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Jon Anik: Khamzat Chimaev is biggest ‘burning question’ heading into UFC’s 2022 campaign

Jon Anik called the majority of the UFC’s biggest moments of 2021 from his play-by-play position cageside, and seeing the dominant return of Khamzat Chimaev in October has the longtime UFC commentator intrigued heading into the new year.

After a hot start in 2020 where he picked up three finishes in a two-month span, Chimaev returned from a 13-month layoff due to a horrible bout of COVID-19 by fighting Li Jingliang on UFC 267’s main card. “Borz” absolutely ran through Li in a fight many believed would be his toughest test and picked up a submission win in just over three minutes.

Anik sees 2022 as a year with so many interesting and unanswered questions, but Chimaev’s trajectory up the welterweight ladder sits at the top of the list.

“People bang on me and Dana White because they think there’s some agenda with Khamzat Chimaev. We’re going by what we see with our own eyes,” Anik told MMA Fighting on a special edition of Between the Links. “The big question was, how many times can he make 170 pounds? Was he long for this division? And even though the [previous] weight cut was a little dicey, I have more conviction now in his ability to make the weight than I did before, and it seems his coaches have him of a singular mind, that he’s going to be chasing welterweight contention and not dicking around at middleweight.

“So, yeah, my burning question is, is Khamzat Chimaev as elite as he seems to be, as strong and as dangerous as he seems to be? And can he work himself into a fight with a guy in Kamaru Usman, who is something like 15-0 in the UFC and one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all-time? That’s sort of at the tip of my tongue right now.”

When 2020 came to a close, Anik was asked about a dream fight in any division for 2021 and he chose Chimaev against Colby Covington. In November, Covington told MMA Fighting that he would be open to the matchup if the UFC offered it to him.

While Chimaev has Anik’s intrigue, there are also two UFC interim champions in Petr Yan and Ciryl Gane. Yan is expected to face reigning champion Aljamain Sterling in a unification bout in 2022, while Gane is booked to face former teammate and heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC 270 on Jan. 22 in Anaheim, Calif.

Anik admits that a promotional break was just what the doctor ordered heading into the new year, but is also ready to get back on the microphone to see how some of these peak storylines are going to play out.

“Bantamweight, I’m very excited to see that [play out in 2022],” Anik said. “It’s crazy that Max Holloway has not been a champion for all this time, so I’m excited to see him and Alexander Volkanovski fight for the third time. Alex has obviously taken it to a whole new level. Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2? I can’t wait. I can’t wait, but Khamzat is still the burning question for me.”