Calvin Kattar: UFC 249’s Breakthrough Star?
Tonight’s UFC card has plenty of big battles with fight-of-the-night potential, but, for New Englanders, the bout between Methuen’s own Calvin Kattar and Jeremy Stephens is the most anticipated.
Kattar will be entering the octagon against Stephens during the UFC’s main event, which begins at 10 p.m. The fight will take place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, in front of an empty crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first event put on by the UFC since a March 14 show in Brazil. In the interim, five events were postponed due to novel coronavirus restrictions.
Before the first punch, the matchup has already proved to be interesting as Stephens arrived almost 5 pounds over the official limit during the pre-fight weigh-in. At 150.5 pounds, Stephens will have to pay an undisclosed percentage of his purse.
Kattar, who has only been on the roster since 2017, is a fierce competitor, as his 20-4 record shows. He lost his last fight in a highly controversial decision, and tonight may be the time he gets to show the world what local fans have long known — that Kattar has the makings of an international MMA star. He is ranked inside the Top 10, and he has the experience and skill in the ring to keep it a close fight. A big win tonight could secure his path to a featherweight title shot.
The pressure is on because of the additional attention, and controversy, UFC 249 has attracted. MMA has a chance to appeal to appeal to entertainment-starved sports fans of all types. PPV buzz has thus far borne this out. Kevin Iole, writing at Yahoo.com, notes, “According to [UFC President Dana] White, pre-buys through Thursday were more than double UFC 244, 245, 247 and 248 in Canada and Australia and trending much higher than average in the U.S.” Iole also cites White as stating that pay-per-view buys have been higher than anything they’ve seen in recent years, with the exception of cards featuring megastar Conor McGregor.
Kattar will have to fight smart. As long as he plays to his strengths and avoids Stephens’ devastating low kicks, he should show the tenacity and power we’ve come to expect from him. As for the effect of his opponent’s missed weight-cut? You’ll have to tune in tonight on pay-per-view to find out for yourself.