2020 saw a number of new stars rise to prominence in the UFC, with names like Kevin Holland and Joaquin Buckley climbing the ranks. The UFC’s biggest breakout star of the year though was almost definitely Khamzat Chimaev.
Comparisons have already been made between Khamzat Chimaev – who went 3-0 in 2020 – and recently retired UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
But could Khamzat Chimaev actually end up surpassing his fellow Russian in terms of UFC stardom? He has a long way to go, but one thing is for certain – Borz definitely has the potential.
Here are four reasons why Khamzat Chimaev is destined to surpass Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC.
#1 Khamzat Chimaev seems willing to fight more often than Khabib did
Khabib Nurmagomedov is often named in the conversation around who the greatest UFC fighter of all time is, but his detractors tend to point to one thing to knock him down. Essentially, their argument is that The Eagle simply didn’t fight and beat enough opponents in the UFC to be considered the GOAT.
So how true is this? Well, Khabib’s wins over Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor were all brilliant, but there’s no disputing that his overall record of 13 UFC fights in an eight-year period is a little disappointing.
But we’re not talking about Jones or GSP – we’re talking about Khamzat Chimaev. And from the admittedly small sample we’ve seen, the Russian-born Swede seems more than willing to fight in the UFC as much as possible.
Khamzat Chimaev debuted in the UFC on July 16th, and then took his second fight in the promotion just 10 days later. And just eight weeks later, he was back again for his third outing.
Sure, his next fight with Leon Edwards has been delayed due to COVID-19. But it’s still worth noting that Khabib only fought three times in a year once during his UFC career, in 2013.
If Khamzat Chimaev can continue fighting at his current rate – assuming he keeps winning – then he could definitely surpass Khabib’s UFC record of 13 wins.
#2 Khamzat Chimaev appears to be more marketable and charismatic than Khabib
While Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the UFC’s biggest stars right now, and his last three pay-per-views have drawn huge numbers, it took The Eagle a while to catch on with the fans.
In fact, there’s probably a fair argument to suggest that Khabib only became a big star once he defeated Conor McGregor. After all, his previous pay-per-view fight only drew 350k buys, a relatively low number by anyone’s standards.
There’s a reason for that, of course. While Khabib was always happy to talk some trash about his opponents, he’s not the most charismatic fighter the UFC’s ever seen. Essentially, Khabib was always happy to let his performances inside the Octagon do the talking.
The same can’t really be said for Khamzat Chimaev. Borz has the kind of natural charisma that you can’t teach, even if his English is a little shaky. He had UFC fans talking after his very first UFC fight, and since then, his fanbase has increased at a ridiculous clip.
You’ve only got to look at his Instagram page to see this. Khamzat Chimaev already has 1.2 million followers on the social media network – more than UFC champions like Alexander Volkanovski and Deiveson Figueiredo.
For a fighter who’s only been in the UFC for five months, that’s pretty insane – but it should tell you a lot about Khamzat Chimaev’s star potential. Is it any wonder that Dana White has described him as the most special fighter he’s ever seen?
So with that in mind – even if he can’t replicate Khabib’s undefeated run in the Octagon – Khamzat Chimaev could easily eclipse Nurmagomedov in terms of star power.
#3 The UFC’s Welterweight division isn’t as stacked as the Lightweight division
Part of what made Khabib Nurmagomedov so great was the fact that he ascended to the top of the UFC’s most loaded division – Lightweight. It’s largely an accepted fact that the 155lbs division contains the most talent in the entire UFC. And it’s true that The Eagle proved that he was the best in the world at that weight.
However, it’s also worth noting that for all of his greatness, Khabib only made three defenses of his UFC Lightweight title before retiring. Sure, those three defenses were hugely dominant ones, but it’s still a number that someone like Khamzat Chimaev could easily surpass if he were to win UFC gold.
Of course, Khamzat Chimaev has a long way to go before he gets a shot at the UFC Welterweight title, currently held by Kamaru Usman. But crazily enough, should Borz defeat Leon Edwards in the early part of this year, then a shot at Usman could well be within his grasp.
And if Khamzat Chimaev were to defeat Usman and claim the UFC Welterweight title, then if we’re honest, he’s highly likely to be able to hold onto it for some time. The UFC Welterweight division has plenty of talent, but Usman has proven that none of them really match well with a powerful wrestler who can also strike well.
Basically, if Khamzat Chimaev could beat Usman to claim the title, then there’s probably not a Welterweight in the UFC right now capable of dethroning him. And given his penchant for quickfire fights, that could mean that he could put together far more defenses than Khabib in little to no time.
#4 Khamzat Chimaev might be more well-rounded than Khabib
The comparisons between Khamzat Chimaev and Khabib Nurmagomedov have obviously come from the fact that the two fighters have a similar background. Both men hail from Russia – Chimaev is from Chechnya, Khabib from Dagestan – and both men have a similar wrestling-heavy style.
However, it’s probably not unfair to suggest that while Khabib was a true phenom and one of the greatest to ever set foot in the UFC, he perhaps wasn’t the most well-rounded fighter.
Notably, Khabib’s stand-up skills appeared to lag behind his grappling skills considerably. Sure, it’s fair to say that his striking never let him down – he did drop Conor McGregor after all – but he also struggled against the likes of Michael Johnson and Justin Gaethje to an extent before taking them down.
Khamzat Chimaev, on the other hand, has already displayed the kind of skills that suggest he’s a dangerous fighter in every single area. We saw his wrestling and submission skills on show in his wins over John Phillips and Rhys McKee. But it was his 17-second, one-punch knockout of Gerald Meerschaert that really opened eyes.
Sure, Khabib had a couple of standing KO’s on his ledger – notably against Thiago Tavares in 2013 – but nothing quite like this. Khamzat Chimaev’s knockout of Meerschaert was reminiscent of great UFC strikers like Conor McGregor and Chuck Liddell.
It’s true that we’ve yet to see Khamzat Chimaev tested against a real elite-level opponent – that should come when he faces Leon Edwards. But for now, all the signs are there that the young Chechnyan has all of the skills needed to reach the top. And if the early signs are right, he could reach heights that even his countryman Khabib couldn’t reach.Published 05 Jan 2021, 20:37 IST