On Mixed Martial Arts Mike McMahon
---- — PROVIDENCE — He’s ready for the big time.
Methuen MMA fighter Calvin Kattar raised eyebrows when he accepted a fight with fellow 12-2 featherweight Saul Almeida at last Saturday’s CES: Real Pain pay-per-view event at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. It’s not often that two red-hot prospects, both in their 20’s, agree to put it on the line. Both wanted to prove something, and both did.
After their Saturday battle was announced, the buildup exploded. Myself and other MMA journalists widely speculated that the winner could move on to bigger things on the national stage, including perhaps a look by Bellator, Strikeforce or even the UFC.
Kattar won by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). He proved he’s ready.
Moving forward, most 145-pounders will have trouble handling Kattar, who walks around near 175, is a tremendous striker and also has displayed superlative strength on the ground in both of his fights at that weight.
The biggest reason why Kattar is ready, though, is his development.
In just his fourth pro fight, he accepted a bout with Binky Jones at an EliteXC event which was televised on CBS under a main event that featured legendary street fighter Kimbo Slice.
Kattar, I think even he’d admit, wasn’t ready then. He wasn’t the same fighter then as he is now.
Early in his career he relied on his striking. His first four wins all came via punches, they all came in the first round, and it took until his ninth win for a fight to go the distance.
When Kattar got in trouble against Jones and even later in his career against Don Carlo-Clauss – he’s fought for Bellator and Strikeforce – it was because he couldn’t drop those fighters early in the fight.
Now, he’s much more well-rounded. Training with Wai Kru in Boston with guys like Chandler Holderness and UFC vet John “Doomsday” Howard, Kattar has added more to his arsenal.
After never going to his corner in his first 10 fights, he’s won by decision in four of his last six. His ground work, which we first saw lengthy glimpses of when he beat Andrew Montanez for the NABC lightweight title in 2009, is impeccable.
On Saturday, when his gameplan got thrown out the window because of Almeida’s range being more of a factor than Kattar thought, he wasn’t fazed. You didn’t see a frustrated fighter unsure of what to do when his plan wasn’t working. He simply adjusted. He took the fight to the ground where he’s a better wrestler, neutralized Almeida’s reach advantage and scored points.
“I’m proud of the way I was able to adjust,” Kattar said. “But the way we were headed, I knew we were both in it for the long haul so I needed to make sure I saved enough of that energy for the second and third rounds. It’s not easy with this (weight cut), but I was able to do it. I’m definitely proud of this fight.”
In the third and final round, he saved enough strength to nearly snatch an armbar on Almeida, who heroically fought through it because of his courage despite what might have been an arm injury.
“(Almeida) proved he’s a champion,” Kattar said. “His stock didn’t fall at all in my opinion. That’s the type of fight where it will open doors for both of us.”
Kattar and Almeida both wanted to prove something Saturday, and both did. Almeida proved he’s major-league fighter who will scrap to the end. Kattar proved to the masses that he’s a reinvention of himself. He proved he’s ready for the big leagues.
Kudos to Bautista: The show centered around former six-time WWE champion Dave Bautista, who made his debut at heavyweight in the main event, defeating Vince Lucero by TKO (punches) in the first round. After the fight, it was announced that Bautista had donated his entire salary for the fight to Children’s Hospital.
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