Khamzat Chimaev should have fought Leon Edwards before suffering severely from COVID-19. But when he returns to the UFC, who should be his opponent?
Because of a questionnaire about his physical health, it seems doubtful that the UFC would want to match him again with Edwards, who is a proven top-five talent with 170 pounds.
However, thanks to the depth of the UFC’s welterweight category, there are almost countless potential enemies for Chechnya.
Here are five potential opponents for Khamzat Chimaev upon his return to the UFC.
# 1 Neil Magny (UFC record: 17-7)
He is currently ranked 9th in the UFC welterweight rankings, Neil Magny it would undoubtedly offer Khamzat Chimaev a challenge, especially after the battle of Chechnya with COVID-19.
One of the best-surrounded fighters in the UFC’s welterweight category, Magny promoted people like Li Jingliang, Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler.
Once seen as a grappler, Magny now uses a nasty striking game that relies heavily on its odd 80-inch ranges. That gives him a 5-inch advantage in a potential fight with Chimaev.
However, TUF 16 the losses of veterans from powerful fighters such as Michael Chiesa and Santiago Ponzinibbio would suggest that Chimaev – assuming he is healthy – could be slightly favored in this fight.
Given that the two have already started sniff each other on Twitter, this fight could definitely make sense if Chimaev is healthy enough.
In fact, this could be the most challenging match the UFC could want to offer the ‘Exchange’ right now.
# 2 Carlos Condit (UFC record: 9-9)
Former interim UFC welterweight champion Carlos Condit has fallen in difficult times in recent years. However, a slight resurgence of form put The Natural Born Killer in an unlikely streak of two wins.
That means Condit will now likely be used as a high-level goalkeeper for the UFC’s welterweight division.
With that in mind, the UFC may be tempted to match him with Khamzat Chimaev upon the return of the Chechens.
The 36-year-old Condit is not currently ranked and would not offer a current standings result that would be won by Leon Edwards. But they would still consider him the toughest opponent Chimaev has ever faced, and he would also offer a pretty big “name” win.
More importantly, Condit’s general career skater means he is no longer as endangered as he once was. And with a dubious wrestling game, he could also make a nice style match for Chimaev.
The UFC has always loved to fight between prospective prospective and veteran gatekeepers. And so Condit’s fight against Chimaev would definitely make sense to them.
# 3 Robbie Lawler (UFC record: 13-9)
Last seen in a disappointing defeat by Neil Magny in August 2020, Robbie Lawler probably reaching the end of his stage in the UFC upstairs.
The former UFC welterweight champion has not won a fight in the Octagon since 2017 and is currently in a series of four fights. However, like Carlos Condit, he still offers the value of a name that could make him a decent opponent for Khamzat Chimaev.
In many ways, Ruthless Robbie would be a dangerous enemy to Chimaev after COVID-19. After all, it still offers insane impact strength and a great deal of toughness.
However, Lawler looked sharper in his recent fights than ever before. And with years of wear and tear behind him, it’s pretty clear that his UFC championship is long gone.
But while Chimaev would probably be sure to win this fight, it’s the kind of card with which the UFC could easily hold the main event from the Fight Night card.
Again, a win over Lawler wouldn’t mean as much as a win over Leon Edwards, but that would definitely be a worthy name on Chimae’s book this beginning of his career.
# 4 Gunnar Nelson (UFC record: 8-5)
Like Khamzat Chimaev, Gunnar Nelson once considered one of the most interesting looks in the UFC’s welterweight category.
The Icelandic fighter made his debut in the octagon in 2012 with a stellar reputation. A well-decorated grabber, Gunni also applied an unusual striking style reminiscent of former UFC welterweight champion Lyoto Machida.
Nelson set a 7-2 record in his early UFC days, but has fallen into tough times since suffering a KO from Santiago Ponzinibbio in 2017.
He has since gone 1-2, and has not battled a disappointing defeat by Gilbert Burns in 2019.
Why would he be a good opponent for Chimaev? First, Nelson is a smaller welterweight category, which means that he will hardly be able to beat Borza even if he is not in full force after his attack on COVID-19.
And while Gunni is a dangerous finisher in all areas, the lack of explosive athleticism that prevented him from reaching the top of the UFC would also make him less of a threat to Chimaev.
This fight would still be a step for Chimaev. Nelson is a far better fighter than Rhys McKee and Gerald Meerschaert. However, it also sounds like a win, so it would potentially be worth booking.
# 5 Warlley Alves (UFC record: 8-4)
Another former perspective that has fallen in difficult times, Warlley Alves was once considered one of the most dangerous Welterweights in the UFC.
In fact, he was the only fighter to defeat Colby Covington before Chaos met Kamara Usman at UFC 245.
However, the winner TUF Brazil 3 he could never make it to the top of the UFC. That’s because he still has a lot of holes in his game. He is reckless, he mostly runs out of gas and he is not the most enduring fighter there.
But Alves looked great in his first fight in 2021, stopping Mounir Lazzez in a performance that earned him a $ 50k bonus.
And with skills in all areas, he would provide Khamzat Chimaev with a dangerous test, albeit one you would expect the Chechens to pass.
But as Chimaev begins a nasty battle with COVID-19, the fighter a little lower on the totem pole should be the kind of opponent the UFC should look like to match him.
And from that point of view, Alves would be perfect.