Usman, Chimaev Fight In Abu Dhabi

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Former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is set to face the undefeated powerhouse Khamzat Chimaev on his debut in the middleweight dvision at the Etihad Arena in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

 

Chimaev was originally scheduled to face Paulo Costa but the Brazilian had to withdraw for medical reasons.

 

This matchup had initially garnered substantial attention when Usman was reigning as the welterweight champion and Chimaev was a title contender. However, now it’s taking place in the middleweight division, setting the stage for a No. 1 contender’s showdown in Abu Dhabi.

 

Usman, who last fought in March, lost the rubber match to the current welterweight champion, Leon Edwards is widely regarded as one of the best welterweights of all time and a pound-for-pound great.

The Nigerian Nightmare’ defended his title five times with victories over notable fighters like Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington (twice), and Gilbert Burns.

 

Burns is also the man to give Chimaev his toughest test to date, a three-round war in 2022. He has since marked down one more win, a submission of Kevin Holland at a catchweight in September 2022, before taking off significant time and making his way to middleweight.

 

While Kamaru’s record speaks volumes about his dominance in the welterweight division, there are lingering questions about his condition as he accepted this middleweight fight on short notice.

Additionally, one must note that Khamzat Chimaev is physically larger than Usman. Although Usman established himself as a force to be reckoned with at 170 pounds, stepping up to 185 pounds against a younger, faster Chimaev, who has demonstrated knockout power at this weight class, presents a unique challenge.

 

In his earlier years, Usman was a national champion wrestler and a top-tier grappler in MMA, but his second loss to Edwards this March has raised concerns about the state of his knees and it’s now widely acknowledged that his knees have seen better days.

 

The question remains whether ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ can withstand Chimaev’s relentless wrestling assault if he comes charging like a cannon, as he did against Holland.

 

Chimaev is known for his seemingly infinite gas tank, which bodes well for a three-round fight, especially considering the short notice. To secure victory, Usman will likely rely on his boxing skills and aim to exploit Chimaev’s forward pressure, as out-grappling or submitting Chimaev is highly unlikely.

 

Usman was one of the most dominant champions in UFC welterweight history before dropping the only two losses of his career back-to-back vs current champion Edwards. He’ll look to build another run to the title, beginning with Chimaev on Saturday. The winner of this showdown is anticipated to contend for the title against Sean Strickland.

 

Usman has expressed his aspirations to achieve gold in both the middleweight and again in welterweight before retiring.

 

“Sean Strickland is a champion, I’ve already taken care of him,” Kamaru Usman stated in the interview discussing his champ-champ aspirations.

“Not to say he’s not better, he is. But I’ve got a mountain in front of me that I need to climb and scale so we’ll get through that first. Then we’ll worry about what’s next, but it’s a no-brainer. No (I’m not done at welterweight), absolutely not.

“What a way to go out! I might mic drop. Grab the middleweight belt, go down, grab the welterweight. What a way to go out though. I want both! I’ve wanted champ-champ, but what a way. To go get the top one, then come back down and get it. Nobody has ever done that, it would be crazy.”

 

Chimaev, who joined the UFC in 2020, has remained undefeated in all 12 of his professional bouts, with most of his wins coming within the first two rounds. His dynamic style has proven to be a puzzle yet to be solved in the MMA world.

 

Usman boasts the best takedown defense in UFC history at 97%, while Chimaev’s wrestling skills have yet to be fully tested. If Usman is in good shape despite the short notice, this fight promises to be more intriguing than the originally planned matchup with Costa.

 

Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has expressed skepticism about Usman’s chances in this co-main event.

 

“Stylistically, I think this is a hard fight for Usman,” Whittaker said. “If we’re going off the Usman that fought Leon Edwards…he had a hard time trying to get into that shooting range and trying to dirty up the fight, get it close, doggish against the fence.

“Chimaev’s going to utilize those kicks, he’s a big dude, a very tall guy. And he has the wrestling to be able to counter Usman better than Leon does. If anything, we might see a really good showing from Chimaev, all of the pieces are there for Chimaev to staple his name,” Whittaker said in a recent episode of the MMArcade podcast.

 

The outcome of this fight is challenging to predict, but it promises to be an exhilarating clash, with Usman’s experience and high fight IQ pitted against Chimaev’s impressive run of victories.