Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight standouts Gilbert Burns and Khamzat Chimaev will square off this weekend (Sat., April 9, 2022) at UFC 273 inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
For quite a few fight fans, this might as well be the main event.
Khamzat is one of the most free-rolling hype trains in recent memory, and he’s an instant sensation for good reason. The Chechen wrestler literally does not get punched, utterly dominating each of his four UFC fights and showcasing excellent skill and athleticism every time. He looks the part of a future champion — and given the precedent of Khabib Nurmagomedov — it’s hard not to get on board. All the same, Burns is a massive step up in competition. A former title challenger with considerable knockout power in both hands and an incredible pedigree of his own on the mat, “Durinho” is no easy task for any foe at 170 pounds.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Li Jingliang (UFC 267), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC Vegas 11), John Phillips (UFC Fight Island 1), Rhys McKee (UFC Fight Island 3)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Chimaev is a terrifying prospect. Size, strength and power paired with elite wrestling is a brutal mixture, and Chimaev is still so early in his career that his ceiling is a complete unknown.
Against Burns, Chimaev’s wrestling talent means he can choose whether or not to really engage on the mat. Does Chimaev want to brave Burns’ submission skills or trade shots with the power puncher? It’s up to “Borz!”
Grappling seems the safer bet. It’s been a while, but if we look back at Burns’ fight history, he’s been successfully trapped on bottom before. Michel Prazeres really frustrated Burns with a takedown-heavy approach, and while obviously Burns is much improved from that 2016 defeat, well ... Chimaev is also superior to Prazeres.
An important aspect of this fight for Chimaev is his conditioning and pace. Burns is an excellent grappler, unlikely to be outright overwhelmed by Chimaev’s initial offering. The Chechen must be prepared to wrestle hard for 15 minutes, because Burns isn’t just going to give up his back and get flattened out right away.
Key Wins: Stephen Thompson (UFC 264), Tyron Woodley (UFC on ESPN 9), Demian Maia (UFC Fight Night 170), Gunnar Nelson (UFC Fight Night 160), Alexey Kunchenko (UFC Fight Night 156), Alex Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 62), Olivier Aubin-Mercier (UFC 231)
Key Losses: Kamaru Usman (UFC 258), Dan Hooker (UFC 226), Michel Prazeres (UFC Fight Night 95), Rashid Magomedov (UFC Fight Night 77)
Keys to Victory: Let’s be honest: Chimaev’s first two UFC opponents were softballs. Opponent No. 3, Gerald Meerschaert, was a big step up in competition, but he got smoked in 17 seconds. Jingliang was another significant bump up the ladder, and Chimaev again dispatched him effortlessly.
Burns must buck this trend here and now.
Everyone backs off from Chimaev, and it’s not hard to understand why: he hits hard, and they don’t want to be taken down. Of course, this only helps him, so Burns has to flip the script. Burns is a better fighter on his front foot, he hits majorly hard himself, and Burns can scramble with anyone in the division — why not try to put Chimaev on his back foot?
I’d really like to see Burns try to push the pace and target the body. Chimaev is a huge Welterweight who cuts a lot of weight, and he’s accustomed to finishing opponents inside five minutes. What happens if Burns punches him in the chest, denies a takedown or two, and forces him to constantly scramble once on the mat?
What happens if Burns doesn’t go away?
This is going to be awesome.
Chimaev is fighting to earn a title shot. If he’s victorious over Burns, his rise is undeniable, and his title shot down the line will be one of the most hyped fights of the year. It’s pretty simple: Chimaev is hugely popular, and defeating Burns gets rid of any question as to whether Chimaev is the real deal.
For Burns, victory here could produce a title shot if Leon Edwards were to upset Kamaru Usman. Otherwise, his defeat at the hands of “Nigerian Nightmare” still feels too recent, so another win is likely necessary to score a rematch. Still, handing Chimaev his first loss would be one hell of an accomplishment, and it certainly establishes that Burns remains one of Welterweight’s best.
At UFC 273, Gilbert Burns and Khamzat Chimaev will meet in the middle of the cage. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 273 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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