Georgia’s Giga Chikadze extended his unbeaten record inside the UFC octagon to seven fights as he put on a striking masterclass to finish Brazilian veteran Edson Barboza before targeting featherweight icon Max Holloway.
After both men exchanged a barrage of kicks in the opening two rounds in their main event at the UFC Apex, Chikadze stepped things up significantly in round three.
The Georgian rocked his Brazilian rival with a big right hand before following up with a barrage of blows.
Sent onto the canvas, a dazed Barboza desperately staved off submission attempts from Chikadze but shipped more punishment on his feet as referee Jason Herzog waved off the contest at the 1:44 mark of the third round.
Now unbeaten in his last nine fights – including seven in the octagon since making his UFC debut in September of 2019 – Chikadze trained his sights on the very top of the 145lbs rankings.
“I’m here to fight the best fights and the biggest names,” said the 33-year-old after extending his overall record to 14 wins in 16 contests.
‘Ninja’ said he was willing to act as back-up for the upcoming featherweight title fight between reigning Aussie champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega at UFC 266 on September 25, or face former division king Holloway.
“I would love to cover the title shot and be a replacement fighter. If not, somebody Hawaiian who’s in the division,” said Chikadze, whose win saw him bag a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
“He knows my name. I saw him doing interviews and he said something like this, ‘Oh yeah I heard this Giga guy who kicks.’ I’m not just a Giga guy, I’m a guy who kicks the sh*t out of people.”
Another eye-catching performance from the Georgian against former longtime lightweight contender Barboza – who saw his two-fight winning streak snapped – continues to mark Chikadze out as a serious threat at 145lbs.
“Wow, Giga Chikadze is a monster,” wrote former UFC welterweight title contender Gilbert Burns.
“Giga Chikadze is the real deal,” added UFC pundit and former two-weight champ Daniel Cormier.
“Well done Giga, I thought he was slowing down in round two…guess not!” wrote current featherweight ruler Volkanovski.
“Battered him. Barboza trying to survive but he looked out on his feet… A hell of a fight by Giga,” wrote ESPN pundit Brett Okamoto.
Well done Giga, I thought he was slowing down in round two…guess not!! 🤣 #UFCVegas35
— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) August 29, 2021
Ranked at number 10 in the featherweight fold before his striking masterclass on Saturday night, Chikadze is set to rise further up the ladder – meaning it shouldn’t be long before gets his wish for a shot at a man towards the top of the rungs, and perhaps even a certain ‘Blessed’ Hawaiian.