UFC Fight Night Austin’s main event featured a tightly contested battle between high-ranking contenders Calvin Kattar and Josh Emmett. The Team Alpha Male standout Emmett got his hand raised via Split Decision and is now ranked #4 in the weight class. This main event was important to the 145-pound division because it had title shot implications as the current reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski will look to end his trilogy with the former champion Max Holloway by going 3-0 in their rivalry. Another important fight for this division on July 16, will present another pair of top five contenders Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez who will battle it out in Long Island, New York. While the winners of these fights may all be worthy to fight the champion, Josh Emmett pointed out something that many seem to have forgotten concerning the featherweight title picture. That is, all of the top contenders besides himself have fought Volkanovski or Holloway at some point and the division has not had any new names in the hat for a while. However, there is a new crop of exciting featherweights that could also be joining these perennial contenders sooner rather than later.
Fresh Blood in the UFC Featherweight Division
Making his UFC debut at 22-years-old back in 2016, the English Arnold Allen brings in a stellar skillset inside the octagon. Showing very slick southpaw kickboxing attacks, excellently timed grappling entries, and graceful footwork that gets him out of the way of his opponent’s attacks. Allen has shown he is the full package when he has gotten his hand raised against veterans and up-and-comers in Nik Lentz, Gilbert Melendez, and Sodiq Yusoff. Most recently he got a TKO finish over fan-favorite Dan Hooker on UFC London. Allen does have a lot more UFC experience than his peers whom we will discuss in more detail below. However, he tends to fight only once a year which costs him to lose momentum and opportunities to fight higher-ranked contenders.
We have seen The Ultimate Fighter alumni Bryce Mitchell bring in a unique skill set the last five times he has stepped into the octagon. Veterans like Charles Rosa, Andrei Filli, and most recently Edson Barboza have all suffered from Mitchell’s crushing top game being one step behind him on the ground and have all been “cooked to the bone” as Mitchell likes to say. It’s always possible that he scores another highlight-reel sub as he did to Matt Sales when Mitchell locked in only the second twister submission in UFC history or he can get his opponent frustrated by using his unorthodox strikes that set up his takedowns. The Arkansas native brings a unique skill set to the 145-pound weight class as most of the ranked contenders tend to strike over using a more grappling skillset as Mitchell does.
16-0 Mosvar Evolev is part of the newest crop of Russian fighters who show well-rounded skills and excellent discipline inside the octagon. Evolev is already a high-ranked contender with just five UFC fights and before that was coming off of four title wins in M-1 Global winning and defending the M-1 Bantamweight title. In his past couple of fights, we saw him use his excellent wrestling and smothering grappling. In addition, he showed another gear to his game in his last fight, putting his striking along with the grappling, to defeat perennial top-10 fighter, Dan Ige.
The Georgian fighter, Illia Topuria, has the least fights in the 145-pound weight class compared to the other three up-and-comers previously mentioned. However, he has already captured the imagination of many MMA fans. Topuria brings his Mike Tyson-esque slip and rips boxing to attack his opponents with combinations to the body and head with occasional use of his explosive wrestling. Many fans got to know him when he knocked out Ryan Hall at the high-profile UFC 264 events. The Georgian was scheduled to fight Evolev at UFC 270 but was pulled from the fight because of weight cut complications and ended up being scheduled in a lightweight fight against Jai Herbert where Topuria won via KO and called out the high-spirited lightweight fighter Paddy Pimblett. Recently Topuria gave his opinion on Evolev’s last fight in the Octagon possibly reigniting the desire for a fight between the two.
New Featherweight Royalty
Featherweight has always been one of the stand-out divisions in the UFC, having company mainstays like Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Cub Swanson, and champions like Jose Aldo, Max Holloway, and Alexander Volkanovski. The current top part of the featherweight division has already attempted to insert themselves into a title by either dethroning the champion Volkanovski or becoming the new #1 contender by beating Holloway. Now comes a new generation of exciting fighters who will attempt to do the same with their unique skill sets.