Khamzat Chimaev emerged from UFC 267 with a win over a ranked opponent, another finish, another $50,000 fight-night bonus and even more hype.
UFC 267 was good in every way for the 27-year-old. UFC 268 could be even better.
Even four bouts and more than a year into his Octagon career, fans have little to go on when analyzing Chimaev as a complete fighter. In his few fights he’s racked up two knockout wins and two submission wins. His octagon time is – in total – 12:54. He’s absorbed one significant strike. His first UFC opponent, John Phillips, landed that blow. Resulting in a ‘strikes absorbed per-minute’ rate of 0.08. He hasn’t had to defend a takedown or a submission attempt.
It’s an understatement to say Chimaev has been an incredibly dominant force.
To that end, though, his recent efforts and his future upside have me wondering—would it be wise for the winner of Saturday’s UFC 268 main event matchup between welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington to call for Chimaev as their next opponent?
It seems like that move could make some real sense.
It seems highly doubtful that Chimaev is going to get worse any worse over his next several fights. If anything, given he’s only been a pro for three years, he’s likely going to be getting a whole lot better and more confident. Catching him now, early in his career, before he’s had a chance to really reach his prime, could be the best opportunity that anyone gets to slow him down any time soon.
If the winner of the Usman vs. Covington fight calls out Chimaev, lands that fight, and then defeats the upstart challenger, they just might buy themselves some time before having to face him again. A win over Chimaev would allow the champ to dismiss the vanquished challenger as all hype and claim he exposed him for a fraud. That would all obviously be bluster, but bluster with a purpose. After all, there’s always the hope that the UFC agrees with that assessment and gives Chimaev some rebuilding fights. An opportunity to buy a little time, and maybe get a few more scouting opportunities before facing the Chechen-born Swede a second time.
But, it’s not just all about gaining a competitive edge. Another reason the welterweight champ might consider pushing for a Chimaev matchup is the potential financial gain. With the amount of interest in the upstart challenger is quickly building he just might be the best drawing challenger even among the current crop of top contenders. Certainly moreso than Leon Edwards, likely even if he beats Jorge Masvidal at UFC 269.
It’s a dangerous proposition, but the atmosphere just may be right to make try something a little daring. Chimaev will still be on the minds of fight fans when UFC 268 comes to a close this week. Timing is not always everything, but in this case, it’s something to take advantage of.
Is Chimaev ready for a title fight? I don’t know. Does Chimaev deserve a title fight? No. Would the UFC give Chimaev a title fight? If the promotion thought it could profit from it, almost assuredly.
It might feel like jumping straight into the fire, but I can’t help feeling the winner of UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2 should create some pressure for Chimaev as a title contender, if only to test how good he really is.
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