Belal Muhammad saw strengths and weaknesses in Khamzat Chimaev after his performance against Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 this past April.
Chimaev and Burns were involved in a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender that saw ‘Borz’ defeat ‘Durinho’ via unanimous decision. The win did not come as easily as the others for the undefeated welterweight, who had either knocked out or submitted all of his opponents inside of two rounds before fighting the one-time title challenger.
Though impressed with his toughness, Muhammad also noticed holes in his strategy he could exploit if he was to fight Chimaev in the near future.
“I saw weaknesses in him,” said Muhammad on Food Truck Diaries with Brendan Schaub. “Obviously, people are like, ‘Oh man, he’s not as good as we thought he was.’ But I’m like, ‘Yo, he showed that he had a chin, he showed that he got power,’ and it’s like — you’re fighting Gilbert Burns.”
Toughness aside, Muhammad expressed concern over Chimaev and his willingness to abandon his strategy in the fight against Burns. It was a decision that one of his coaches chided him for, telling the Allstars Training Center product, “You have to beat them with being smart, with a strategy” in the immediate aftermath.
Muhammad agreed, explaining that without a strategy, the fights will only get harder for Chimaev now that he is ranked in the top five of the division. ‘Remember the Name’ used his winning performances against Demian Maia, Stephen Thompson and Vicente Luque as examples of why having and following the right one is important.
“When you get to the top five, if you’re not fighting with a strategy, you’re going to lose to the good guys,” said Muhammad. “For me, these last three fights I’ve showed that I could fight with a strategy because they were all different fighters. I fought Demian Maia, who’s — I had to stay up on my feet. I could not get taken down, so it’s all defensive wrestling. Then I fought ‘Wonderboy’, who’s — I’m not going to kickbox with ‘Wonderboy’, so I’m going to go in there and take ‘Wonderboy’ down. [He’s] not an easy guy to take down, and I don’t have college wrestling. I’m not a Division-I wrestler, but fight with a strategy. And I dominated him more than anybody else has ever dominated him.
“Then you fight a guy like Luque, who’s knocked me out, who has the most finishes at welterweight and he’s good on his feet and good on the ground,” continued Muhammad. “How are you going to beat a guy like that? Oh well, with movement and footwork and then shooting in when he least expects it. When he thinks you’re going to wrestle, you strike. When he thinks you’re going to strike, you shoot. I did that, so I showed that I could be a different fighter every single fight. And I think that Khamazat’s team is looking at that like, ‘Let’s look for somebody else at this moment, let’s not try to jump on that,’ because if Colby [Covington] is out and I’m willing to fight you, we could fight in June, we could fight in July. I’m ready to go. Why aren’t you guys willing to step up that quick?”
Muhammad and Chimaev have seemingly agreed to fight at UFC 281, the upcoming pay-per-view event scheduled for October 22 in Abu Dhabi. The UFC has not hinted at it being a possibility, but both men are interested in what could be considered a title eliminator.
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