Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev appears to be the next great fight on the horizon. ‘Borz’ has not set foot inside the octagon since September. Meanwhile, Kamaru Usman lost to Leon Edwards in the pair’s trilogy bout at UFC 286, which has left the former champion on the first losing streak of his career.
The undefeated Chechen previously called for a matchup with ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ during the latter’s title reign. Years later, the matchup now seems like a real possibility. Chimaev revealed that the UFC intends to book him for a fight at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi, for which he has requested Usman as his opponent.
Earlier this month, the former welterweight champion himself called for a matchup with ‘Borz’. Whether the bout happens at 170 pounds or 185 pounds remains a mystery. What is known is that if the two men lock horns inside the octagon, it’s likely to be a war between two of the most physical fighters on the roster.
These are the reasons why.
Kamaru Usman’s striking style matches up well with Khamzat Chimaev
Khamzat Chimaev isn’t a technician when it comes to striking. Instead, he is a brutally effective puncher with an occasional front kick and a tried-and-tested jab-right hook combination. From an offensive standpoint, ‘Borz’ usually adopts an orthodox stance but is capable of switching to southpaw.
He often uses his jab as a measuring tool before aligning his opponent with his rear hand, which is almost always his right hand. He is also exclusively a pressure fighter whose best work is done moving forward. The undefeated star is an ominous presence in the cage who is difficult to push back.
While he doesn’t rely on lateral footwork to cut off his opponent’s angles of escape, his size and speed render it easy for him to crowd his foe’s space. Furthermore, he uses a hard front kick to the body to push opponents into the fence, where he unloads a right hook, which is often a knockout blow.
Not only does he always rotate his hips to generate maximum power, but he also throws his right hook closer to his chest, making it a straighter punch than a traditional hook. Unfortunately, he doesn’t move his head off the center line, nor does he have lateral footwork.
This could lead to some issues against Kamaru Usman. The former welterweight champion is exceptionally powerful in his own right. Like Khamzat Chimaev, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ favors a combination involving his jab and right hand. However, Usman relies more on a right straight than a right hook.
Furthermore, he switches stances often, using his lead right hand as a counter from southpaw. There is even more depth to his striking, however. Against former ‘BMF’ champion Jorge Masvidal, Kamaru Usman faked a jab to draw the right hand-parry. He did so due to the open space in Masvidal’s defense.
Masvidal, like Chimaev, maintains a tight, square stance designed for power. Additionally, the two men have similar defensive instincts: counterpunching. Masvidal’s answer to Usman’s jab was to parry it with his right hand and throw a check left hook, which is similar to ‘Borz’s’ instinct to answer fire with fire.
Usman faked his jab, tugged on Masvidal’s hand, and sliced a right straight down the middle when ‘Gamebred’ opened himself up by attempting to land a check left hook. What’s worse for ‘Borz’ is that he doesn’t move his head off the center line whenever he throws looping punches.
Kamaru Usman’s ability to counter looping power-punches with linear punches that travel through a straighter, shorter arc was on full display when he beat Gilbert Burns. If Khamzat Chimaev tries to nuke Usman with hooks and overhands without moving his head away from potential counters, it could be disastrous.
This is especially true given Chimaev’s tendency to chase his opponents in a straight line, much like Ronda Rousey did against Holly Holm. He doesn’t move laterally with his opponents. This is risky against an exceptionally powerful jabber like Usman who can simply use his straights as barriers for Chimaev to run into.
Khamzat Chimaev’s wrestling and grappling match up well with Kamaru Usman
While Kamaru Usman holds a potential advantage in the striking exchanges, Khamzat Chimaev has his own advantages in the wrestling and grappling sequences. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is known to have poor knees, which prevent him from shooting traditional blast double-leg takedowns.
Instead, most of the former champion’s takedowns come from the clinch, where he is often the larger man with greater leverage. While he sometimes threatens his foes with traditional takedown shots, many of them are simply avenues for him to slide up into a clinching position.
In the clinch, Kamaru Usman is a specialist at blocking his opponent’s hips. Whether he is on a single-leg or setting up an upper-body slam, he often blocks his foe’s hips with his own before lifting them to complete his takedowns. While this is a testament to his skill, it’s also evidence of his strength and size advantage.
But he won’t have such an advantage against a wrestler as strong and large as Khamzat Chimaev. Without the height and size advantage to generate the leverage he’s accustomed to, Kamaru Usman will find himself in unfamiliar territory: facing someone who is even bigger and stronger.
Meanwhile, ‘Borz’ is a clinch specialist himself. While there’s ample technique involved in his wrestling, his success largely depends on his absurd athleticism. Chimaev is unbelievably strong in the clinch and blindingly fast when he shoots for takedowns. Kevin Holland can attest to that.
Khamzat Chimaev also uses his front kick to set up takedowns. Whenever his kick lands, it causes opponents to stand up straighter, leaving them ill-prepared to sprawl. Thus, ‘Borz’ has become an expert at throwing the front kick and immediately shooting after it.
Where he’ll truly have an advantage over Usman, though, is the mat. Usman has no submission threat whatsoever. Additionally, his tendency to get on all fours to stand back up often exposes his back. Doing so against Chimaev is an invitation for a rear-naked choke against an aggressive submission specialist.
Because Usman is so concerned with immediately standing up after conceding any takedown, he often plants his hands on the mat. This exposes him to wrist control, which Khamzat Chimaev is a master at. The unbeaten Chechen tugs his foe’s wrist beneath them, pinning it under their weight.
He also wraps his legs around his opponent’s, making it harder for them to stand back up. After doing so, he batters his foes with punches, leading to many of them turning away and inviting chokes. Usman’s tendency to expose his limbs on the mat could lead to him being out-grappled and pummeled.
While ‘Borz’ was wary of returning to the canvas against Gilbert Burns due to an attempted armbar after his sole takedown, there is no such submission threat from Kamaru Usman.
Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev: The verdict
There are other factors to consider in this potential matchup. Whether it’s a three-round fight or a five-round war will determine if Kamaru Usman‘s cardio could play a factor. Where the Nigerian’s headspace is at now that he’s on a two-fight losing streak, the first losing streak of his career, is also something to note.
He seemed tentative and cautious against Leon Edwards due to previously being KO’d. Could the threat of another knockout from a well-known nuclear threat like Khamzat Chimaev elicit the same reaction? Has age finally caught up to him? Will Khamzat Chimaev underestimate him as he did Gilbert Burns?
Will he be able to make weight if the bout takes place at 170 pounds, and if so, will he be drained after recently bulking up? The bout has all of the ingredients for a thrilling war if it does end up happening. But if the version of Usman fans saw from UFC 286 shows up, he might suffer the third straight loss in his career.