Khamzat Chimaev is a man shrouded in mystique and rumor.
Admittedly, part of that is out of his control. He grew up in a foreign land speaking another language, so what exposure Western audiences receive are stories and tales. Brian Stann may have spoken ominously of a killer Welterweight in Sweden or Darren Till will talk about how “Borz” never fatigues, but for the most part, those stories are all we got when Chimaev crushes opponents with absolute ease.
It’s not easy to draw conclusions from nothing. What was the takeaway in Chimaev’s UFC debut? Something along the lines of, “Holy s—t, this guy can wrestle.” Three fights later, we had only learned one additional fact, gathered from his plastering of Gerald Meerschaert: the dude can punch, too!
Fortunately, there was no such domination at UFC 273 last night (Sat., April 9, 2022) against Gilbert Burns, who was well-prepared to throw down with the Chechen wolf. On the flip side, Chimaev didn’t get smoked and revealed to be all hype either — we finally got a real glimpse at his skill set.
Chimaev has A sides on his A sides. Aside from his elite wrestling and grappling skill, we learned that Chimaev is a composed striker who’s comfortable in exchanges. He apparently has legitimate knockdown power in his jab, a slick uppercut and surprisingly strong kicks. He can put together combinations nicely, even if his head tends to hang in one place for a bit too long.
Perhaps more important than his kickboxing skill were the physical attributes revealed. First and foremost, Chimaev’s conditioning lives up to the legends. He pushed an insane pace, ate some brutal shots, then kept on pushing! He obviously slowed down a bit because of wear-and-tear, but cardio is no shortcoming.
Chimaev also proved an iron jawline by taking several Burns’ overhands.
In short, Chimaev really looks to have all the physical and technical tools to challenge for the Welterweight belt. He’s huge for the division, well-conditioned, durable, and damn good just about everywhere. “Borz” is a problem!
At the same time, one has to wonder if the removal of the mystique will help future Chimaev opponents. After all, Burns did shut down some takedown attempts, scramble back to his feet, and landed heavy blows. He came within inches of stealing back the third round and thus winning the decision.
That’s not to imply that everyone will be able to replicate his success, but now other Welterweights understand it’s possible. Or, in the words of Rocky’s cornerman opposite Ivan Drago, “You cut him! You HURT him! You see. You see. He’s not a machine, He’s a man!” It’s simply much easier to defeat a human foe with strengths and weaknesses compared to an enigma.
For complete UFC 273: “Volkanovski vs. Korean Zombie” results and play-by-play, click HERE.