Khamzat Chimaev hasn’t spent much time in the UFC octagon, but Daniel Cormier has seen enough to believe the Chechen-born mauler may be the biggest threat to Kamaru Usman’s title reign.
With a perfect 10-0 record — and not a single opponent making it past the second round — Chimaev will face his biggest test to date at UFC 273 when he clashes with one-time title contender Gilbert Burns. Despite a vast difference in experience, especially against established, high-level competition, Chimaev is currently sitting as high as a 6-to-1 favorite on the betting lines over Burns.
As much as that might appear to be a slap in the face to a top-ranked welterweight like Burns ahead of a fight against a still unproven prospect, Cormier believes the odds are just reflective of the most predictable outcome.
“I think he’s the scariest contender we have seen for a while,” Cormier said of Chimaev when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Look, the odds may seem high — but when you look at these guys, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Do you believe [Chimaev] wins?’ Maybe he doesn’t dominate, but at the end of it, do you think he wins the fight against Gilbert Burns? When you’re asking yourself that and you say ‘I think so,’ it doesn’t matter if the odds are -100, if its even — it’s still just saying they believe he’s going to win.
“They make it so you have to risk so much in order to make anything on him. But if you think he’s going to win that fight, which a lot of people do, then the odds don’t really matter. I do believe he’s the [scariest] contender we’ve had for a while.”
Beyond his skills in the cage, Cormier also loves Chimaev’s demeanor and penchant for rarely being in the public eye, which makes him a mystery to fans and other fighters alike.
It might be even more intimidating to opponents that Chimaev rarely does interviews or even talks about his upcoming fight outside of predicting that he’s going to smash anyone and everyone the UFC puts in front of him.
“There’s just so many unknowns,” Cormier said. “When I was a kid and I’d watch [Mankind in WWE] and it would say he’s from parts unknown, I’m like where is this dude from? Even though I knew he was ‘Cactus Jack.’ I knew underneath it was ‘Cactus Jack.’ It’s like Khamzat. There’s just so many questions, and every time he comes [to fight], he comes in, he dominates, and he’s gone.
“I love the whole buddy-buddy thing with Darren Till but I think it’s a mistake. I think he should continue to be a mystery to people. I think he should have as little time in front of the public and showing who he is, pulling the curtain back. I would pull the curtain back as little as I could if I’m Khamzat, just because the mystery is good for him. He’s very scary.”
When it comes to Usman, Cormier concedes that it’s going to take a very special fighter to dethrone the reigning UFC welterweight champion, but he won’t discount the chance that Chimaev can get the job done.
With a wrestling pedigree, heavy hands, and incredible strength for a fighter competing at 170 pounds, Cormier views Chimaev as the total package, which ultimately makes him a serious obstacle for Usman.
“To say anyone will knock off Kamaru Usman is a lot, but if there’s a guy that seems to be a challenge, it seems to be this guy,” Cormier said.
“I can only imagine what the odds would look like if it was Chimaev-Usman. I would love to see the odds when Usman and Burns opened up, because I can’t imagine it was as high as this is. I think that speaks to the dominance that Chimaev has put on paper to this point. It’s big shoes. It’s a lot of hype to live up. The dude seems to have the goods.”
Beating someone like Burns would arguably answer almost every question still remaining about Chimaev’s potential, and Cormier can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
“As the fights get tougher, we’ll see, but what he did to Li Jingliang was ridiculous,” Cormier said. “Then I go into the interview [after the fight] and I say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Khamzat Chimaev,’ and he goes, ‘Brother, of course you are [speaking to me] — what was the option? It was going to be me. It was never going to be Li.’ It was tremendous.
“He’s got the swagger, he’s got the fighting ability. I’m a fan. I’m a massive fan of Khamzat.”