The world of UFC is no stranger to unexpected twists and turns. UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi was a testament to this dynamism, as it brought forth a series of surprises, both inside and outside the octagonal cage. One of the most discussed outcomes from this event was Khamzat Chimaev’s majority decision win over Kamaru Usman.
During the bout, Chimaev, a formidable presence in the UFC arena with an undefeated streak, faced an unforeseen setback. As the punches landed and grapples intensified, Chimaev began to feel an anomaly in his right hand. By the end of the opening round, he suspected a breakage.
Post the bout, Chimaev shared with ESPN, “I believed I broke my right hand during the first round.” This was a significant revelation given the magnitude of the match and the reputation of his opponent. The injury, he expressed, limited his offensive approach as the bout proceeded.
However, further medical examinations presented a different picture. Majdi Shammas, Chimaev’s manager, clarified the situation to ESPN, stating that the fighter had suffered a torn ligament, not a breakage. The current medical prescription necessitates Chimaev to wear a protective brace for the upcoming four weeks. Once this period concludes, the injury will be reassessed to determine any further action. Fortunately, at this juncture, surgical intervention does not seem imperative.
The match itself had its genesis in an unexpected change. Chimaev was initially scheduled to face Paulo Costa at UFC 294. However, due to an unforeseen bursitis injury that Costa sustained, Usman, widely recognized as ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’, was ushered in as a replacement, given a mere 10-day notice.
This win over Usman has potentially positioned Chimaev for a title challenge against the newly crowned middleweight champion, Sean Strickland. However, Strickland expressed reservations about this prospect. He voiced his skepticism on UFC Fight Pass: “He doesn’t f—ing deserve it.” Elaborating on his viewpoint, Strickland accentuated Chimaev’s limited middleweight victories over the past few years, signaling them as an indicator of his readiness for a title shot.
However, he also acknowledged Chimaev’s widespread appeal and marketability, conceding, “He sells a lot of fights.” His statement indicated a mixed bag of reluctant respect for Chimaev’s prowess and a keen understanding of the commercial intricacies of the sport.
Chimaev’s trajectory since his 2020 UFC signing has been noteworthy. The fighter, with an impeccable 13-0 record, has swiftly carved a niche for himself in the UFC narrative. Moreover, the recent conclusion of an exclusive long-term contract with UFC, signed before the Usman bout, further solidifies his standing in the championship.
However, opinions surrounding the UFC 294 bout’s result are diverse. UFC bantamweight champion, Sean O’Malley, offered a nuanced perspective. While acknowledging Chimaev’s dominance, especially in the first round, he lauded Usman’s tenacity.
O’Malley commented, “Kamaru Usman is a gangster. We always knew he was a gangster, but for him to take that fight on short notice, [and] go the distance with Chimaev. And some people were saying, I mean, that first round was definitely 10-8, but let’s pretend it wasn’t, and then Kamaru, well, you give him the next two rounds… he could’ve won that fight. Crazy“
In the backdrop of UFC 294, the stage for the middleweight title seems rife with anticipation. While Chimaev’s physical recovery is a paramount concern, the broader implications of this bout, the contenders’ credentials, and the unfolding narrative promise to keep the UFC community and its enthusiasts engaged in the months to come.