There’s no downgrading Glover Teixeira’s incredible performance to claim UFC gold or Petr Yan’s masterclass in striking, but the biggest takeaway from UFC 267 on Saturday was the sheer dominance of Khamzat Chimaev.
After seeing the undefeated Chechen sensation win three fights in the span of just two months in 2020 we all had an idea of what Chimaev was capable of doing. However, his level of competition for those three fights wasn’t incredibly difficult. That’s why Chimaev’s welterweight meeting with No. 11-ranked Li Jingliang at UFC 267 was so important.
Jingliang, who is one of the best Chinese fighters to ever compete inside of the Octagon, has proven to be one of the very best finishers in the welterweight division today. “Leech” had turned in a 9-3 record with seven knockout finishes since 2015 before his clash with Chimaev. This is also the same Jingliang who melted welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio with one punch this past January (see it HERE).
As if the rise in competition wasn’t going to be enough to test Chimaev the 27-year-old fighter was making his first Octagon appearance in over a year. That’s because “Borz” has been dealing with one of the worst COVID-19 cases recorded in MMA since the pandemic started. His symptoms were so bad that at one point he contemplated walking away from the sport.
Being unable to train for months and feeling like he “was going to die,” Chimaev’s MMA future was in doubt. While he was likely always going to fight again under the UFC banner nobody knew for sure how his battle with COVID-19 was going to effect him inside of the cage. After all, Chimaev is a high-pace fighter who overwhelms opponents with pressure and offense.
Luckily, Chimaev showed zero signs of having COVID-19 when he stepped inside of the cage with Jingliang at UFC 267. Instead, “Borz” seemed to have hit an entirely new level of dominance during his absence from the sport. It was quite impressive and the reason why we’re now talking about this aura of invincibility that surrounds Chimaev.
The MMA community sometimes gets ahead of itself when assessing new talent. We all want to witness the “next big thing” so we often build a fighter up beyond his actual abilities. It’s normal, but we need to check ourselves when someone like Chimaev breaks onto the scene and looks like an unstoppable force.
Fortunately for those who marvel in the excellence of a growing superstar, Chimaev is a special kind of fighter. We can applaud his performance at UFC 267 coming off of COVID-19 all we want, but it’s Chimaev’s overall work that is simply undeniable. Through his four fights under the UFC banner the undefeated fighter has captured four devastating finishes and has out-landed his opponents 112-1 in significant strikes. Those aren’t numbers to breeze over. Something like that has never been done before and will likely never be done again. It’s almost an impossible feat, especially in a sport where anything can go wrong at any second.
Has Chimaev done this to Top 10 talent? No. Will he get his chance? Yes. And that is why he’s one of the most exciting fighters in the sport today. Chimaev’s combination of athleticism, power, speed, striking, wrestling, and cardio might be the best we’ve seen in a very long time. And to think that he’s doing all of this just 10 fights into his professional MMA career is absolutely astonishing.
For complete UFC 267 results and coverage click here.