Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight scrappers Khamzat Chimaev and Li Jingliang will clash this weekend (Sat., Oct. 30, 2021) at UFC 267 inside Etihad Arena on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
A member of UFC’s Welterweight division since 2014, Jingliang has fought many of the division’s toughest talents over the years. He’s consistently improved, too, growing from a ground specialist to aggressive knockout puncher, which has been a big factor in his recent success. Jingliang may have the better resume, but even after a gnarly battle with COVID-19 and year on the sidelines, Chimaev has the hype. The Swede (by way of Chechnya) stormed out of the gates to pick up a trio of UFC wins last year, and now he’ll finally get a chance to capitalize on that momentum.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Santiago Ponzinibbio (UFC Fight Island 7), Elizeu Zaleski (UFC Fight Night 157), David Zawada (UFC Fight Night 141), Dhiego Lima (UFC Fight Night 66), Bobby Nash (UFC on FOX 23)
Key Losses: Neil Magny (UFC 248), Jake Matthews (UFC 221), Keita Nakamura (UFC Fight Night 75), Nordine Taleb (UFC Fight Night 54)
Keys to Victory: Jingliang has developed into quite the bully. The Chinese fighter pressures opponents, always ready to explode into a big series of potential knockout swings that may or may not be followed with a takedown attempt. In addition, his calf kicks and front kicks have become potent weapons as of late.
Speaking of the calf kick, he must use it here. Chimaev likes to stalk opponents, and like most wrestlers, he’s heavy on his lead leg. The calf kick carries a rather low risk of being converted into a takedown, and it can convince opponents to hesitate before stepping forward, which is big against someone looking to wrestle.
Strikes that interrupt pressure, like the body jab or snap kick, will also be helpful.
Looking at the match up from more of a big picture perspective, Jingliang’s goal should be to avoid checkmate positions and keep his foe working. Chimaev is a big Welterweight, and he’s accustomed to dominating easily and finishing early. Add in his bout with COVID-19 and general inexperience, and there’s every reason to believe that he won’t look quite the world beater by the midway point of the fight ... if he’s forced to work hard.
It’s easy to rest while “triangling” the legs or controlling a double-wrist ride. Jingliang has to keep the scrambles going while avoiding such positions, taxing his opponent without providing too many opportunities in the process.
Key Wins: Gerald Meerschaert (UFC Vegas 11), John Phillips (UFC Fight Island 1), Rhys McKee (UFC Fight Island 3)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Chimaev has all the looks of a future champion. He’s got a great frame for the division, an extensive wrestling background, and is clearly a gifted athlete with genuine knockout power. Sure, there are still unknowns about “Borz,” but there’s more reasons to be excited than not.
This match up is a demonstration of UFC’s craft in matchmaking. Jingliang is definitely a step up in competition for Chimaev, a hard-nosed veteran who can certainly capitalize upon any mistakes from his relatively inexperienced foe. At the same time, Jingliang has been ground out previously, and his last three losses come to grappling specialists.
It’s a favorable stylistic match up for the prospect, though danger does exist.
The quicker Chimaev can gain the clinch, the more that risk is minimized. As Magny demonstrated, Jingliang can be frustrated and fatigued by continual chain wrestling. Often, he looks to escape or reverse in one big move, which can set him further behind when it fails.
Chimaev has the wrestling and top control to make this a miserable night for Jingliang, so he should make use of it quickly.
This is a hugely important fight for both men.
Jingliang enters this bout with the highest ranking of his career at No. 11, but he does so against an unranked foe. Usually, that’s the worst-case scenario, but Chimaev is not some unheralded newcomer. If Jingliang hands the Chechen his first professional loss, it will certainly improve his position on the Welterweight ladder and set him up for another big fight next.
A loss would definitely hurt though.
As for Chimaev, he’s trying to steal Jingliang’s position and score a Top 10 booking next. Based on the initial Leon Edwards match up, UFC clearly thinks extremely highly of his potential, and thus he’s on the fast track to the top. A loss to “The Leech” does not mean Chimaev sucks — “Borz” is still just 27 years of age — but it would definitely slow his rise considerably.
At UFC 267, Li Jingliang and Khamzat Chimaev will go to war. Which man will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 267 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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