The UFC 294 breaking news doesn't stop at Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski II, but our co-main event is also getting switched up a bit. With Paulo Costa unable to compete due to a recent surgery on his elbow, the former welterweight king, Kamaru Usman, will step in and step up to 185lbs to take on the undefeated and formidable Khamzat Chimaev.
Kamaru Usman has a strong case for him being the best welterweight that the UFC has seen. Just as he was going to make that claim an irrefutable one, Leon Edwards found a clutch fifth-round finish in their rematch. Edwards would go on to win the rubber match as well, but it was still clear that Usman hasn't missed a beat, he's just been fighting the best of the best.
Khamzat Chimaev has a similar opponent to Usman, that being Gilbert Burns. Both Usman and Chimaev beat Burns, but not without having to walk through the fire to do so.
UFC 294 Breaking News: Chimaev vs Usman – How do They Match Up?
This is a very interesting fight. Usman is one of the strongest grapplers that we've seen at 170lbs. In his two bouts against Colby Covington, a fighter who usually spams takedowns, we saw them both negate each other's grappling and engage in a kickboxing fight. When Chimaev fought Burns, who is a BJJ phenom, we saw a mostly striking affair as well.
It's not farfetched to think that this will be a striking bout, but you never know in this sport. Another interesting variable in this fight is that Usman is moving up to middleweight and Chimaev has fought at both welterweight and middleweight in the UFC. Perhaps a win here will make a difference at welterweight as well.
Additionally, Usman is moving up to a division with a newly-minted champion, a man he's already defeated. Sean Strickland has really come into his own at this stage of his career. Before his exciting run at middleweight, Sean competed at welterweight; here, him and Usman did cross paths and ‘The Nigerian Nightmare' came out with the win in that 2017 bout.
What's on the Line?
Nothing is promised in this sport. But, it's hard to argue that a win here doesn't jump a long line at middleweight. Sean Strickland is the champ; unsure of whether or not Israel Adesanya is getting an instant rematch or not, Chimaev and Usman both have a great opportunity here to stake their claim for a title shot.