On that night, Chimaev won a unanimous decision on the scorecards – but not without Burns dishing out a whole lot of punishment in a truly epic back-and-forth war. While Burns awaits the word on his next fight, Chimaev appears only one more win away from a potential title shot against reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Burns knows Usman as well if not better than most anybody on the UFC roster – he trained with the champ for several years and fought him at UFC 258. That’s why he’s confident picking Usman to beat Chimaev in a prospective meeting.
“Kamaru, I think the IQ difference [over Khamzat] — IQ makes a lot of difference,” Burns told MMA Fighting. “I think Kamaru is very smart. He hits hard. Kamaru put me away. Three rounds, [Khamzat] couldn’t put me away. I think Kamaru does hit harder.
“I think Kamaru, the fight IQ with wrestling and striking is better than this guy. With the timing, the movement, with mixing things up, the feints, the angles, I think Kamaru is a level above this guy still.”
While Burns gives Chimaev credit for durability, he still believes there are advantages for Usman, especially in a five-round title affair.
According to Burns, it’s the cerebral way that Usman approaches his fights that really makes a huge difference every time he competes. That’s a huge difference against somebody like Chimaev.
“I think Khamzat will be tough, but it’s nothing Kamaru hasn’t seen,” Burns said. “I stuffed one takedown, he took me down one time, but nothing [serious]. Kamaru’s IQ is different.”
As far as fights that might actually be tougher for the current champion, Burns actually points toward Usman’s likely next opponent.
“Leon Edwards, because of the striking, the movement,” Burns said. “I think Leon Edwards, people are kind of forgetting him a little bit with so much about Khamzat, but I still think Leon Edwards is very tough.”
When it comes to Chimaev, he has also been attached to a potential matchup with two-time UFC title contender Colby Covington, who is currently embroiled in legal proceedings following an alleged attack on him by Jorge Masvidal in March.
UFC President Dana White said he’d like to see Covington vs. Chimaev, but there’s still no word if the promotion is any closer to actually booking the matchup. If that does come together, Burns sees Chimaev presenting more problems for Covington.
“I think Colby hasn’t been tested,” Burns said. “He’s going to try to grapple against this guy. [Khamzat] has heavy hands. He’s got to respect that a little bit. One thing, that can be different is the Colby pace and cardio. He might be pushing that guy into the later rounds.
“We’ll see if that’s next, or if it will be Colby Covington and Khamzat Chimaev. That’s a little closer fight, but I just think Kamaru is a step above this guy.”
As far as his own relationship with Usman after they were matched together in a fight, Burns is happy to report that fences have been mended. Their title bout saw Usman leave his team at Sanford MMA to begin training under head coach Trevor Wittman in Colorado while Burns stayed with the south Florida gym.
Prior to his fight with Chimaev in April, Burns revealed that Usman had reached out about stopping by Sanford MMA as he was recovering from hand surgery and it was a great opportunity to put the past behind them.
“The fight happened, he beat me, I have all the respect for all these guys that I fight, especially the champion,” Burns said. “It was good to have him back in there. I have no bad blood with him. The opposite, I like the guy a lot. We have a lot of admiration [for each other]. I saw the guy at 1-0 become the best pound-for-pound in the world. I saw that transformation, all that hard work, so I respect that. I have all due respect for Kamaru.
“He reached out to me. Henry [Hooft] said he would be in town, kind of recovering with his hand, spending time with his daughter, and [he asked] if he could train her and I said sure he can come. I don’t have no bad blood. It’s good to have the guy back. Good energy to help out the team.”