This past Saturday at UFC 294 we saw a title eliminator in the middleweight division. Khamzat Chimaev (13-0) made his return as he took on former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (20-4). The winner was expected to get a shot at middleweight champion Sean Strickland (28-5).
When the fight started, it didn’t take long for Chimaev to shoot for a takedown. While Usman defended well at first, Chimaev was able to get the fight to the ground. Chimaev dominated the first round having Usman’s back the majority of the round and keeping him on the mat.
In the second round, Usman was able to keep things standing until the very end of the round. Chimaev looked a little tired and it’s been revealed after the fact that he hurt his right hand in the first round. With the limited activity, I gave the second round to the former champion.
In the third round, Usman came on really strong. He was landing big shots and Chimaev wasn’t really answering. Chimaev ended up getting a takedown about halfway through the round and spent the majority of the second half of the round on top. Usman got up at the end but there wasn’t enough time. Chimaev went on to score the majority decision win at UFC 294.
What’s next after UFC 294?
After winning this fight with Usman, Chimaev is supposedly the next in line to face middleweight champion Sean Strickland. Should he be the next? In my opinion, no, he shouldn’t be the next challenger. I still believe that Dricus Du Plessis should get the shot, but it’s clear the UFC is not going in that direction.
With that being said, Chimaev is going to get the next title shot and my guess is that he’ll be the betting favorite against Sean Strickland. However, should he be? There are a few things that concern me for Chimaev in a potential battle with Sean Strickland. First and foremost, Strickland is so much better on the ground than people realize.
Taking him down and controlling him on the ground is not going to be easy for Chimaev. Will Chimaev get takedowns? Yes, he will. However, he’s going to need to learn how to conserve his energy. If Chimaev cannot get a finish against Strickland in the early rounds, he’s going to find himself in very deep water.
The middleweight champion has an endless gas tank and if you’re tired in front of him, he’s going to break you down. I’m very fascinated by this matchup and I think it should be a pick’em opposed to Chimaev being the betting favorite to dethrone the UFC’s middleweight champion.