Khamzat Chimaev earned the biggest win of his career Saturday, defeating former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman via majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28) in the UFC 294 co-main event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Usman stepped in on 10 days’ notice after middleweight contender Paulo Costa fell out of the fight with Chimaev due to injury. This was Usman’s middleweight debut.
Chimaev believes he may have broken his right hand in the first round, according to UFC broadcaster Megan Olivi.
After taking out a former 170-pound champion, Chimaev will likely challenge Sean Strickland for the middleweight belt next. UFC president Dana White said ahead of the fight that the winner between Chimaev and Usman would get the next title shot. White said Saturday he wants to keep Chimaev more active.
Chimaev dominated Usman in the first round, securing a takedown in the opening seconds and controlling Usman for the entire frame. He flattened Usman out multiple times and attempted to submit him with a rear-naked choke.
The second round was oddly different. Chimaev and Usman were both tentative on the feet, with Chimaev arguably getting the best of Usman by a slim margin. Chimaev surprisingly didn’t attempt a takedown until the last minute, and he got on top of Usman with about 40 seconds left.
The third round was again a different story. Usman opened up more and landed big punches. Chimaev seemed to tire out a bit and didn’t have as much success on the feet as his opponent. But Chimaev did take Usman down about midway through the stanza. Usman stood up with 30 seconds left and exchanged big shots with Chimaev until the end of the fight.
With the victory, Chimaev improves to 7-0 in the UFC and 13-0 as a pro. This was just the second decision victory of the 29-year-old phenom’s Octagon career.
Usman, who held UFC welterweight gold from 2019-22 and defended the belt five times, has now lost three straight. “The Nigerian Nightmare” dropped his title to Leon Edwards in August 2022 and then fell short in an immediate rematch in March. Usman began his UFC career with 15 consecutive wins, falling just one short of tying former middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s record for the longest winning streak in promotion history.
Usman, one of the greatest welterweights in history, said after the fight he may stay at 185 pounds.