Khamzat Chimaev sees off valiant Kamaru Usman in UFC 294 co-main event

Khamzat Chimaev saw off a valiant Kamaru Usman at UFC 294 on Saturday, beating the former welterweight champion on points in the co-main event.

Chimaev was due to face Paulo Costa in Abu Dhabi, but the Brazilian was forced to withdraw on 10 days’ notice due to an elbow injury, leading Usman to step in.

Usman, who held the welterweight title from 2018 until 2022, moved up to middleweight for the short-notice clash, which pitted him against one of the most fearsome prospects in MMA.

Chimaev, 29, entered the Etihad Arena with an unbeaten record of 12-0 including 11 finishes, having fought at both welterweight and middleweight. Usman, 36, therefore faced a stern test against the Russian, but the Nigerian-American did himself justice in defeat.

Chimaev started fast, as expected, taking down Usman and controlling him for much of the first round. The “Wolf” even closed in on a standing, rear naked choke – only to be thwarted by a Hail Mary from Usman, who dropped to the mat to slam his opponent and break the hold.

Usman seemed content to recover energy early in the second round, while Chimaev looked to be doing the same. During that spell, Usman appeared to pull ahead in the round with some crisp striking from both stances. Chimaev was able to land a takedown late in the frame, but Usman did well to neutralise the 29-year-old until the end of the round.

In the final round, Usman continued to get the better of Chimaev in the striking exchanges, while also denying the Russian multiple takedowns. Usman later failed with his own takedown attempt, before Chimaev grounded the former champion one more time and gained another period of control time.

Usman got the better of Chimaev in the striking exchanges but was controlled in the grappling throughout (EPA)
Usman got the better of Chimaev in the striking exchanges but was controlled in the grappling throughout (EPA)

Although Usman was able to stand and initiate a frenzied end to the fight, Chimaev had done enough to win 29-27 on two scorecards, while the other read 28-28. As such, Chimaev was declared a majority-decision winner.

He is next expected to challenge middleweight champion Sean Strickland, after the American dethroned Israel Adesanya in September in one of the UFC’s biggest upsets ever.

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