this is gonna be a good one.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Chookagian by Decision

Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin

BET99 Odds

Royval: -172 Bontorin: +140

Over 2.5: +150 Under 2.5: -193

After watching the big boys, we go straight to the smallest guys, the flyweights. On the one side you’ve got Brandon Royval who’s ranked 5th, on the other, Bontorin. Although he fought his last one up at bantamweight, Bontorin is still ranked 7th in the flyweight division. Royval is on a 2 fight losing streak, but you have to consider the fact that those two losses were to the current champ, Brandon Moreno, and the number 3 ranked Pantoja. As for Bontorin, he won his fight at bantamweight, but lost to Kai Kara-France and Ray Borg before that.

As expected between a number 5 and number 7 contender, this should be a tightly contested fight. Although Royval has lost his last two, it was to two of the best in the division. He also has a 3 inch reach advantage which may help in such a small division. Since Royval is an expert on the ground, we could see a submission win, but Bontorin is also skilled on the ground. This kind of matchup usually leads to a standup fight. I would imagine that Royval will use the experience from the last two fights to win by decision OR he’ll be able to overwhelm Bontorin on the ground and get a finish there.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Royval by Decision

Co-Main Event

Chase Sherman vs. Jake Collier

BET99 Odds

Sherman: +110 Collier: -134

Over 2.5: -172 Under 2.5: +133

In the co-main, we’ve got a battle between a couple of the big boys. After a promising start to his UFC career with a 2nd Round win, Chase Sherman is now on a 2 fight losing streak with a couple of decision losses to Arlovski and Parker Porter last year. Jake Collier, on the other hand, has been in the UFC since 2014 with a record of 4-5. The most recent of those fights was a split decision loss to the new contender Carlos Felipe.

On paper this is dead even. Both men have a similar reach and age, the only difference is that Collier tends to come into the fight a little heavier than Sherman. Similar to most heavyweight fights, this one should come down to who lands the bigger shot first. Sherman will likely have the speed advantage and could win by decision, but because Collier lost by split decision to Felipe, I think he’s got the skill, power and chin to finish Sherman. Just keep in mind that these are heavyweights and everything can change with one punch.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Collier by Finish

Main Event

Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze

Kattar: +200 Chikadze: -250

Over 2.5: -172 Under 2.5: +133

Closing out the first card of 2022 is a thrilling matchup between two featherweights that like to brawl. Calvin Kattar is a boxer who last fought almost a year ago today against Holloway and was on the wrong side of one of the most impressive performances in UFC history. Before that he had just beaten two impressive strikers in Dan Ige and Jeremy Stephens and had a loss to one of the most dangerous (yet recently inactive) fighters in the division, Zabit. As for Giga, there’s a reason he’s starting to get a lot of hype behind his name; he’s 7-0 in the UFC with recent stunning wins over Edson Barboza and Cub Swanson.

On paper, this is a razor-thin machup, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be as close as it seems. Kattar is an impressive boxer, but Holloway showed that you need more than just boxing, you need a variety of strikes. As a kickboxer who’s well known for his ‘Giga kick’, Chikadze is capable of some elite level striking. Not to mention, he proved against Barboza that he can overwhelm one of the best strikers in the UFC. Kattar showed against Holloway that he’s got a ridiculous chin, so I’m not sure if Barboza can get him out of there, but I think Kattar will be having another long night in the Octagon.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Chikadze by Decision

BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:00 PM PST)

Brian Kelleher vs. Kevin Croom

BET99 Odds

(Not Available at time of post)

Originally, this bout was scheduled to be between Kelleher and Kakhramonov; although this would’ve been a much more entertaining matchup, this is still a fight you’ll want to see. Kelleher has always brought the excitement whenever he’s in the Octagon. That’s not to say he’s always been on the right side at the end of the fight. Since the start of 2020 he’s fought a total of 6 times with a 4-2 record. Those 2 losses: Cody Stamann and Ricky Simon, both of whom have been ranked at some point the past year and both of those losses were by decision. His last win was just a few months ago against Domingo Pilarte. As for Croom, he’s only got 2 fights in his UFC career but has nonetheless been an exciting addition to the roster. In his first bout, Croom got a performance bonus for locking in a submission within the first 30 seconds of the fight (this was later ruled a no contest due to marijuana use (ridiculous)). Most recently he lost in a decision to the newly ranked Alex Caceres.

Kelleher has the clear advantage in terms of experience, physically though, Croom has a wild, 9 inch reach advantage; this is HUGE at featherweight. Despite that reach advantage, especially since this is a last minute matchup and Croom didn’t know he would fight until today (Thursday), there’s a fairly clear mismatch in favour of Kelleher here. Croom already has some losses by submission and with an extreme reach advantage, he’ll be using striking to keep Kelleher at a distance. Because of that, Kelleher will use his experience, being that he’s fought MUCH tougher opponents and has numerous submission wins, to pressure Croom and get him to the ground. Kelleher will likely get a finish on the ground, either by submission or ground and pound.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Kelleher by Finish

Jamie Pickett vs. Joseph Holmes

BET99 Odds

Pickett: +125 Holmes: -150

Over 1.5: -180 Under 1.5: +137

The featured prelim of the card is an intriguing bout between an exciting Contender Series alum., Jamie Pickett, and a UFC newcomer who was also on DWCS, Joseph Holmes. Pickett has had a rough start to his UFC career with 2 losses to Tafon Nchukwi and Jordan Wright but may have brought it back with a convincing decision win over Staropoli just a couple of months ago. As for Holmes, he’s 6-1 in his MMA career with 4 wins in 2021 including one on the contender series a couple months ago.

This is another complete tossup. Pickett looked good in his last bout, but Holmes has a lot of momentum with 4 wins last year. Not only that, Holmes is 7 years younger. Considering the inexperience of Holmes, it’s certainly plausible that Pickett could use his unbelievable power to finish him, but that’s the problem that Pickett has had his whole UFC career; he has the power but can’t seem to use it. If he can figure out how to use his power, Pickett should win, but since he’s this deep into his career, I think it may be too late and Holmes will either edge ahead on the cards or get another early finish.

BLÜ’s Prediction

Holmes by Finish

BLÜ’s Best Bets

Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 46. These are odds that favour the bettor. Although some of them may conflict with my picks, they offer a fair reward for a slight bit of risk.

Sherman vs. Collier Under 2.5 at +133 AND Royval vs. Bontorin Over 2.5 at +150

Both of these betting lines are here for the same reason, heavyweights are known to finish in the distance and flyweights are known for decision wins. In this case, the betting lines are saying the opposite is more likely. This makes it the perfect opportunity to play the odds! I picked Sherman and Collier to make it to a decision, but they’re heavyweights and all that can change in one punch. As for Royval and Bontorin, this already seemed likely to go to a decision, so betting the Over 2.5 seemed like a good choice already; at +150 this is an amazing deal.

Jennifer Maia the Underdog at +145

I may have picked Chookagian to win, but this matchup is much closer than it appears. This betting line likely reflects the fact that Katlyn won the last time these two met, but you can’t overlook the fact that Maia got to the final bell against Shevchenko. This is the reason Chookagian won’t be on the parlays, it’s too much of a toss up which makes it a great opportunity to put a couple dollars on the underdog Maia.

Kattar vs. Chikadze Over 2.5 at -172

Although Chikadze has well-established skill and power, Kattar went 5 rounds with Holloway and took MASSIVE punishment along the way. Chikadze may get a finish, but I don’t see that happening in the Under 2.5 range. For a 5 round fight between two experienced strikers, this is a fantastic betting line to take advantage of.

Parlay Opportunities

The Short Run

Chookagian/Maia Over 2.5 + Chikadze + Kelleher

The Long Run

Chookagian/Maia Over 2.5 + Chikadze + Kelleher + Royval + Borshchev