UFC 294: Khamzat Chimaev Starts Strong, Wins Majority Decision Over Kamaru Usman

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – OCTOBER 20: (L-R) Opponents Kamaru Usman of Nigeria and Khamzat Chimaev of the United Arab Emirates face off during the UFC 294 ceremonial weigh-in at Etihad Arena on October 20, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

It wasn’t the originally scheduled UFC 294 co-main event, but Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev was arguably more intriguing.

With Paulo Costa out of the fight due to a staph infection, it was Usman stepping up on short notice, making the move to 185lbs in the process.

Khamzat Chimaev went right after a takedown early in the fight, with Kamaru Usman defending furiously and showing impressive balance on one leg. But Chimaev swept that leg out from under the former welterweight champ. Usman would regain his feet, only to have Chimaev stay on him like glue. And just moments later, Chimaev had the back, dropping hammer fists as Usman covered up.

Usman was not in a good spot, but somehow, Kamaru managed to hang on. With both hooks in and riding Usman, who remained on his knees, Chimaev looked for a choke, but wound up a little too high up the back.

Kamaru eventually made it up to his feet, with just one problem: Chimaev was still on his back. And he was still hunting a rear-naked choke which he just about had. Sensing that, Usman slammed him over the top, freeing himself from the choke but not from Chimaev’s clutches. Chimaev continued to ride Usman’s back, adding in the occasional punch. Usman survived the frame — but barely.

Round two found Usman badly in need of shifting momentum, and it at least went better early on. In the sense that, Usman wasn’t fending off a takedown, or taken down, in the opening minute. Instead, there was a bit of back-and-forth; Chimaev wasn’t going full-tilt as he had in round one, likely (and wisely) conserving some energy. Later in the frame, a jab followed by a right hand landed for Usman, as did a follow-up leg kick. Just as Usman appeared to be cruising to winning the round, Chimaev shot a perfect takedown attempt, with Usman locking him down. Chimaev did pull his head free, but didn’t have enough time to make anything happen.

Round three saw the stand-up open up a bit, with Usman landing and Chimaev landing back. Usman then slipped, but quickly regained his footing. He then put the pressure on Chimaev, walking him down — though he changed levels for a takedown attempt that simply wasn’t there, and gave Chimaev a reprieve of sorts.

Next up it was Chimaev in on a takedown attempt, and while he almost lost it, Khamzat stayed with it, moving from an ankle to the hips and finally putting Usman on his back. Chimaev wound up in half-guard with two minutes still on the clock, after being under heavy fire early in the round. Chimaev would maintain that position until the final 30 seconds of the round, with the pair swinging wildly ahead of the horn!

The biggest shame: the fight was three rounds, not five. Both men clearly had more in the tank, and the three rounds fans got were fantastic. Chimaev got the split decision win, and there wasn’t much argument against it.

Official Result: Khamzat Chimaev def. Kamaru Usman by majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28)

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