The UFC makes its return to the Middle East! This weekend, UFC 294 is live from the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This card is arguably the card of the year, featuring a lightweight title rematch between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski. Here, though, we are offering our prediction and breaking down the mammoth middleweight co-main event between Kamaru Usman and Khamzat Chimaev. Read on below to find our prediction for what is sure to be an insane fight!
Kamaru Usman – Brave, To Say The Least
Kamaru Usman has finally made the long-awaited decision to move up to 185 lbs, and he has picked one hell of an opponent to debut against.
Kamaru Usman has recently been facing the most adversity he's faced in his career to date. He's coming into this fight off the back of two consecutive losses to Leon “Rocky” Edwards, as well as a swathe of rumours about the condition of his knees, which have long been a source of pain and discomfort for him inside the octagon. Add to that the fact that he's chosen the challenge of what appears to be a truly unstoppable force in Khamzat Chimaev. In truth, this might be the biggest occasion in his career in which Kamaru Usman has gone in to a fight as the true underdog…
Khamzat Chimaev – The Wolf Goes Hunting
Man, what a huge night this could be for Khamzat Chimaev.
With title implications very clearly and bluntly on the line, this could be Chimaev's chance to firmly seize the spotlight, and potentially championship gold. Currently unbeaten in his professional career (12-0-0), Chimaev has been a force to be reckoned with. Most recently, he famously faced Kevin Holland on 24 hours' notice at UFC 279 last year, rag dolling him to a first round submission win. Chimaev could claim the biggest scalp of his career this weekend…
Kamaru Usman: Path to Victory – Knock Out Chimaev
Kamaru Usman's wrestling is some of the best we've ever seen in the UFC. Of that there is no doubt. However, he is facing a different type of beast on Saturday night – and on just 10 days' notice too!
Realistically, I am in no way worried about Kamaru getting rag dolled by Chimaev; my prediction is that his wrestling is fundamentally too good to suffer the same fate as others. However, Chimaev is going to be difficult to deal with; he is an imposing physical presence, and Kamaru is going to have to try to find a way to deal with him.
My prediction is that Usman is going to have to use his physical power to try to knock Khamzat Chimaev out, in a way similar to the Jorge Masvidal II fight. If Kamaru can bait Chimaev into leaving his chin open recklessly (as he did against Gilbert Burns), then he is skilled enough to take advantage of it.
Khamzat Chimaev: Path to Victory – Overwhelm Usman
Khamzat Chimaev has a lot of physical advantages in this fight, and he will have to make use of all of them in order to beat someone as good as Kamaru Usman.
For one thing, Chimaev is finally fighting at his natural weight. He literally could not make welterweight last time out, and there is no way he could make it now. Appearing at 185 pounds has appeared to give Chimaev a whole new lease of life, and it is almost scary to imagine what he may be capable of 15 pounds heavier. Furthermore, and especially considering the state of Usman's knees, Chimaev's swarming movement is going to be essential in this fight. If he can swarm Usman and keep the pressure firmly on him, then my prediction is that this fight becomes a whole lot more difficult for Usman.
Official Prediction: Chimaev To Win
If this fight were a couple of years ago, I'm not sure I'd be making the prediction that I am right now. But it isn't, so I am.
Truthfully, Kamaru Usman has been through a lot, especially in his last two fights with Leon Edwards. Nobody knows how long his time remains at the top of the UFC. Chimaev, on the other hand, is a very young, very hungry fighter, who's dominant streak shows no sign of halting. Usman may well, skill-wise, still be able to hang with the best of them, but I don't know if he has the pace to keep up with someone like Khamzat Chimaev. That being said, this will be a tough fight.
Official prediction: Khamzat Chimaev to win via unanimous decision.