This Sunday’s a big one for the featherweight division as we see the clash of #5 Calvin Kattar vs #6 Arnold Allen and it’s nice to see a strong fight night which has seemed rare this year. This matchup sees two elite strikers clash over 5 rounds to see who can an earn a number one contender match up. On one side we have Kattar who has a classic boxing style, he keeps it long with his jab and then starts to mix combos in as he gets comfortable as well as elbows and low kicks. On the other side we have Allen who is on a 9 fight win streak and is unbeaten in the ufc, he also has a strong boxing base but is less traditional and likes to use his quick feet to land counter shots and come in and out of range with power shots and short flurries. He also has a more well rounded skill set and mixes in more kicks and occasional takedowns. I’m now going to analyse and breakdown each fighter’s styles and strengths and some important factors that affect if and how they could win.
Allen is a tricky southpaw who comes from a boxing background and is undefeated so far in the ufc. He mainly uses loopy, angled punches which is demonstrated by his one-two when you see his jab come for a wide angle to set a marker for his looping left hand to hit the target. However when firing his back hand he can over commit and slip or leave himself open for a counter. He uses his quick feet to shift in and out to throw his combos and avoid combinations coming towards him, if Allen can use these feet for 5 rounds without tiring it will really help him avoid and overcome Kattar’s boxing. Another weapon he has developed is his left roundhouse which caused Sodiq Yusuff problems and resulted in a knockdown in the second round. Although Allen has strong boxing he also is very strong at mixing low and high kicks into his striking as well as cage control and takedowns to round his game.
Footwork and Movement
Allen has some of the best footwork in the division and he must use this on Sunday to avoid angles being cut off by Kattar and to try to relieve the pressure of Kattar. What Allen is great at with his movement is getting in to range to strike and getting out before a fighter even has a chance to react. This is how he needs to strike with Kattar because it makes it much harder for Kattar to use his boxing combos and also this helps avoid a brawl at close range which is what Kattar would prefer due to his combos and toughness. The only problems are movement is a lot harder in the 25 foot octagon of The Apex and also I don’t believe Allen will be able to use this movement and effectively strike for 25 minutes.
Calf Kicks and Body shots
Calvin Kattar fights with unrelenting pressure and always comes forward we saw this in the 3rd round against Zabit when after two rounds of eating a barrage of punches as well as kicks to the face and body he marched Zabit down and clawed the final round back. Allen needs to stop this otherwise I could see him lose to a high output and pace from Kattar. I believe Allen has two key weapons to stop this:
From the southpaw stance Allen fires a lovely right calf kick that battered Gilbert Melendez’s calf and also had success early against Hooker. As Allen is southpaw against Kattar’s orthodox stance he has the opportunity to repeatedly fire quick, short kicks to the outside of his opponent’s calf and limit Kattar’s ability to walk him down with combos and cut off angles. We also saw Kattar struggle with taking low kicks against Moicano so if Allen can time the low kick as Kattar fires his jab he could have success.
Another great weapon he used against Gilbert Melendez was body shots with his power left hand, he landed at a very efficient percentage to the body and you could clearly see the damage these body shots were doing to Gilbert and how they slowed him down. As Allen is southpaw it means his backhand body shot can land to the liver or solar plexus, which can shut fighters down, and once again if he can land this he can slow the pace and pressure of Kattar allowing himself to control tempo and land more of his own strikes.
Key factor Allen’s cardio? and his first five rounder
I believe Allen’s cardio is one of his main question marks as we have seen him gas, especially in the Sodiq Yusuff fight where he had him rocked in round 1 and 2 but simply ended up tiring and had to resort to cage control. Also in that fight we saw his output and ability drastically drop in that 3rd round. Another time was his last outing against Hooker where he had one massive barrage of punches then took a long rest before eventually finishing him but if he rests in between exchanges against Kattar he will get punished. When he has to fight a guy like Kattar, who can often turn the pace up on fighters and keep the pressure high, his cardio is a massive factor and will be a problem in this fight if it is not up to par. While I don’t believe Allen’s cardio is terrible I just worry he may drown in the volume of kattar. But if he proves me wrong and has strong cardio he could use his footwork all night and dance around Kattar avoiding his boxing.
Another question mark for Allen is that this fight is his first 5 rounder and i wonder how he will do in the later rounds, I believe Kattar may try to exploit Allen if we see him tire in the later rounds and he will also try to exploit his lack of 5 round experience to come on strong and up the volume later to close out a decision.
Allen does have clean boxing but he is also infamous for breaking and injuring hands for example breaking it against Yusuff and injuring tendons against Hooker. If this gets into a brawl and Allen only has one working hand he could get run over by Kattar and he himself won’t be able to throw combos. It would be very hard for him to fight what looks like a boxing match without both hands.
Calvin is one of the best boxers we’ve seen in the ufc and is coming off a controversial decision loss to Josh Emmett. Calvin is a durable, relentless fighter who cuts off angles and lands combos. Unlike Allen, Calvin has 5 round experience and has been 5 rounds 4 times in the ufc. As well as his good pure boxing combinations he also mixes elbows to add variety to his striking game. His 91% takedown defence demonstrates that he should be able to keep this fight standing against Allen which based off his style is where he wants to keep it. One of my favourite weapons of his is his jab he uses it to start combos, stalk his opponent and maintain boxing range. He also is very good at sneaking body shots into his combos with minimal risk of being countered by a knee or uppercut as his head stays high, with his chin tucked.
Calvin has fought some of the most technical and powerful strikers such as: Zabit, Holloway, Chikadze and Emmett but he is still yet to be dropped. He was also on the receiving end of the most significant strikes in a single fight and stayed standing to the end of the 5 rounds. His durability is used as a weapon of his as it allows him to walk strikers like Giga Chikadze down and use his elite boxing to score points and cause damage. I also believe it will be hard for Arnold to keep Kattar from walking him down because even if he hurts Kattar I think he will not be able to stop him from permanently stalking him because of this toughness. However he may be durable but I believe every chin has an expiry date.
Pressure and Pace
As Kattar does the majority of his damage at boxing range he has too keep high pressure and pace to stay in this range and back fighters up towards the cage. He also does this by cutting off angles. Often we see his opponents can’t handle this pace and Kattar starts to take over in the later rounds, so I expect Kattar to use this pace against Arnold to stop Allen being able to pick his shots and use his kicks. This means Allen will have to rely on his lateral movement to avoid combos and land his own strikes which will wear on his gas tank and like previously mentioned I question how Allen’s cardio will hold up over 5 rounds especially if he has to be constantly using his legs to move away from Kattar.
Calvin’s jab is maybe the best fundamentally in the UFC and he uses it to establish himself in fights and gain momentum. The reason it is so perfect is because he fires it straight from his guard from his cheek and there really is no telegraph on it. It is sharp and always finds a way to get past his opponents guard. I believe the jab could be a vital weapon for him against Arnold Allen if he can land it as Arnold steps forward into range, or just to find range and start combos like he usually does. If he finds range early it could make it a relatively easy night.
Right Hand to counter 1-2
As mentioned Arnold Allen fires his one-two from wide, looping angles and overturns his hip which creates power but leaves him overcommitted and open for a counter. If Kattar fires his right hand as Arnold lands his measuring jab he could time Allen as he overcommits for the southpaw cross and his guard is down, repeatedly doing this will cause damage and could lead to a knockdown.
I believe early on Allen will have success using his movement, both laterally as well as in and out of range to strike, landing counter shots as Kattar tries to establish his jab. Alongside counter punches I believe he will come in and out of range with his own combinations and low kicks and perhaps use clinches along the cage. This good start could lead to an early finish because in my opinion although Kattar is durable eventually every chin expires and after the amount of strikes he has been eating since the Zabit fight I think we could see Kattar fall. I believe Allen will look comfortable and perhaps hurt Kattar but I then believe Allen may start to tire from the movement if he can’t get a finish. In the mid to late rounds, Due to Allen’s slowed down footwork and this fight being in the apex with the smaller octagon, Kattar will find it easier to cut Allen off and will force Allen to strike more in the pocket. This is when Kattar will start to land his jab and establish combinations, gaining momentum and increasing pressure and pace on Allen.
I believe Kattar from the mid rounds onwards Kattar will hunt Allen down and land combinations and introduce his elbows and knees, turning it into a boxing brawl. If this does turn into a brawl us fans will be lucky as these 2 can definitely box but although I could see Allen hurting Kattar he ultimately won’t be able to handle the pace and will look to clinch or stay out of range after longer exchanges whereas Kattar will look to extend his combinations and hunt him down.
Ultimately I believe it will be a banger and be a close scrap but I believe Kattar’s experience will help him perhaps take the later rounds (if it makes it there) with higher volume and pressure if this does turn into a brawl, also he is more acclimatised to these brawls (especially over 5 rounds). In addition I believe Kattar takes these rounds because the clash of styles and circumstances (the smaller octagon) benefit him a lot more and I think once he finds a flow he may start to put a beating on Allen similar to the Chikadze fight and gives him a chance of a late finish. (If he does not finish Allen) This late recovery from Kattar will lead to a close decision much like the Emmett vs Kattar fight, being the volume of Kattar vs the power shots of Allen and who claims the victory if it goes to a decision could end up being controversial. However I give the edge to Kattar due to experience and quality of past opposition.
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