UFC 294 Co-Main Event Preview: Khamzat Chimaev – Kamaru Usman

MMA: UFC 273
David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow in the co-main event of UFC 294, we are going to see a banger of a matchup at 185. A title shot at middleweight is on the line as former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (20-3) is stepping in on less than two weeks’ notice to take on the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev (12-0).

Chimaev was originally supposed to face Paulo Costa. However, after Costa suffered a nasty infection in his elbow, he was forced to pull out of the fight. The UFC called Usman and he was willing to take the fight on short notice. This will be Usman’s first fight at 185 inside the octagon.

We haven’t seen the former welterweight champion since he lost a decision to Leon Edwards in their trilogy fight back in March. He’s been in a bit of a state of limbo as of late. However, this fight is the fight that he always wanted and now it’s coming together just at 185 pounds.

This will be Khamzat Chimaev’s first fight since last October when he submitted Kevin Holland. Chimaev is a perfect 6-0 in the UFC. However, after fighting three times in his first three months inside the octagon, Chimaev has only fought three times in the last three years. The rising star hasn’t been active and he has a lot to prove. After not making weight in his last welterweight fight, he’s moved up for good to middleweight with the hopes of becoming middleweight champion.

UFC 294 Prediction

This fight is a dream matchup that I was hoping to see while Usman was welterweight champion. When Chimaev first came onto the scene in the UFC, I was really hoping these two would cross paths. Usman’s methodical pressure filled style against Chimaev’s freight train like style. Both are elite grapplers and both have sensational power in their hands.

Before Leon Edwards shocked the world by taking Usman’s title, I thought Chimaev was going to be the man to dethrone Usman. He has the wrestling to counter Usman and he has tremendous striking and power. For those reasons and for the fact that it’s on short-notice, I think the odds are rightly in his favor ahead of UFC 294.

That said, there are a couple of concerns for me. Chimaev cannot rush Usman like he’s rushed other opponents. Usman is a veteran and he’s not going to back down. He also knows when to put his foot on the gas and when to conserve energy. We’ve seen Chimaev just try to run through opponents and that could get him into trouble tomorrow.

If he tries to finish Usman in the first round with everything he has and can’t do it, things could get real dicey in the second and third rounds. All that being said, I still lean towards Chimaev in this matchup. I think he’s got the faster strikes, the wrestling to counter Usman and just the youth factor. I think the fight is so much closer than most people think, but I like Chimaev to earn his UFC title shot tomorrow against the former welterweight champ.

Prediction: Khamzat Chimaev by Decision

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