Seeing a shooting star is quite rare. Seeing a star emerge in the UFC the way Khamzat Chimaev did on Saturday is even more rare. Chimaev got a chance in the octagon that most fighters still ranked in double-digits don’t get. He got to face Gilbert Burns, the number two contender in the welterweight division. A win would certainly skyrocket him up the rankings. A loss would make any championship opportunity much further away. Chimaev took this big opportunity and ran with it, putting in arguably his most impressive performance in the UFC so far.
Chimaev got the win like he was expected to as the biggest favorite on the card, but it didn’t come in his usual fashion. The fight between him and Burns went the distance and for the first time ever a Chimaev fight was going to be decided by the judges. The judges did rule in his favor, giving him a unanimous decision victory.
This was a much different type of fight than Chimaev usually partakes in. Before Saturday, the longest fight of Chimaev’s career lasted 6 minutes and 15 seconds. Against Burns, Chimaev had to fight for all 15 minutes, which is longer than all four of his previous fights in the UFC combined. This answered a lot of lingering questions about Chimaev in the UFC. Anytime a fighter reels off a bunch of quick finishes people start to wonder if they are actually legit or just dominating inferior competition. It is now clear that Chimaev is truly a force to be reckoned with and not just someone who beats up on unranked competition.
Chimaev showed a ton of heart and resilience in his fight with Burns. The Brazilian pushed Chimaev far beyond his limits and definitely brought out the best in the emerging superstar. Both fighters were absolutely teeing off on each other and landing massive haymakers back and forth. It was the fight of the night by far and will possibly be in the conversation for the fight of the year when we look back on 2022.
Chimaev didn’t land as many strikes as Burns, 141 to 124, but he did control rounds one and three as well as record the only knockdown of the fight. Burns did have a bit of a striking advantage, especially near the end of round two when it looked like he was going to end Chimaev’s night following a massive right hand to his temple. Chimaev faced adversity for the first time in the UFC and he handled it perfectly.
Chimaev had a really good round one, but it was the third round where his star was officially established. He weathered the storm that was Burns and was able to win a very tough, contested round. Both guys landed big shots and had the other wobbling, but Chimaev did just enough to emerge victorious.
He showed he can do more than just get a first-round finish. There is now nothing that Chimaev can’t inside the octagon. He is a complete fighter that is now even more of a contender in the welterweight division. The rest of the division, and the UFC as a whole, better be prepared for then run this guy is going to go on in the near future.