After a disastrous end to Khamzat Chimaev’s weight cut for his canceled UFC 279 fight with Nate Diaz, the MMA world was in turmoil. Many have focused their attention on Chimaev’s apparent lack of professionalism. Even after the undefeated Chechen phenom revealed the medical nature of his reasons for giving up weight reduction, he didn’t elicit any sympathy.
Some have suggested that if doctors had indeed advised him to stop his weight reduction, he would be better suited for a career at middleweight rather than welterweight. At the UFC 279 post-fight press conference, reporters asked UFC President Dana White if maybe he should move Khamzat Chimaev to the middleweight division more permed. White seemed to agree with the sentiments, even echoing Chimaev’s assertion that doctors advised him to stop the weight cut.
However, a future in the middleweight division might be more beneficial for Khamzat Chimaev. Looking closer, his chances of winning UFC gold at middleweight could be even better than his chances at welterweight, and this list details 5 reasons why.
#5. Khamzat Chimaev is the best wrestler at 185
Wrestling is the most important basis of MMA. The ability to anchor and control one’s opponent on the mat allows fighters to determine the phases of their fights. Being able to determine whether a fight will stand or go to the ground is a powerful tool that disrupts an opponent’s ability to strike comfortably due to the threat of the takedown. No one is ready to throw a punch if straightening their hips overexposes them to takedowns.
The welterweight division consists of countless wrestlers from Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Belal Muhammad to Sean Brady, Michael Chiesa and Shavkat Rakhmonov. The 185-pound weight class is different, with only Derek Brunson and Kelvin Gastelum being credentialed wrestlers. While Marvin Vettori has turned into a useful wrestler, his skills pale in comparison to Khamzat Chimaev.
At middleweight, Chimaev will undoubtedly be the most credentialed and efficient wrestler in the division. A varied and powerful wrestler who strings his takedowns together and is as adept at shooting for legs as he is at chasing bodylocks, ‘Borz’ also makes sure he creates openings for his takedowns using his striking. He primarily uses kicks, usually alternating between roundhouse kicks and front kicks. Landing front kicks force his opponents to straighten their posture.
By forcing his enemies to their feet, Khamzat Chimaev shrinks their base. If his opponent’s feet are too close together, his stance and balance will be too weak for him to defend takedowns by widening his base or exploding his hips back. Alternatively, a roundhouse kick fires a counter kick from its enemy. However, as Chimaev raises his leg to fake the kick, he ducks under his opponent’s punch to fire at his square hips as he charges.
At 185 pounds, no one has the breadth of technical skill that Khamzat Chimaev shows with his wrestling. He’s just as relentless as Derek Brunson in his pursuit of takedowns, but he’s a lot smarter doing it because “Borz” is rarely, if ever, countered on his way inside. In a division with almost no elite wrestlers, Chimaev will be a force to be reckoned with.
#4. He is among the best grapplers in the division
Wrestling is only half of the skills that allow a fighter to overpower an opponent in ground combat sequences. Takedowns are tools a fighter uses to drag an enemy to the mat and even control them. While fights can and have been won by simply controlling opponents on the mat with hip pressure and high control, failing to finish an enemy risks seeing them survive long enough to land a lightning knockout in the next round.
With the exception of Jack Hermansson, the middleweight division is devoid of outstanding grapplers who can consistently finish fights on the ground. A look at Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori’s performances against Kevin Holland is a good indicator of the limits of the ground fight in the 185-pound weight class. Both fighters, who are taller than Khamzat Chimaev, couldn’t submit or TKO Holland in 25 minutes.
Chimaev, on the other hand, finished “Trailblazer” in 2 minutes. The moment Khamzat Chimaev gets a takedown, he makes it extremely difficult for his enemies to get back up. He immediately puts their legs in a triangle with his while using wrist grabs. This way, his opponents are unable to threaten him with bottom chokes or punch and fight his own submissions.
As an excellent jammer, ‘Borz’ is often one step ahead of its opponents. Opponents who try to roll onto their stomachs to get back on their feet find one of their legs wrapped around his, preventing them from pushing off on a steady foot. If his opponents try to get out of the tight spot, “Borz” keeps a tight bodylock to redirect their momentum like he did against Kevin Holland.
The grappling intricacies of the Chechen phenom deserve far more depth than a single entry, however, his tenacity and grappling versatility make him extremely dangerous in a division so devoid of elite grapplers as middleweight.
#3. The rapidity
Daniel Cormier is one of the greatest fighters in MMA history. Additionally, he is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever compete in the octagon. Yet even ‘DC’ was stunned by the speed of Khamzat Chimaev’s first ground shot against Kevin Holland. This led to the former UFC heavyweight champion being compared to him for a takedown against UFC President Dana White.
Kevin Holland is not a slow fighter. In fact, when “Trailblazer” competed at middleweight, every foe he faced battled mightily against his speed. Even a fighter like Holland, who was too fast for every middleweight he faced, couldn’t keep up with the blistering speed of Khamzat Chimaev’s takedown. At 185 lbs, speed is an invaluable asset.
Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has defeated countless foes due to the speed of his karate blitz. So, a fighter of Chimaev’s caliber will greatly confuse any middleweight he encounters. They will be ill-equipped to deal with the kind of speed he possesses. If they’re too slow to defend their kills, they’ll be pinned down much more easily. Also, too much speed deficit will make them unable to keep up with Khamzat Chimaev in grappling transitions on the mat.
#2. The lack of weight reduction
UFC 279 was defined by Khamzat Chimaev’s big gaffe. The rising UFC contender failed to make weight for the first time in the promotion. Doctors reportedly ordered ‘Borz’ to drop his weight cut, putting him on the scale at 7.5 pounds over the welterweight limit. However, as Chimaev once cut weight for a welterweight bout as a late replacement 10 days after a middleweight match, there is no doubting his ability to put on weight.
Still, dehydrating your body to make the cut at 170 pounds has its downsides. First, the undefeated Chechen is nearing his thirties, a time when he will naturally gain more weight and find it harder to move up to welterweight. As one of the biggest welterweights on the roster, Khamzat Chimaev would be best served in the middleweight division where he wouldn’t have to suffer fluid loss to fight.
Without weight loss to dehydrate his body, his brain will retain more fluid and make him harder and harder to rock and wobble like he was in his fight against Gilbert Burns. In addition, the retained liquid will not decrease its toughness either. Khamzat Chimaev is extraordinarily strong. Even at middleweight, his strength is not to be overlooked.
Chimaev defeated Jack Hermansson in a freestyle wrestling match late last year, showing superior skill and strength. Hermansson is a big middleweight and would never be able to drop the 170 pounds due to his thicker, more muscular frame. That Khamzat Chimaev possessed a strength advantage over him is very telling.
Additionally, Daniel Cormier once described Chimaev as “strong” during a mock wrestling exchange. It stands to reason that if Khamzat Chimaev can fight without a weight cut significantly diminishing his toughness and strength, he will be a much tougher and stronger fighter for his enemies.
#1. Israel Adesanya is a better stylistic match than the top 3 welterweights
The UFC welterweight division is led by 3 fighters: Leon Edwards, Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Leon Edwards turned into a highly skilled wrestler, against whom Belal Muhammad could not get takedowns. Additionally, Edwards is believed to be the first mixed martial artist to defeat Usman. Also, his striking in the clinch makes it harder for Chimaev to find bodylocks against him.
Edwards is one of the best fighters in the world when it comes to charging his opponents with hard elbows to pursue clinch engagements. Usman and Covington, on the other hand, are both highly skilled wrestlers who will test Khamzat Chimaev’s suspect cardio if given the chance, while also being much harder for the Chechen phenom to impose his wrestling game plan on. principal without becoming exhausted due to the increased effort.
Israel Adesanya presents no such conundrum. While Khamzat Chimaev would be ill-advised to hit with “The Last Stylebender” for any extended streak, Adesanya’s takedown defense won’t be hard for Chimaev to break through. As Adesanya widens his base and explodes his hips to spread out effectively, he doesn’t disengage from wrestling exchanges. Khamzat Chimaev is a chain wrestler. As long as he has a hold on his enemy, he can just string together more takedowns.
Additionally, the reigning middleweight kingpin exhibits an alarming habit of rolling over onto his stomach to push his hands and feet to his feet, which frequently exposes his back and neck. Against an aggressive finisher like Chimaev, Adesanya will provide an easy-to-ride choke on the back and back. The Nigerian’s reliance on pushing his legs is tailor-made for Chimaev to counter by triangulating one of his legs with his.
If Khamzat Chimaev gets a takedown, ‘The Last Stylebender’ might not get up. While there are several troubling matchups at welterweight, only Robert Whittaker stands out as a tough foe for “Borz” at middleweight.