• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The legend of Khamzat Chimaev's inimitable UFC run is only just beginning

·Combat columnist
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The bell rang to start Khamzat Chimaev’s fight with John Phillips in Abu Dhabi and 10 seconds hadn’t elapsed before the announcers were roaring about what Chimaev did.

He came out, immediately hit Phillips with a head kick, dropped down and executed a takedown. He then immediately shoved Phillips up against the cage where he could more easily pummel him.

“Look at that, though!” UFC analyst Michael Bisping shrieked, just six seconds into the bout. “A beautiful head kick straight into a double leg. My word! Talk about executing your game plan.”

Chimaev outlanded Phillips 42-1 in significant strikes and finished him with a D’Arce choke at 1:12 of the second.

Ten days later, it got even better. Chimaev got his hands on Rhys McKee about seven seconds into the fight. He picked McKee up, walked him to his own corner, and dumped McKee onto his back.

“He couldn’t pick him up and fully slam him, but ultimately, he gets him where he wants him,” UFC analyst Paul Felder said at 14 seconds into the fight.

Chimaev mounted McKee and finished him from there at 3:09 of the first. He landed 40 of the 62 significant strikes he threw. McKee, who had a reputation as a striker, was 0 of 0.

Next up was middleweight Gerald Meerschaert. Fourteen seconds in, Chimaev landed a short right. Meerschaert collapsed in a heap and referee Mark Smith waved it off at 0:17.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” play-by-play man Jon Anik said. “You have got to be kidding me.”

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 30: Khamzat Chimaev of Sweden punches Li Jingliang of China in a welterweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Khamzat Chimaev made it look easy versus Li Jingliang during UFC 267 at Etihad Arena on Oct. 30, 2021 in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

In his most recent UFC fight, he faced welterweight Li Jingliang, a wrestler. No matter. The bell rang, Chimaev moved forward and at four seconds, his arms were around Jingliang’s waist.

He picked up Jingliang, carried him to where UFC president Dana White was seated and tossed him down like yesterday’s garbage.

Only 13 seconds into the fight, UFC analyst Daniel Cormier was beside himself.

“Nice job by Chimaev,” Cormier said. “Oh my goodness, he [Chimaev] is talking to Dana. Oh my goodness.”

Seated a few feet from White, Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s chief business officer, can be seen laughing as Chimaev talks to White while beating on Jingliang. Chimaev was 25 for 25 in strikes and submitted Jingliang with a rear naked choke at 3:16 of the first.

He almost doesn’t seem human. He does things easily that other fighters, even UFC champions, legends and Hall of Famers, struggle to do.

On Saturday, he’ll face the biggest test of his career when he meets No. 2-ranked welterweight Gilbert Burns on the main card of UFC 273. It’s the Burns-Chimaev bout that is garnering all of the attention and which has so many people talking.

Chimaev said he’s not too impressed with or worried by Burns, who has established himself over the years as one of the elite in this sport.

“This is not jiu-jitsu. This is not wrestling,” Chimaev said. “This is an MMA fight. “It’s not like, ‘Take the gi and hold someone.’ I’m going to smash his face everywhere.”

This is the second-ranked guy in his division, remember, a three-time world jiu-jitsu champion, and Chimaev is summarily, matter-of-factly, dismissing him.

The only thing comparable to what he’s done in UFC history is what Ronda Rousey did during her reign as women’s bantamweight champion when she knocked out Alexis Davis in 16 seconds, submitted Cat Zingano in 14 seconds and KO’d Bethe Correia in 34 seconds.

Rousey didn’t stand the test of time and two fights after her win over Correia, she was knocked out twice and out of MMA forever.

Only time will tell how Chimaev’s story plays out. But he’s no fluke. In 2017, UFC television analyst Brian Stann was answering fan questions when he was asked who the next big star would be who wasn’t already in the UFC.

Stann’s answer is remarkable in retrospect, five years later.

“There’s a welterweight in Sweden, at Sweden MMA All-Stars, who trains with Alexander Gustafsson,” Stann said. “I don’t know his name. I just know him by reputation. He’s not in the UFC yet, but he has had a whole lot of success with all of the big names who train out of MMA All-Stars in Stockholm, and when we get this kid signed, I think he’s going to make some real waves.”

He’s made plenty of waves already, and he’s only just getting started. Should he do to Burns what he did to Phillips, McKee, Meerschaert and Jingliang, the waves he’ll create will be tidal waves.