Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Exploring Styles: Khamzat Chimaev & Khabib Nurmagomedov

Despite the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2020, fans still salivate at the idea of a super fight between the former champion and rising UFC star Khamzat Chimaev.

A match-up one could only dream of, it makes you wonder, how would a fight between Chimaev and Nurmagomedov go? First, some parameters have to be established. Since “The Eagle” reigned over the lightweight division and Chimaev fights at 170 and 185 pounds, the bout would ostensibly need to happen at welterweight. While Nurmagomedov never competed at 170 pounds in the UFC, he appeared to be one of the bigger lightweights on the roster.

The UFC fighters have been regularly compared since Chimaev’s debut performance. In a span of just ten days, Chimaev would ignite a storm amongst MMA fans after finishing two opponents consecutively. Advancing his unbeaten record to 8-0, “Borz” attracted comparisons to Nurmagomedov’s style with a ground-and-pound victory against Rhys McKee. While rumors of a feud between the two stars circulated, the rising UFC welterweight expressed that there was no beef between the two.

Equipped with a suffocating style of forward pressure and wrestling, Nurmagomedov separated himself from the pack in the UFC. Unblemished, holding a record of 29-0, very seldom has anyone been able to steal a single round from the indomitable former champion. Unbeaten fighters have an aura around them and these two, in particular, have accumulated quite a following during their respective tenures with the company.

Comparing The Styles Of Khamzat Chimaev And Khabib Nurmagomedov

Following comparisons to “The Eagle”, Chimaev threw fans off the scent with a one-punch knockout of Gerald Meerschaert. A contest that would only last 17-seconds, Chimaev uncorked a short-range right hand as “GM3” circled into his punch. Despite making his way up the UFC ladder with groundwork, Chimaev emerged as a double threat after this performance.

While the Chechen-born Swede hasn’t had a lot of cage time in the Octagon, some of his earlier fights in Brave Combat Federation (Brave CF) illuminated a few of his strengths. Chimaev’s grappling toolbox looks similar to Khabib’s, but the two systems operate differently. “Borz” is opportunistic. If a fighter is comfortable while striking, Chimaev goes to the well with grappling.

In the opening frame against Mzwandile Hlongwa, Chimaev threw a kick, closed distance, and got a takedown right out the gate. The 27-year-old sliced through his opponent’s guard by transitioning to side control.

Despite being unable to mount effective ground and pound for much of the first round, Chimaev got the job done in the second stanza with a D’arce choke. By the end of his Brave CF run, Chimaev earned four finishes in less than two years with the company.

At UFC 223, Khabib captured the vacant lightweight title against Al Iaquinta. Out of the former champion’s last five fights with the UFC, “The Eagle” clocked the most time against “Ragin” Al.

Nurmagomedov and Iaquinta took the fight on less than 24-hours’ notice. This, of course, happened last-minute as the NYSAC deemed Max Holloway unfit to compete on the PPV in New York, U.S.

During the contest, Khabib established the threat of the takedown early by ‘running the pipe’ or what’s typically referred to as a single-leg takedown. Khabib’s takedowns are not as camouflaged as Chimaev’s. However, the former lightweight champion is far more aggressive in his pursuit of getting the fight to the canvas.

Unlike many opponents before him, Iaquinta, while reactive, still gave Khabib confusing signals during the contest. In fact, the New York native teased a couple of single-leg takedowns of his own in the first round. Taking a wide stance, the former title challenger laid the blueprint on how to fight effectively against Nurmagomedov.

Khabib averages an astonishing 5.32 takedowns per fifteen minutes. With a larger sample size than “Borz”, the former 155-pound titleholder’s ability to implement his wrestling speaks volumes. Granted, Chimaev has the style to disrupt Khabib, but the UFC 267 combatant would be tasked with defending takedowns if the two were ever to meet in the cage.

Chimaev’s versatile striking is a good attribute in a potential fight against Khabib. With apt ground ability, the fight is no doubt intriguing. Rounded out as a mixed martial artist, the rising 170-pound star from Fight Island 1 would be a challenging match-up for one of the greatest to ever wear UFC gloves.

Who would you favor in a potential match-up between Khamzat Chimaev and Khabib Nurmagomedov?

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