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Believing the Hype: Khamzat Chimaev Returns With a Vengeance at UFC 267

At UFC 267, Khamzat Chimaev made his long-awaited return to the octagon after a thirteen-month layoff due to a long battle with COVID-19. A battle that was widely publicized and so severe that Chimaev questioned whether he would survive, let alone fight again. Fortunately, Chimaev made a full recovery and showed up at UFC 267, ready for a fight with the #11 ranked UFC welterweight, Li Jingliang. There were a lot of questions leading up to the fight. Would Chimaev be the same fighter we saw smash three opponents in a 56-day timeframe between July and October of 2020? These questions were heightened after a suspicious weigh-in the night before. It took less than 4 minutes for these questions to be answered.

Chimaev immediately got hold of Jingliang. Impressively picking him up with ease, and walked him over to the corner nearest to Dana White and began simultaneously talking to White while finishing the takedown and pummeling Jingliang until securing his back and locking in a rear-naked choke at 3:16 of the very first round. The hype was real. Khamzat was back, and he let it be known in his post-fight interview that his goal was to “kill everybody.” That begs the question; who’s next? There are a few options, some a bit more ridiculous than others. We’ll look at four real possibilities.

The Logical – Neil Magny

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 08: Neil Magny prepares to fight Geoff Neal in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 08, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

After dominating Jingliang and taking zero damage in the process, a quick turnaround for Khamzat is within reason. Enter Neil Magny, who is looking for an opponent for the UFC’s Fight Night event on December 18th. This would be another step up the ladder in the welterweight rankings for Chimaev, but maybe not as fast as the UFC would prefer. As of this writing, Magny is currently ranked as the #8 welterweight in the UFC. Khamzat is ready for a massive jump in competition, and Magny may not be a big enough jump. Though in the UFC, timing can be everything. Magny is ready. Khamzat can easily be prepared within that timeframe barring any unforeseen injuries or illness. It makes sense, but it just doesn’t feel like the fight people want.

The Intriguing – Vicente Luque

HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 07: Vicente Luque of Brazil walks out prior to facing Michael Chiesa in their welterweight bout during the UFC 265 event at Toyota Center on August 07, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Vicente Luque has only lost once in the last four years. Since his loss to Stephen Thompson in November 2019, Luque has been on a tear, winning his previous four fights, all by stoppage. Luque would be a big step up in competition. Luque is a finisher through and through. Luque finishes with strikes more often than not, but his last two wins against Tyron Woodley and Michael Chiesa came via D’arce choke. Luque has a devastating standup game, and when things go to the ground, he can take care of business. Stylistically, this is an incredibly intriguing matchup that will test Chimaev’s skill against a veritable killer.

The Crazy – Nate Diaz

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – JUNE 12: Nate Diaz enters the octagon to fight Leon Edwards of Jamaica during their UFC 263 welterweight match at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona.

There has already been some rumbling that Diaz vs. Khamzat is being at the very least considered. The idea is not as crazy as it sounds, but the fight itself is sure to be pure insanity. Nate Diaz has one more fight on his UFC contract. After that, it is possible that Diaz trades in his 4-ounce gloves for 12-ounce ones and looks for a big payday in the boxing ring. If the UFC feels like Diaz is on the way out, they may opt to feed him to Khamzat as a going-away present. Sure, this fight will do absolutely nothing to advance Chimaev’s career and ranking, but it’ll get a ton of attention. With the hype and the charisma these fighters generate, Diaz and Chimaev could sell this in their sleep.

The Absurd – Kamaru Usman

JACKSONVILLE, FL – APRIL 25: Kamaru Usman of Nigera prepares to fight Jorge Masvidal of the United States during the Welterweight Title bout of UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 25, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

Yeah, yeah. You’re thinking there’s no way you can justify Khamzat getting a shot at Usman after just four fights in the UFC, only one of which was against a ranked opponent. You might be correct, but let’s think about this. Khamzat has spent a total of 7:54 in the Octagon, and in that time, he’s landed 254 strikes while only absorbing one. That’s insane. There is a ton of hype on this man right now, and what better way to test him than to put him against the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world? You run the risk of upsetting many people who you can argue are more deserving of that shot, but you must strike while the iron is hot. Having Chimaev fight any of the previously mentioned fighters means you run the risk of an upset or exposing a weakness. Putting him in there with Usman immediately creates a lot of excitement. You can analyze it until the end of time, but there is no way for us to know how this fight goes down, which creates a lot of excitement.

No matter who Chimaev faces next, the MMA community will be excited. We could go back and forth on how the UFC should move forward with Khamzat. Luckily, we don’t have the stress of making that decision. We get to sit back and watch it all unfold. We have a new contender in the UFC’s welterweight division, and he intends to “kill everybody.”

Follow me on Twitter at @SuperbeastCraig to see my latest work. Follow us on social media at @OTHeroicsMMA to stay up to date with all things MMA!

Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images

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