Giga Chikadze will step into the Octagon for his first UFC main event on Saturday, when he takes on Edson Barboza at the Apex facility in Las Vegas for the main event of the UFC on ESPN 30 card.
The two top-10 ranked featherweights will face off in a battle that could propel Chikadze into contender status, or show that Barboza still has the firepower to compete for a title.
A battle of featherweight strikers
Chikadze (13-2) hasn’t lost since 2018 when Austin Springer scored a submission victory over him on Dana White’s Contender Series. Since then, he’s rattled off eight straight wins, including six in a row since joining the UFC.
Most recently, Chikadze stopped Cub Swanson in just over a minute on May 1. That set up the confrontation with Barboza, the biggest name Chikadze has faced in his young career.
Top featherweights looking to keep climbing the ranks 📈
— UFC (@ufc) August 27, 2021
Chikadze says that his striking prowess will be too much for Barboza – or anyone else in the featherweight division – to contend with.
“I’m excited to prove what my striking is all about,” Chikadze told Yahoo Sports. “I was a kickboxing world champion. I was a karate world champion, too. I was one of the highest-ranked and strongest karate fighters. So we’ll see if he brings something special. There are levels in this. Everybody’s talking about how good of a striker he is, and he’s a very good fighter, very good striker. That’s MMA. I’m different, though. You guys will see.”
Barboza feels ‘better than ever’
Barboza (22-9) lost five of six fights between December 2017 and May 2020, but he’s since won two straight, knocking out Shane Burgos in the third round at UFC 262 in May. That sparked the possibility that Barboza could make one more run, this time in the featherweight division. The Brazilian says he’s up for the challenge and put in hard work for Saturday’s fight.
“It’s crazy, I’m 35 years old and I feel better than ever,” Barboza told Sports Illustrated. “Before, I was too hard on my body. Right now, I am very healthy. I’ve learned about my work, and this was the best camp of my career.”
Oddsmakers see a balanced fight between the two accomplished strikers. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Barboza as the slight -116 favorite over Chikadze (-102). But for all of Barboza’s career successes, Chikadze says he has the formula for beating the veteran.
|Barboza vs. Chikadze Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Edson Barboza: -116||Giga Chikadze: -102|
|Method of Victory|
|Barboza by KO/TKO: +280||Chikadze by KO/TKO: +230|
|Barboza by Submission: +1400||Chikadze: +2800|
|Barboza by Decision: +300||Chikadze: +340|
“He’s flashy, exciting, powerful, strong kicker, striker whatever you want to call it,” Chikadze told MMA Fighting. “I understand that it’s beautiful when he’s done spinning, beautiful highlight kick against somebody that never did any high-level striking in a fight. All this for me is nothing. I respect what he’s done in MMA, definitely, but it depends on who you do it against … he’s good, he’s not bad. He’s really good but against who? So we’ll see Aug. 28.”