Giga Chikadze called himself the best forward in the featherweight division and he took a big step to prove it with his victory in the main event of UFC Vegas 35.
Facing one of the nastiest knockout artists in UFC history at Edson Barboza on Saturday night, Chikadze hosted a clinic while showcasing a series of quick kicks and lighting as he released the Brazilian to the feet without ever taking too much damage in coming back. The end came for Chikadze after he got aggressive at the start of the third round and put Barboza on wobbly legs following a searing combination with his hands.
From there, Chikadze almost blocked an D’arce choke, but instead continued to punish his opponent with punches until Barboza staggered to the web, which forced the referee to stop the bout before further damage is done. The stop came at 1:44 in the third round.
“Edson once again, kudos to you,” Chikadze said afterwards. “Keep doing your thing. You are a great motivation.
“This fight was a challenge. I said the words what I really mean. I prove everything with my punch, my kick, whatever happens. I wanted to finish. As you know I said earlier my ground game is improving. It is the preparation of a lifetime. I’ve been doing this since I was four.
There was no feeling process with Barboza and Chikadze both throwing powerful kicks, each trying to gain the competitive edge. To the surprise of some, Chikadze appeared to be the fastest fighter as he threw quick kicks followed by punches just a little ahead of Barboza.
As his confidence continued to grow, Chikadze started aiming for the head with his kicks, which then opened up the body for one of his infamous “Giga kicks”. When the kick to the liver landed, Barboza took the brunt of it, forcing him to reset and Chikadze immediately followed him as he sought to take control of the fight.
To his credit, Barboza appeared to settle down early in the second round as he started digging up to the leg with a number of nasty kicks. The difference for Barboza was his forward pressure as he continually kept Chikadze on his back foot.
Everything changed early in the third with Chikadze stalking Barboza through the ring while stepping away from his kicking game and focusing on his boxing instead. After scoring Barboza with a right hand, Chikadze went on to kill, which led to the end of the fight streak.
While Barboza initially complained about the save, it was clear he was almost on his feet and Chikadze had done more than enough to secure the TKO victory.
With the win, Chikadze has now earned seven straight UFC victories and he is looking to put himself in contention for the title while also offering to serve as a substitute for the featherweight championship fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega in the UFC. 266.
If that’s not available, Chikadze is aiming for the top of the division and a showdown with former champion Max Holloway.
“I finished the guys who are absolutely legends in this sport,” Chikadze said of his last two wins against Barboza and Cub Swanson. “Honestly I’m here to fight the best fights, the biggest names, if it’s a title shot I would love to cover the title shot and be a replacement fighter. Otherwise, someone from Hawaii leaving the division.
« [Max Holloway] know my name. I saw the interviews that someone asked him and he said like that ‘Oh yeah, I heard that Giga guy kicking.’ I’m not just a Giga guy. I mess people up. Let’s go. I was waiting for this moment.