Three-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson believes Khamzat Chimaev has all the tools necessary to enter the GOAT debate in the future.
Not many fighters have made as much of an impact in just four fights in the UFC as Chimaev has. After breaking a modern record for the fastest turnaround in-between wins on Fight Island in 2020, which came through dominant victories over John Phillips and Rhys McKee in the space of just 10 days, “Borz” added a third only 56 days after his debut by viciously knocking out middleweight veteran Gerald Meerschaert.
To show just how high the UFC was on him following that, he was set to face top contender Leon Edwards. Due to COVID-19, that bout was booked and canceled three times. After overcoming his rough bout of the virus last year, Chimaev returned to the Octagon at UFC 267 in October.
Bringing his hype train back on track in style, Chimaev controlled, took down, and choked out ranked contender Li Jingliang inside one round in Abu Dhabi. The performance certainly sent a message to those who doubted his championship credentials, a message he’ll look to send again when he returns to action this year.
While some will point out he’s yet to face a top-10 opponent, fans and pundits can only base opinions on what they’ve seen, and that’s a newcomer notching up a perfect 4-0 record, with four first-round finishes, one against an established middleweight name and one over a top-15 welterweight, all while barely being touched at all by his opponents.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise UFC play-by-play voice Jon Anik named the continuing rise of “Borz” as his biggest question heading into 2022. But one man close to Chimaev believes he already has the answers.
In an interview with ESPN MMA, Gustafsson, a teammate of the rising star over at the Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, Sweden, spoke highly of Chimaev. When asked whether his potential is as high as a future place in the GOAT conversation, “The Mauler” said that from what he’s seen in training and in the UFC, the 27-year-old has all the tools to reach that point.
“That’s the level of potential (possible GOAT status), one hundred percent. He does all the things that if you do it right from the start, if he keeps doing what he’s doing now, he will be one of those guys one day, I’m one hundred percent sure of it. It is crazy when you say it, because Kamaru Usman is pound-for-pound the best guy out there right now, and I love the guy, but I’ve been sparring with so many guys, at heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, I’ve been sparring welterweights, this guy (Chimaev) just puts guys away on the mat, in the training sessions. This guy hits (with) too much precision, too much power.”
Gustafsson Believes Chimaev Would Put Usman To Sleep
If Chimaev is to break into the group of contenders for that throne, which includes stars like Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Khabib Nurmagomedov, he’ll certainly have to reach the top of the welterweight mountain in the coming months or years. If he’s to do that, he’ll likely have to go through Kamaru Usman.
While that seems a daunting task and one many may not give the Chechen-born Swede a massive chance of accomplishing, Gustafsson believes Chimaev would put “The Nigerian Nightmare” to sleep.
“I think he’d put Kamaru Usman to sleep, honestly. I think if he just touches his chin, it’s a big chance that Kamaru Usman goes to sleep. I like Kamaru Usman, he’s a great champ and he’s just like, been breaking records. It’s a pleasure to see him fight. He’s very good, technical, I love his jab and his wrestling. You can see why he’s top.
“But I just can’t see him taking Khamzat’s punches. I can’t see him taking his combinations. When it comes to wrestling… It would probably be one of the biggest fights in UFC history when it comes to that part. To see the technical side of the fight. I love Usman as a champ, but I think (Khamzat) would put him to sleep.”
Gustafsson’s theory may be tested as soon as the end of 2022. While Usman is likely to defend his gold against Edwards next, recent reports suggest Chimaev’s fifth Octagon outing will be coming against former title challenger Gilbert Burns at UFC 273.
Given Burns’ place in the division, it stands to reason that clash will be a title eliminator. If “Borz” emerges victorious, we could be seeing him opposite Usman before the year is out.
Do you think Khamzat Chimaev can find enough success in the UFC to join the GOAT debate?