Chimaev has been a disruptor in the UFC since he arrived. He has consistently barked at the top contenders in both the 170 and 185-pound divisions. And as difficult it is to find fighters willing to engage him, Chimaev is not far off from a title shot. In fact, he could make UFC news and win two belts by the end of 2024.
Chimaev’s Top Options at Welterweight
Chimaev has fought at both the UFC’s weterweight and middleweight divisions. But his greatest achievements have been at 170 pounds where he defeated former title challenger Gilbert Burns in a barn-burner. He also choked out top-15 fighter Li Jingliang in one round. He could be one fight away from a title shot.
Who should Khamzat Chimaev and Gilbert Burns fight next? pic.twitter.com/8ZlQWPjRmJ
— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) April 11, 2022
The unbeaten Swedish fighter could fight the winner of Leon Edwards–Colby Covington. Only Belal Muhammad is in front of him as far as competitors. Chimaev was also already booked to fight Edwards three times prior to “Rocky” becoming champion. But they all fell through.
There were online sports betting odds open for this prospective bout. Chimaev was favored at around -300. If it’s not Edwards, Chimaev, and Covington have gone back-and-forth in regard to fighting. This too favors Chimaev as he opened at -200 with most UFC predictions picking him to win.
But more likely, Chimaev fights Kamaru Usman. The former champion already pitched it to the UFC and there are rumors it will be booked for the promotion’s next trip to Abu Dhabi this October. While Chimaev initially opened as an underdog, he’s been bet down to being a -200 favorite.
If Chimaev beats Usman and does it impressively, it will be hard to overlook him for the next welterweight title bout. And whether he’s fighting Edwards, Covington, or even Muhammad, he could be the welterweight champion by this time next year.
Up at Middleweight: Chimaev’s Fastest Path to the Title
Winning one title in 12 months is one thing. But winning two? It would be unprecedented but Chimaev could pull it off if his cards line up. His quickest way to get a shot at Israel Adesanya, or whoever the champion will be, is to fight the biggest dog outside the champ. That’s Robert Whittaker.
The UFC odds are actually tight here with both Chimaev and Whittaker at pick’em prices (-120 each). Whittaker, the former champ, has beaten every contender outside of Adesanya. He’s scheduled to fight Dricus Du Plessis and is widely favored for UFC 290 in July.
Chimaev could beat Usman in October putting him within reach of a title shot. That gives him the entire 2024 to win three fights: the welterweight title, Whittaker, and the middleweight title. This all sounds like a Chimaev stan’s UFC pick but it’s doable.
The undefeated contender could get fast-tracked to a big fight because middleweight is starving for contenders. Adesanya and Whittaker practically cleaned out the division and Alex Pereira is moving up to light heavyweight. There is even a chance Adesanya pursues his nemesis there, especially if he beats Jan Blachowicz and puts himself in the position of a title shot.
In fact, if everything aligns, the Chimaev versus Adesanya could be a champion versus double champion bout. Chimaev is the welterweight champion while Adesanya is both the middleweight and light heavyweight king late in 2024. It would be the biggest fight the UFC after a certain Irishman.
The “Superfight” of the Future: Chimaev vs Nickal
Outside Chimaev, Bo Nickal has also garnered significant hype at just 4-0 in MMA. The wrestling phenom is a world champion, multiple-time NCAA Division I champion, and an unstoppable force. He’s finished all four of his opponents in the first round and even opened as a -1800 favorite in his UFC debut.
While it’s still too early to throw Nickal to the wolf, folks can already bet online on this hypothetical matchup. Currently, the odds show Chimaev as the -240 favorite with +165 coming back on Nickal.
But in the future, maybe in 2025 or so, this fight could be a serious contender.