Khamzat Chimaev was blowing guys out in two different weight classes and making it look so easy that after just four fights in the UFC, he’d become some kind of a cult hero.
Even when he had to go 15 minutes on Saturday — and wouldn’t this have been better as a five-rounder? — he only increased his legend. The 11th-ranked Chimaev outslugged second-ranked Gilbert Burns in a battle for the ages Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, on the main card of UFC 273.
The hype around Chimaev is definitely very real, as he proved he’s an elite fighter. It was hardly easy, as he was dropped twice in the second and ate a series of hard shots throughout the fight, but he won by scores of 29-28 on all three judges’ cards.
“He’s a f***ing tough guy, bro,” the brash Chimaev said to UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan in the Octagon afterward. "I didn’t know he was so tough.”
As typical, Chimaev raced out of his corner and fired a big right hand and immediately went for the takedown. But unlike in his other fights, Burns dodged the right and defended the takedown.
Chimaev kept switching stances and dropped Burns with a right hand out of the southpaw stance in the first. He hurt Burns several times in the first round of what undoubtedly will be a Fight of the Year contender.
Burns was bloodied at the end of the first, but he came back and dropped Chimaev twice in the second and had him in trouble at several points.
“Every time I step in here, I give everything I got,” Burns said. “They’ll have to kill me [to stop me] because I won’t stop.”
The pace was sizzling through two and only slowed a tad in the third when the two got a bit winded from eating and throwing punches.
Chimaev dropped Burns near the cage and dropped several elbows on him, but Burns found a way out.
The crowd was on its feet as the battle ended.
Chimaev won the first and third rounds and Burns took the second in a not-so-difficult fight to score. It was a breathtaking and fast-paced battle and showed Chimaev belongs in the upper ranks of the welterweights.
Burns, too, proved something: He’s a gritty, tough, smart and durable veteran who is going to win more often than not.
These two put on a show that will be talked about for a long time.