Alexander Volkanovski sees Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman playing out on the feet.
Khamzat Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) takes on Kamaru Usman (20-3 MMA, 15-2 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 294 co-main event at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view at a special time of 2 p.m. ET following prelims on ESPN+.
Former welterweight champion Usman will be stepping in on less than two weeks’ notice and compete at a weight class above. But despite the circumstances not being on his side, Volkanovski thinks Kamaru Usman will be a stern test for undefeated Khamzat Chimaev.
“I think, again, credit to Khamzat Chimaev because it ain’t an easy fight,” Volkanovski said on his YouTube channel. “We know Usman’s got very good takedown defense. Colby Covington had big problems with Usman, trying to take him down. I think Usman even got the takedowns on him, so we could expect a standup fight.”
According to the UFC’s stats, Usman boasts 97 percent takedown defense, making it a tough task for Khamzat Chimaev to take him down. Volkanovski agrees – but only if Kamaru Usman is in shape.
“Obviously, Khamzat Chimaev is going to be in better condition,” Volkanovski said. “I don’t know how long Usman’s been training for and Chimaev is a very, very high-paced fighter. So does that come into play? Can Kamaru Usman handle the shots?”
“I think he can. Can he handle that pace that Chimaev is going to put? Everything’s going to be 100 percent. It’s a three-rounder. He goes in for the kill, even when he’s wrestling or he’s punching. He can’t leave openings in striking.”
“I think the pace that Chimaev is going to set is going to be hard to deal with for someone on short notice … (Kamaru Usman has) always been in a situation where he’s been pretty prepared, so he’s always in good condition. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.”
“But if his gas tank doesn’t hold up and it does go in the later rounds, with the pressure that Chimaev is going to do, I think it’s going to be a hard night for Usman. But if Usman’s fit, his takedown defense is going to be hard and I think we’re in for a cracking fight.”