Josh Emmett's case for a UFC featherweight title shot got a lot stronger on Saturday, as he picked up a split decision over Calvin Kattar in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Austin, Texas.
Emmett (18-2) attacked Kattar (23-6) with winging right hands and body shots over the course of a back-and-forth five-round fight. All three judges' scorecards were close. Two officials awarded the 145-pound fight 48-47 to Emmett, who went in as the betting underdog. A third saw it 48-47 for Kattar.
Although the fight was undoubtedly close, producing a wide range of fan scores on social media, Emmett said he was confident about the result. Current champion Alexander Volkanovski is scheduled to defend his belt against Max Holloway at UFC 276 on July 2 in Las Vegas, and Emmett demanded a chance to face the winner.
"I thought I had it four [rounds] to one," Emmett said. "I believe [a title shot should be next]. Calvin Kattar was ranked No. 4. Look at the guys he has fought. Holloway and Volkanovski are arguably some of the best featherweights of all time, but they need some new blood and I can get it done."
Saturday's contest basically played out like a boxing match, as neither featherweight looked to utilize leg kicks or takedowns. Kattar's best weapon was his jab, which he consistently landed throughout the fight. He opened a cut over Emmett's left eye with the jab early, and opened it further with an elbow in the fourth round.
Emmett, of Sacramento, did his best work at short range. He effectively went to Kattar's body during the middle rounds and forced him backward at times with the overhand right. Even when Kattar blocked the shots, they had visible weight behind them.
In the fifth, Emmett pick and chose his spots and blitzed Kattar with combinations, while Kattar tried to keep things at a distance to land his jab.
Emmett has won five in a row. Only Volkanovski (9), Arnold Allen (9) and Bryce Mitchell (6) have longer active win streaks in the division.