On Tuesday, it was reported that Chimaev was out of his January 20 main event scrap against Edwards. The two were supposed to fight on December 19, but Edwards contracted COVID-19 and could not compete.
Now, as the event is just three weeks away, the promotion is reportedly interested in having Edwards remain on the card. If that is the case, here are five potential options to replace Chimaev and face the third-ranked welterweight contender.
Kevin Holland, like Khamzat Chimaev, was one of the biggest breakout stories of 2020.
The rising middleweight contender went 5-0 in 2020 with notable stoppage wins over Jacare Souza, Joaquin Buckley, and Anthony Hernandez. Although "Trailblazer" is competing at middleweight, he has been hinting at a move to welterweight. He even was booked for a welterweight fight in May but injured his shoulder and couldn't fight.
Although Holland is not a welterweight, he has become a big name and he was booked for the main event spot in December before being forced out with COVID-19.
Perhaps, this is the perfect timing for Holland to start his run at 170lbs and take on a top-three opponent in Edwards. For the Brit, if he can beat a rising star in Holland, it would add hype to his name once again.
Neil Magny is the most likely option to replace Khamazat Chimaev.
The ninth-ranked welterweight will compete on the January 20 event against Michael Chiesa. When the fight was announced, it was reported that their scrap would serve as a backup to the main event in case something happened to either Edwards or Chimaev. Now that something did, perhaps the UFC will bump Magny in to face a fellow striker in Edwards.
Magny went 3-0 in 2020 and coming off a dominant win over the former welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler. He also holds notable wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Carlos Condit, and Tim Means.
If Neil Magny doesn't step in, the next option would likely be eighth-ranked welterweight, Michael Chiesa.
Chiesa has not fought since January when he defeated Rafael dos Anjos, who happens to be Edwards' last win as well.
Stylistically, this would be an entertaining fight as Edwards would want to keep it standing, while Chiesa would like to implement his wrestling. It would also be a good test for both men. If Edwards can stuff the takedowns of Chiesa, it would add some confidence against the current champion, Kamaru Usman, who is arguably the best wrestler at welterweight.
For Chiesa, if he can get it the ground and beat Edwards, he would be in line for a title shot or a number one contender bout next time out.
Jorge Masvidal vs Leon Edwards has been the fight to make since March 2019.
At UFC London, after Masvidal knocked out Darren Till, he was backstage when Edwards said something to him. "Gamebred" then approached the Brit and punched him with the "three-piece and a soda" combo which started Masvidal's rise to fame.
Ever since the incident, Edwards has called for the fight to happen, but for whatever reason, it hasn't. Now, it makes perfect sense for it to happen as the winner could earn a title shot and the rematch with Kamaru Usman.
Also, Gamebred has never shied away from taking short notice fights, as he took the title fight on just six days' notice against Usman. This time, he would have three weeks and have the chance of redemption in Abu Dhabi.
Like Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington is trying to earn a rematch with Kamaru Usman, and a win over Leon Edwards would cement his case.
Covington returned to the win column in September with a TKO victory over Tyron Woodley. He then called for a fight with Jorge Masvidal before the end of the year that did not come to fruition.
If "Chaos" is still interested in getting back in there soon, fighting Edwards certainly makes sense. The Brit is ranked third, and if Covington can use his wrestling to win, he likely would get his desired rematch with Usman.Published 30 Dec 2020, 01:05 IST