Khamzat Chimaev is Living up to the Hype
Oh man, do the UFC have a talent on their hands with Khamzat Chimaev.
If you want to talk about a fighter overcoming adversity - yes, we’ve already homed in on Glover Teixeira and his monumental late-career capture of the 205lb title - so if you haven’t checked out that video, I’d urge you to do so after this one.
But further down the card, the recent struggles of this supremely dangerous welterweight contender deserve to be highlighted in their own way.
As most of you will know, Chimaev’s scintillating opening run of destruction across two weight divisions was brought to an almighty halt by a severe bout of COVID 19 - a saga was so difficult for him that he began to bring some very public doubts to the table about his ability to continue his career.
Seriously, you don’t start telling the world that you’re considering retirement unless you’re in a really, really bad way.
And whether it was just a case of almighty pessimism brought about by frustration on Khamzat’s part or some legitimate issues that he didn’t believe himself to be capable of overcoming - even when he confirmed that he would, in fact, return to the octagon - I know that I was certainly wondering just how he would be affected by all of this, mentally, physically, emotionally even.
So when he was signed to take on The Leech Li Jingliang, I thought it was the perfect opponent to give us an idea of what version of Khamzat Chimaev we were left with.
Jingliang is obviously a very respectable opponent - the best fighter Khamzat has faced so far by some distance.
But he’s also not such an overwhelming foil to Chimaev’s route to victory that it would have been a needlessly difficult test.
And don’t get me wrong, I went into this bout knowing full well that Jingliang had the ability to win this if he was given a chance.
But after an ill-advised, highly-telegraphed punch to open the fight, this was well and truly the Khamzat show.
Man, did he look the part.
Everything from his mid-fight roaring at Dana White as he carried The Leech in his arms - to the way he systematically broke down his defense before eventually securing the back.
Yea, this was vintage Chimaev.
And I say ‘vintage’ even though we’ve only seen him in the UFC four times - but at this stage, we all know what he can do when he establishes top position.
And on a card that was filled with hugely memorable moments, watching Chimaev live up to his insane levels of expectation was just as good as any of them.
I’ve been on-board with this guy’s hypetrain for quite some time now - but I also don’t make the mistake of not needing to see anything more.
Jingliang was the perfect opponent who brought a solid level of risk for Borz, but also the windows of opportunity that a prime Chimaev would be expected to take advantage of if he got them.
And that was a 10 out of 10 performance - no matter how you look at it.
But for now, I do want to see Khamzat’s rise taken at perhaps a slower pace than some of you.
When he was booked to take on Leon Edwards - who was ranked number 3 at the time - after Chimaev himself had only fought 3 times in the UFC, that, for me, was a bit much.
Not because I didn’t think he had a chance - quite the opposite actually - and if they paired him up with Leon today, I’d genuinely pick Khamzat to get the job done, as skilled as I believe Edwards to be.
But now that he’s clearly established as a top-15 welterweight, let’s slow the roll a bit - allow the man to continue to build his fame, his hype levels, while also allowing him to work on his skills.
He’s not set to turn 28 until May of next year, folks - this is a young and supremely talented prospect within the 170lb mix - and though I certainly don’t want a slow rise by any means - in an ideal world, I would like to see Khamzat in there with two more opponent before he gets that top-3 or 4 test.
I’m a purest at heart, and I also understand that we’re in a very crucial stage for his development - both as a fighter and as a major celebrity for the UFC.
And I want to see him tested against a variety of styles - which, to be honest, aren’t as widely available at 170lbs as you’d think.
So for now - after a win over the 11th ranked Jingliang, I’d expect Khamzat to take his spot - or maybe even the tenth, depending on how things play out.
And from there, while I certainly don’t want to see Khamzat vs. Nate Diaz because of how horrible a matchup that would be for Nate - let’s be real.
If he can do the same thing to those guys that he has done to all of his other UFC opponents - then we look up at the likes of Leon Edwards, Wonderboy Thompson, Vicente Luque - or whoever occupies the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth spots in a few months.
I do back this guy to reach a title shot - make no mistake.
Although I can’t see him beating Usman right now - but I think that’s my point, I want to see more from Chimaev to convince me - and convince all fans, of his ability to do what he has been doing already - to a wider variety of fighter.
Don’t mistake that for doubt - I believe that the UFC have a real star and a real elite talent on their hands - and I just want to see this incredibly fast rise brought to a more reasonable pace - because if he is as good as we think he is, every passing battle, every piece of octagon experience, that will serve him well when he does reach the top of the pile.
Cause as we already know, he can fight at middleweight as well - and I think that’s a very important thing to bring up here.
What happens when the takedown doesn’t work, or when there’s tricky bottom game beneath him - or a persistent jab stuck in his face.
These are the natural questions to ask - and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a contender at 170lbs I’ve been this excited to watch as they rise to those questions.
This is going to be fun, folks!