After 25 minutes of back-and-forth action, Josh Emmett was awarded a victory over Calvin Kattar by the narrowest of margins, taking home a razor-thin split-decision win. After having his hand raised, Emmett called for a future shot at the UFC's featherweight title.
Emmett's win came in the headlining bout of Saturday's UFC on ESPN 37 event, which aired on ESPN from Moody Center in Austin, Texas.
As expected, the five-round affair was largely defined by two key factors: Emmett's punching power vs. Kattar's crisp boxing volume. In fact, the entirety of the contest took place on the feet, and of the more than 700 significant strikes thrown between the two, just 10 were kicks or knees, according to UFCStats.com.
The pace was moderate to open the fight, with both men showing respect and a little hesitation to engage aggressively, clearly concerned with the return fire they would certainly face. Kattar did draw blood from his foe first, with a jab opening a small cut over his opponent's left eye, but it was Emmett who closed the round strong with a big flurry.
In the second, Kattar began to string together combinations, adding punches behind the jab he established in the first. Kattar also did find a home for a few knees, as well, seemingly taking the round while avoiding Emmett's huge power.
The third was arguably Emmett's best round, taking some early damage before really starting to settle into a groove and drawing blood from Kattar for the first time while really sitting down on his shots in every exchange.
With both corners stressing the need for a strong finish, it was Kattar who seemed to take over in the final two rounds. His volume was significantly higher in each frame, while a big elbow in the fourth worsened the damage around Emmett's left eye. A big right hand also stumbled Emmett briefly in the same frame.
In the end, though, it was Emmett who was awarded a split-decision victory, 47-48, 48-47 and 48-47, with judges Chris Lee and Sal D'Amato awarding him the victory, while Doug Crosby leaned towards Kattar.
All three judges were unanimous in Emmett winning rounds 1 and 3, as well as Kattar taking the fifth, with rounds 2 and 4 proving the swing rounds on the cards.
MMADecisions.com showed 14 of 19 media scores tracked leaning in favor of Kattar.
After having his hand raised, Emmett called for the winner of the UFC 276 clash between reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski and former titleholder Max Holloway on July 2, asking UFC president Dana White for the booking.
"There's a huge title fight in two weeks," Emmett said. "I want to be sitting cageside to see who I'm fighting next. Dana, give me my shot."
With the victory, Emmett (18-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) now owns a five-fight winning streak. Meanwhile, Kattar (23-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) falls to 1-2 in his past three appearances despite an impressive effort.
Complete UFC on ESPN 37 results include:
MAIN CARD (ESPN, ESPN+)
- Josh Emmett def. Calvin Kattar via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
- Kevin Holland def. Tim Means via submission (D'Arce choke) – Round 2, 1:28
- Joaquin Buckley def. Albert Duraev via TKO (doctor's stoppage) – Round 3, 0:10
- Damir Ismagulov def. Guram Kutateladze via majority decision (28-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Gregory Rodrigues def. Julian Marquez via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:18
- Adrian Yanez def. Tony Kelley via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:49
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN2, ESPN+)
- Natalia Silva def. Jasmine Jasudavicius via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Jeremiah Wells def. Court McGee via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:34
- Ricardo Ramos def. Danny Chavez via knockout (spinning back elbow) – Round 1, 1:12
- Maria Oliveira def. Gloria de Paula via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Cody Stamann def. Eddie Wineland via TKO (knees, elbows) – Round 1, 0:59
- Phil Hawes def. Deron Winn via TKO (elbows) – Round 2, 4:25
- Roman Dolidze def. Kyle Daukaus via knockout (knee, punches) – Round 1, 1:13