The undefeated Khamzat Chimaev is scheduled to face his toughest test in the Octagon. At UFC 273 on April 9 he is expected to face Gilbert Burns; a fighter who challenged for the UFC welterweight title last year.
Chimaev’s crack at one of the division’s top three ranked fighters comes after he dispatched of Li Jingliang at last year’s UFC 267. That submission victory came after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to serious symptoms of COVID-19.
Prior to his illness lay-off Chimaev thrilled UFC fans, and President Dana White, with three quick victories in 2020, including a submission of John Phillips, a TKO of Rhy McKee and a 17-second KO of Gerald Meerschaert.
With ‘Borz’ now knocking on the door of UFC title relevancy the Chechen-born Swede has had to hear some dismissive claims from those at the top of the food-chain. UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya said that Chimaev wasn’t a threat to him, yet. And UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman downplayed Chimaev’s achievements, stating “he hasn’t beat anyone yet.”
Chimaev appeared in a video for The MacLife recently, where he responded to remarks over his 10-0 record.
“Who did like, go in the cage, ten fights, ten finishes? The guys tell like, ‘Oh, he didn’t fight this guy. He didn’t fight that guy.’” asked Chimaev (ht sportskeeda). “But the guys who’s the best guys – Jon Jones. His first four fights in UFC, he get the punch. I didn’t get the punch. We don’t say his first fights, he didn’t get the best ones; the guys, you know, like, super good guys. Nobody. Conor [McGregor] didn’t get that; crazy good guys in their first fights. Nobody. Khabib [Nurmagomedov] didn’t get crazy good guys. I just need the time.”
Chimaev’s first four UFC opponents had a combined record of 81-30-1 (72% win percentage) when they faced him.
Jon Jones’ first four UFC fights were against Andre Gusmao, Stephan Bonnar, Jake O’Brian and Matt Hamill. Those four fighters had a combined record of 34-8 (81% win percentage) when they faced Jones.
Conor McGregor debuted against Marcus Brimage in 2013, then fought Max Holloway, Diego Brandao and Dustin Poirier. That quartet came into their fights with ‘Notorious’ with a 47-15 (76% win percentage).
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s first UFC fight was against Kamal Shalorus in 2012. He then fought Gleison Tibau, Thiago Tavares and Abel Trujillo. Those opponents had a record of 60-16-3 (76% win percentage) when they fought.
Based on their win percentages, it’s fair to say that Chimaev’s level of competition has been slightly below that of the former champions he mentioned in the interview.
Regardless of past performances, though, Chimaev’s forthcoming date provides him an opportunity to prove he deserves all the hype. And his jump up in competition, versus the 20-4 Burns, is unlike what Jones, McGregor and Nurmagomedov faced in their fifth ever UFC contest.
After his DQ loss to Hamill, Jones broke Brandon Vera’s (11-4) face, but would need two more wins to get a title shot at light heavyweight. McGregor’s fifth fight was a convincing win over Dennis Siver (22-9), which got him one fight away from his shot at Jose Aldo. Nurmagomedov’s fifth fight was against Pay Healy (25-12), but it would take him another five years before he could challenge for a title.
If Chimaev beat Burns and supplants the Brazilian as the second ranked UFC welterweight. It’s entirely possible that he faces Usman next for the title. The only fighter ranked above Burns is Colby Covington, who is 0-2 against the champ.