In 10 days, Khamzat Chimaev moved himself from the European regional scene to the UFC, from obscurity to newfound stardom (at least among hardcore fans). He did so in dominant fashion, utterly overwhelming two fighters and barely absorbing a strike in the process. Two wins in ten days is a new record inside the Octagon, and Chimaev picked up his first victory on short-notice while fighting up a weight class.
Is it any wonder people are excited? Chimaev promised a Khabib-like performance, and twice now, he has delivered. His athletic takedowns, focus on wrist control, and the general strategy of battering his opponent into a miserable loss — the Khabib juxtaposition is not absurd.
A new prospect debuts in style and has the fighting world ablaze with hype; that’s a combat sports origin story as old as time. However, where the path goes from there can differ dramatically, as some fighters rise through the ranks and live up to greatness, while others are chewed up and spit out.
Where will Chimaev end up? Let’s break it down.
First and foremost, Chimaev washing out or become a complete non-factor? No. The 26-year-old Swede is too strong of a wrestler, too young, and too perfectly suited for 170 lbs. for that unfortunate fate. Unless injuries or something similarly unpredictable take him out, Chimaev isn’t going to just fade away.
On the other end of the spectrum, will Chimaev rise to the title? That’s a much more difficult answer, as well as the primary analysis of this article.
See, Chimaev’s mauling wrestling style is an interesting animal. At a certain level of competition, it absolutely lays waste to opponents. In both UFC bout, that’s what we’ve witnessed: Chimaev effortlessly brutalizing his opponents without the least bit of effective resistance.
However, for the vast majority of fighters not-named Khabib Nurmagomedov or Kamaru Usman, the style runs into a wall as the level of competition rises. Fighters among the upper echelon of the sport are rarely thrown off by aggression and diving takedowns. These more experienced and skilled combatants are often able to turn that mauling mentality against its user, forcing them to exhaust energy pointlessly or run into a powerful strike.
Truthfully, both of Chimaev’s opponents had no real chance. The first, John Phillips, is simply a poor grappler. That’s been proven repeatedly in each of his UFC fights. Against men without a deep knowledge of both wrestling and jiu-jitsu, Chimaev will always dominate.
His latest victim, Rhys McKee, was never going to do much better. Defeating a grinder like Chimaev requires a certain level of physicality, but McKee is a former Lightweight, and a skinny kickboxer at that.
That’s not the type of fighter to really threaten a grinder like Chimaev.
In short, Chimaev did everything he was supposed to do, dominating two fighters who were stylistic softballs. That’s not a knock on him! Chimaev did his job perfectly and made a name for himself in the process, but it’s also a word of warning to anyone expecting Chimaev to hold the belt in two years.
Most fighters who grind relentlessly like Chimaev eventually run into a level of competition that denies their control, and it all falls apart from there. However, “Borz” could very well be part of that special percentage who meets opponents with the tools to trouble them ... and runs them over anyway.
Find out just how good Chimaev is and can become is a process, one that’s really just starting. Fortunately, it’s going to be a lot of fun!
For complete UFC on ESPN 14: “Whittaker vs. Till” results and play-by-play, click HERE!