Fighter of Interest: Calvin Kattar

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 20: Calvin Kattar celebrates his win by TKO against Shane Burgos in their Featherweight fight during UFC 220 at TD Garden on January 20, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Massachusetts featherweight Calvin Kattar (18-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) is one of only two fighters without a Wikipedia page on Saturday’s card. The other is fellow New England based CES product, “Slow” Mike Rodriguez.

The UFC has clearly recognized the potential in Kattar as a divisional force and action fighter, placing him three fights deep on the main card. Kattar and Renato Moicano are expected to set the tone for the two huge title fights capping off the show.

Despite his fan-friendly style and roots in a known promotion, the UFC audience has yet to take notice of Calvin Kattar. After this weekend, someone better get this guy a Wiki page.

This is Fighter of Interest, where underrated fighters from an upcoming event are brought to light.

UFC 223 Fighter of Interest: Calvin Kattar

A veteran of the New England fight scene, Calvin Kattar first entered the mainstream in early 2016. His win over tough journeyman Chris Foster was broadcast on AXS TV, and included in the post-fight highlight package.

A little rough around the edges, Kattar’s grit, conditioning and boxing skill was enough to get him a call to the UFC.

A Gritty, Thinking Outfighter

This cannot be overstated: Calvin Kattar has one of the best jabs in MMA. He jabs moving forward, he jabs moving backward. He’ll jab before, in the middle of, and after a combination. Kattar will double, and even triple jab. He is a jab-happy maniac.

UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE: Our own Danny Martin wrote an excellent piece on Kattar’s jab after his first-round clinical destruction of Ricardo Lamas at UFC 238

This is complemented by quick, conservative footwork and a tight guard. At times Kattar can stand flat and put up the double forearm guard.  There have been several instances where his opponents will flurry, and Kattar will choose to ride it out. For the most part however, he is in constant motion, outfighting and using his long punches.

It’s not all cerebral, polished point fighting. Part of Kattar’s game is that he recognizes when to turn up the heat. When in need of an important momentum shift, or to put a stamp on the round, he’s been able to bite down and sprint. His pressure isn’t nearly as educated or effective as his outfighting and countering, but he has it in his back pocket if need be.

In Kattar’s UFC debut he was likely intended to be a sacrificial lamb. Against the tough, dangerous Team Alpha Male product Andre Fili, Kattar had to go to war for three rounds. As usual, he was able to score off his jab and find spots to land clean. By the third round, Kattar had made enough reads on Fili’s offense to slow the fight down, and cruise to a decision victory.

LAST FIGHT: Def. Shane Burgos via TKO (Punches) at UFC 220

New York’s Shane Burgos was 10-0 in MMA and 3-0 in the UFC when he was matched up with Calvin Kattar. At 30 years old, the UFC had no interest in bringing Kattar up slowly. As the fight leading into two title bouts, in his home town, Calvin Kattar had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

In just his second UFC bout, Kattar showed off his skills like never before to millions. As expected, Calvin got things going sticking Burgos with his jab, keeping range and moving his head.

Early and often, Kattar showed new tricks and frustrated a single-minded Burgos.

For the most part, Shane Burgos was being picked apart from range, getting caught and countered when he tried to close the distance. His best answer was to drop his hands and plow forward fearlessly with hooks, digging to the body as well.

Earlier in the fight, Kattar found success with timing a rear uppercut when Burgos loaded up. That read became important in the finishing sequence. Burgos was caught clean with a cross, and stumbled forward with his head lowered to stifle Kattar’s punches.

Like he’d done it a thousand times, Kattar created distance, wound up and absolutely smashed the iron-chinned Burgos with an uppercut. Following a violent flurry, the fight was over.

NEXT FIGHT: vs. Renato Moicano at UFC 223

Well rounded Brazilian Renato Moicano will be a unique challenge. Before suffering his first professional defeat to title challenger Brian Ortega, Moicano was enjoying an 11-0 record and 3-0 UFC start. A decision win over top ranked Jeremy Stephens put Moicano in talks as a rankable entity.

The Matchup

Employing a kicking based attack supplemented by long punches, Moicano has been able to frustrate opponents from range with his lanky frame. While he was submitted by Ortega, Moicano is a competent and dangerous grappler, especially in transitions when he has his opponent hurt. Against Stephens, Moicano stayed on his bike and picked his spots to outlast the American brawler.

For Kattar, Moicano represents a much tougher test than Andre Fili, with lower volume but more dangerous output and tighter defense. The opportunities to land big counters may not present themselves, so Kattar will need to stay disciplined for 15 minutes outside kicking range, where he may bait Moicano into closing the distance.

Moicano is prone to throwing wild hook combinations in the pocket, but usually as a scare tactic when pressed. That attack will likely not provoke the static, shell defense of Kattar which sometimes gets him in trouble. In fact, it’s those types of exchanges where Kattar can show off his defensive and counter ability.

One key for Calvin Kattar will be the surprising distance he covers on his straight punches. If he can spring in and out of kicking range, he can score enough to force Moicano to take chances.

Jeremy Stephens found himself coming just short while chasing down Moicano in their fight. It may very well come down to the manipulation of range in an important fight for the featherweight ranks.

Calvin Kattar vs. Renato Moicano is going down on Saturday, April 7th at UFC 223. If you like tight boxing and a tough New England spirit, tune in for this one.

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