Breaking Down the Best Option for Khamzat Chimaev’s Next Opponent

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6 Minute Read
Khamzat Chimaev And Nate Diaz

After just three fights in the UFC, Khamzat Chimaev is now one of the most-talked-about fighters in MMA. He’s been nothing short of dominant during his run with the promotion and now seems determined to step into the cage again as soon as possible. Today, I’m going to break down the different possibilities for Khamzat Chimaev’s next opponent.

Everyone wants to see Khamzat back in the cage. Fans and media members seem torn on just how good the Swedish-trainer fighter really is, though. His next opponent will certainly help to settle that debate.

Let’s look at what might be next for the UFC’s newest star.

Possible Opponent #1: Demian Maia

Prior to Khamzat Chimaev’s incredible win over Gerald Meerschaert, officials within the UFC had already booked him to take on Demian Maia. The promotion seemed so confident that he’d pull off the win, they were willing to match him up with another fighter afterward. Obviously, he proved this to be a good decision.

It’s not actually clear if this fight will come together, though. Demian Maia is now 42 years old and claims to only have one fight left. The jiu-jitsu expert may not want to end his fighting career against one of the sport’s hungriest young stars.

BetOnline, one of the best online sportsbooks in the US, is now offering odds on each man to win. Chimaev is currently listed as the massive -550 favorite. Maia enters this possible matchup as the +420 underdog.

How Would This Play Out?

There was a time when many felt Demian Maia could capture the middleweight title. He remains an incredible grappler, yet he seems to falter against fighters that can push the pace round after round. That is most likely what Chimaev would be looking to do.

Maia would be a real test as Khamzat Chimaev’s next opponent. He’s still dangerous and may hold a significant jiu-jitsu advantage over “The Wolf.” Ultimately, however, it seems like a tailor-made fight for Khamzat and one he would likely win via TKO in the early rounds.

Possible Opponent #2: Stephen Thompson

It’s rare for a fighter in the UFC to find success in two different weight divisions. It’s even rarer to see a fighter switch between both classes in a matter of just a few weeks! That’s exactly what Chimaev has managed to pull off thus far in his career.

Khamzat’s second fight in the UFC was a dominant performance against Rhys McKee at 170 pounds. Most feel that this is the weight class he’s more likely to become champion in. For weeks, rumors were circulating that Khamzat would take on Stephen Thompson in a five-round main event next in the welterweight division.

Eventually, Thompson spoke to the media, claiming this isn’t a fight he’s interested in. Ultimately, however, the UFC calls the shots. If the promotion wants Thompson to be Khamzat Chimaev’s next opponent, that’s probably what we’ll see.

How Would This Play Out?

Even his most vocal critics agree that Khamzat Chimaev is a special talent. His combination of wrestling and striking makes him a tough test for any man. Stephen Thompson might be a little too big of a test for the 26-year-old, though.

The UFC has a tendency to throw its young fighters to the wolves. That would certainly happen if this fight is booked. Thompson is perhaps the most dangerous striker at welterweight and has significantly improved his takedown defense over the years. I’d expect Thompson to begin taking over in the later rounds to eventually earn a 4th-round TKO.

Possible Opponent #3: Kevin Holland

Perhaps the UFC decides that it’s better to slowly build Khamzat Chimaev. If that’s the case, the promotion might have an exciting matchup with Kevin Holland. These two now have a history after a hotel altercation prior to the UFC event on September 19th.

This would take place at middleweight. Some feel this would be the best possible option for Khamzat, as none of the top welterweights seem interested in taking him on. From a stylistic point of view, this fight is very intriguing.

Kevin Holland is currently riding a three-fight win streak. He’s an incredibly dangerous striker, although his wrestling defense has been called into question. That’s an important skill to possess against a wrestler of Khamzat’s caliber.

How Would This Play Out?

Chimaev will always have the size disadvantage against middleweights. He’s proven capable of beating them with almost no effort, though. I wouldn’t expect a matchup against Kevin Holland to be quite as easy for Khamzat as the one with Gerald Meerschaert went, though.

Holland is a dangerous striker, particularly with his punches from range. There’s a good chance he could catch Chimaev on the outside early in the fight. What’s the most-likely scenario? Khamzat gets Holland to the ground and earns a submission victory sometime in the second or third round.

Possible Opponent #4: Nate Diaz

Nate Diaz has only fought a few times over the past four years. Despite that fact, he remains one of the most popular mixed martial artists on the planet. Many are now calling for Nate to take on Khamzat Chimaev at 170 pounds.

It seems that Khamzat likes this idea, as well. Not long ago, he took to Twitter and challenged Diaz to a fight on December 19th. It’s an extremely exciting idea, yet one that Nate Diaz is unlikely to agree to at this point in his career.

Nate is probably nearing the end of his career as a top-flight MMA fighter. He’s clearly looking for big-money fights right now. That might come against Conor McGregor, Jorge Masvidal, or any other elite welterweight that could get him close to a shot at the title.

How Would This Play Out?

As I just mentioned, this is a fight that is very unlikely to take place. If it does, it would be a very difficult test for Khamzat Chimaev. Diaz is a black belt in jiu-jitsu and has some of the best boxing in the welterweight division.

It seems likely that Chimaev would get Diaz to the ground early. That could end up being his downfall, though. Diaz is a master at landing submissions from his back and may be able to catch Chimaev, who’s still relatively new in the jiu-jitsu game.

Possible Opponent #5: Leon Edwards

The last possible option for Khamzat Chimaev’s next opponent that we’ll look at is Leon Edwards. He’s currently the third-ranked welterweight in the world and is riding an eight-fight win streak. Edwards has been complaining about not being able to find an opponent and would likely find a willing participant in Khamzat Chimaev.

Of course, this may be similar to the Stephen Thompson situation. It’s difficult to get highly-ranked fighters to compete against fighters outside the division’s top-15. Edwards has been pushing hard for a title shot and won’t be too eager to take on Chimaev.

UFC officials feel that Khamzat is a future champion, and may be looking to book him against one of the welterweight division’s contenders. Leon Edwards would be a perfect opponent to fast-track Chimaev into a title fight. As of now, Leon doesn’t seem particularly thrilled with the idea.

How Would This Play Out?

There are still a huge number of unknowns with Khamzat Chimaev. He’s a very good fighter, yet it takes a sharp, well-rounded skill set to get into the top-5 of a UFC division. Leon Edwards has proven to possess that wide arsenal of skills.

There’s a chance that Chimaev would take out Leon as quickly as his other opponents. I wouldn’t expect it, though. Edwards has beaten several elite fighters and probably has more skills than Khamzat. I think Leon would pick Khamzat apart on the feet and avoid the takedowns en route to a unanimous decision win.

When Will We Know Who Khamzat Chimaev’s Next Opponent Will be?

This is the million-dollar question. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult for the UFC to find Chimaev an opponent after his most recent victory. He’s a great fighter, yet is still unranked at both welterweight and middleweight. Until he gets a number next to his name, the elite fighters in these divisions will probably be unwilling to take him on.

The UFC recognizes that Khamzat is a star right now and will likely try to book him into a fight soon. The UFC heads back to Las Vegas on October 31st and will remain there for the rest of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chimaev headline one of the ESPN cards sometime over the next two months.

Who do you think Khamzat Chimaev’s next opponent should be? Do you think he’s as good as many are claiming? Let us know in the comments section below!

Kevin Oldroyd

A longtime sports and gambling enthusiast, Kevin looks to present up-to-date and reliable information for readers. If he’s not writing, he’s probably watching MMA or playing blackjack. ...

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