The most hyped up prospect on the roster, Khamzat Chimaev, will look to extend his win streak opposite new opponent, Kevin Holland (not Nate Diaz), this Saturday (Sept. 10, 2022) at UFC 279 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada (full details here).
Chimaev has made some rather large promises in his fairly short time on UFC’s roster, but for the most part, he lived up to them. That all changed yesterday, when Chimaev crashed the UFC scale so hard that he completely rearranged the entire fight card. What are the consequences of his actions? It’s hard to say in the big picture, but in the short-term, he has a much more difficult match up ahead of him. Reminder: Chimaev likely could’ve just sat out and waited for a Welterweight title shot before today’s madness erupted. Instead, he now has to deal with one of the nastiest offensive punchers at 170 pounds. Even with his advantage on the canvas, this is a much more challenging match up than Diaz.
He’s not the main event anymore, but let’s take a closer look at his skill set anyway:
The amount of footage we have of Chimaev kickboxing remains fairly limited and almost entirely sourced from the Gilbert Burns fight, so keep that in mind ahead of this section. In addition, remember that Chimaev is an incredible athlete with natural power and a solid chin.
“Borz” is a very right hand-focused fighter. His left handed jab is decent, occasionally used to pepper his opponent with quick pops. Largely, however, Chimaev is looking to line up his right hand. Fortunately, he’s willing to vary the angle on his right and switch stances, which helps prevent him from getting too predictable.
For example, Chimaev dropped Burns in the first round of their 15-minute barnburner by switching Southpaw. He’d already been pressuring the Brazilian pretty intently and has established the habit of crashing into him with big swings. As Burns stepped forward, intent to swing a left hook or overhand, Chimaev stuck him with a hard, right-handed jab (GIF). Burns hit the canvas, and Chimaev stung him many times throughout the bout with that strike.
Mixing in simple straight shots in all the chaos was an effective strategy.
More often, Chimaev is flashing his left then actually crashing forward with a right hand from Orthodox. Often, he’ll take a small angle towards his right as he steps forward (GIF), which takes him away from his opponent’s power and can help load up the follow-up hook. The 1-2 is not exactly an uncommon combination, but again, Chimaev does well to vary the angle by throwing both straights and right hooks.
Chimaev’s right uppercut — or maybe something of a shovel hook? He sometimes angles it up the middle a bit oddly — might be his signature punch. Again, his most common setup is to simply flash the jab then come forward with the uppercut. Prior to his UFC career, Chimaev scored a big win over the highly touted Ikram Aliskerov by feinting a level change then stepping into the uppercut.
Chimaev likes to flurry along the fence and land in the clinch. Typically, he pursues the takedown from there, but against Burns, he did well to latch onto the head and hunt for knees (GIF). Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Chimaev did chop the calf pretty well, and he also gave some interesting looks of throwing a front kick up the middle then stepping into the right jab.
Defensively, Chimaev relied largely on a high guard and toughness to survive Burns’ heavy punches. His head typically stayed on the center line or Chimaev leaned straight back, a strategy that’s wildly effective until suddenly it ends terribly. Burns clipped him coming in repeatedly, but so far, Chimaev hasn’t truly paid for these defense habits.
An accomplished freestyle wrestler, Chimaev’s shot is shockingly quick. Once he has his arms wrapped around his opponent, immense his strength is obvious.
Almost every Chimaev fight has started the same. Immediately, Chimaev steps to his opponent with a major swing, be it big punch or high kick. As his opponent goes to defend — the sole exception to this trend is Gerald Meerschaert, who wasn’t quick enough to defend and thus got knocked out immediately — Chimaev ducks into the hips and completes a takedown.
That’s a simple enough strategy, but Chimaev’s size, strength, and speed make it hard to stop! Seriously, watch his shot here against Li Jingliang (GIF). Jingliang actually does a couple defensive things well in turning an angle and meeting Chimaev’s shot with strong hips, but once the Chechen’s hands are locked, it’s a pretty done deal. He’ll immediately shift up to the upper body clinch, and from there, he’s excellent at muscling his way to towards the back and forcing his opponent down.
Time and time again, Chimaev secures the body lock and just manhandles people.
Chimaev did showcase a different style of takedown against Burns on his opening shot. Off the body lock, Chimaev dropped his arms back down to a single leg. From the single along the fence, Chimaev executed Khabib’s favorite takedown. By hipping in and lifting from the single, he forced Burns to hop while semi-elevated on one remaining base leg. Then, Chimaev hooked that base leg and forced his foe over.
Chimaev’s mat work is really excellent. Since he takes foes down from the clinch along the fence often, he commonly ends up with an opponent trying to wall-walk. From there, Chimaev will hook his opponent’s leg and sit on it. That’s a fairly common stall tactic, but Chimaev will actually beat the crap out of his opponent from that position.
One of Chimaev’s best skills is his ability to control the wrist ride. Once the Chechen is behind his opponent on the canvas, he’ll wrap up the far wrist and make his foe’s life hell. Chimaev’s grip seems like glue, and his free hand is always delivering short punches around the side and sneaky uppercuts. If he feels his opponent starting to build up, Chimaev will briefly stop hitting to break his foe back down with the two-on-one wrist ride then immediately resume punching.
Typically, it doesn’t take long for this kind of mauling to convince his opponents to try to get their back to the canvas (meaning accepting bottom position but forcing Chimaev out from behind them.) When they try to scrape their back on the mat, Chimaev will immediately pursue mount and keep punching. Being mounted and struck is arguably worse, at which point his opponent is almost forced to turn away ... probably back into the wrist ride.
It’s a vicious, unpleasant cycle that is rife with submission danger too.
Defensively, Chimaev has only really been tested by Burns. His sprawl and strong hips immediately shut down all shots except one. When Burns was able to lift the single leg and transition to the body lock, he actually managed to get a small angle and try to topple Chimaev over. For a brief second, Chimaev was on the canvas, but Burns’ overcommitted his bodyweight to the maneuver. As a result, he wasn’t really able to hold his top position, meaning Chimaev could freely scramble up before Burns could settle his weight. Burns’ technical flaw was likely the result of fatigue in the third round of a hard fight, but Chimaev still had to react correctly to avoid being taken down.
Chimaev has scored four wins via tapout, all strangles.
Two of those wins came via rear-naked choke. Unsurprisingly, all that wrist riding and punching opens up opportunities to throw a hook in. Chimaev doesn’t rush the back take — he’s happy to just keep punching — but once his opponent is a touch desperate and the hips are more available, Chimaev will attempt to fully take the back. From there, Chimaev applies excellent hip pressure, keeps punching, and the choke tends to open up quickly (GIF).
The d’arce choke accounts for the other half of Chimaev’s submission finishes, which makes plenty of sense. Against Chimaev’s aforementioned cycle of misery, the best shot at standing up often involves securing an underhook and driving into Chimaev, which can result in both men building upwards toward their feet. Whenever the bottom opponent secures an underhook, an avenue for the d’arce is also created.
Chimaev mauled John Phillips in his UFC debut. When the Englishman turned an underhook into a single leg attempt from bottom, Chimaev immediately sprawled hard on him and shut that down. However, he used that opening from the underhook to thread his arm around the neck, quickly trapping him. He tilted Phillips back to his side using a Gable grip — a maneuver known in jiu-jitsu as the bolt-cutter — then locked up the full grip, quickly switch his hips to fully apply the squeeze. (GIF)
Chimaev is a tremendous athlete with a skill set who’s built for major success in two divisions. Though his Welterweight future now looks a bit more uncertain, Chimaev can earn some goodwill back by stomping Holland and continuing his rise to the top.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 279 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on 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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