Katlyn Chookagian did enough to have her hand raised at UFC 244 on Saturday, and now she believes she’s done enough to earn a shot at the flyweight title.
Amityville’s Chookagian succeeded in avoiding Jennifer Maia’s best strikes in their flyweight preliminary, utilizing excellent movement and range to earn a unanimous decision victory at Madison Square Garden (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Currently the No. 1 contender at flyweight, Chookagian (13-2, 6-2 UFC) picked up her fourth UFC victory at 125 pounds, tying champion Valentina Shevchenko and two others for most in division history.
“I was going into this fight No. 1 contender, won another fight, still No. 1 contender," Chookagian said. "So, I'm very confident that I will get the title shot.”
Chookagian has been lobbying for a shot at the flyweight champion, reiterating such after the victory.
““Whenever they give it to me, I'll take it," she said. "Valentina, as everyone knows, she's always trying to fight, she likes to stay very active. She hasn't fought in a while, but she did fight like three times this year, and there's a lot of fights that are already booked so you never know, I'll stay ready and whenever it comes up, I'm ready to go.”
Chookagian took the center of the cage from the outset, looking to land her jab and find her range. Maia (17-6-1 2-2 UFC) began to push forward, but Chookagian utilized her head movement to avoid any clean shots. With two minutes left in the round, Chookagian landed a head kick, but Maia partially blocked it and forced the fight against the cage, landing a punch on the break. Chookagian retook the center and went back to the jab, mixing in high kicks when she saw an opening and landing a few clean blows to close out the round.
“I feel really good,” Chookagian said. “I’ve been working on sitting on my punches and I felt like I could feel my power in that fight.”
In the second round, Chookagian continued to work her kicking game, adding leg kicks to the shots to the body and head. Maia landed a series of leg kicks of her own, reddening Chookagian’s thigh. Chookagian found her range a bit more in the second, but neither fighter could land any strikes causing significant damage.
Maia tried to be the aggressor early in the third round, chasing Chookagain into the cage and engaging in the clinch within 45 seconds. Chookagian eventually escaped and retook the center of the cage, landing a heavy body kick and looking for the head kick once more. Maia was able to land a few punches midway through the round, but Chookagian continued to avoid the heavy blow. With just over a minute left, Maia landed the first takedown of the fight, ending up on top in half guard. Chookagian prevented Maia from advancing position, but struggled to create any space as Maia stayed heavy. Chookagian looked for a leg lock in the closing seconds, but the horn sounded before the hold could be secured.
“Being around my teammates and everything, that was really nice and I think that kind of brought a different calmness around fight week and help kept me relaxed," Chookagian said. "Last time at Madison Square Garden I got my first loss so I'm definitely happy to be back with redemption.”