- What: UFC 294
- Who: Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev
- Date: Saturday, October 21, 2023
- Location: Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi
- Time: Early Prelims (TBA) Prelims (10:00 a.m. ET) Main Card (2:00 p.m. ET)
- How to Watch: Early Prelims (ESPN+), Prelims (ESPNews), Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)
UFC 294 picked up a new main event less than two weeks from fight night when former UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira was forced out of his rematch with current lightweight titleholder Islam Makhachev because of a cut suffered during sparring. UFC featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski steps in to face Makhachev in the main event of the ESPN+ PPV pay-per-view streaming card. The card also has a new co-main event. With Paulo Costa being forced from the card, Khamzat Chimaev now faces ex-UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in a middleweight scrap. Here is some information on Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev before we discuss the betting breakdown for the UFC 294 PPV fight card.
Khamzat Chimaev (12-0) has fought at both welterweight and middleweight in the UFC. After missing weight for a welterweight bout at UFC 279, Chimaev is moving permanently to 180 pounds at UFC 294. Chimaev enters this event following a first-round submission win over Kevin Holland at UFC 279.
Kamaru Usman (20-3) took this fight on short notice. The ex-welterweight champ is 0-2 in his past two outings, with a title-losing knockout setback to Leon Edwards in August 2022 and a majority decision defeat in his March 2023 rematch with Edwards. UFC 294 marks Usman’s first fight at 180 pounds.
UFC 294 co-main event: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman betting picks
|To Win UFC 294 Co-Main Event|
UFC 294 co-main event: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman betting breakdown
A member of the UFC roster since 2020, Khamzat Chimaev has been hyped as a future UFC champion since he went 3-0 that year with three stoppage wins. Two of those victories came at middleweight, while the other was a welterweight scrap. The 29-year-old is an incredibly skilled fighter who answered any questions about his toughness and ability to work through adversity by defeating Gilbert Burns by decision in 2022. The Burns victory was the first and only time Chimaev went the distance in his career.
The 36-year-old Kamaru Usman joined the UFC in 2015. Throughout his run with the promotion, the ex-lightweight champ was getting better with every fight of his career. Until back-to-back losses to Leon Edwards, Usman added new wrinkles to his game, relying less on his wrestling skills and becoming a more well-rounded MMA fighter. He defended the UFC welterweight title five times before losing the belt to Edwards.
Chimaev relies a great deal on his wrestling skills, but he is getting better in the striking department with each fight he takes, showing comfort from either stance on the feet. His ground game is exceptional. Chimaev has incredible positional awareness on the mat, and he is comfortable and confident no matter where the fight takes place.
Like his foe, Usman was once known mostly for his wrestling, but his striking has developed to the point where he doesn’t need to wrestle if he doesn’t have to. He works well in the open or against the fence with his striking. Of the two, Usman has the better footwork and feints. He also has multiple five-round fights, so cardio is not an issue for the ex-champ.
UFC 294 co-main event: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman – Who has the edge?
Those expecting a wrestling match between Khamzat Chimaev and Kamaru Usman need to look at the grappling statistics of these two men. Usman did not surrender a UFC takedown until his 16th UFC fight. That takedown came in Round 5 of his first bout against Leon Edwards. It remains the only takedown Usman has surrendered. Meanwhile, Chimaev has never yielded a UFC takedown. With this being a three-round fight, I expect Chimaev will look for a takedown early in the first, and if he fails to stick that attempt, the fight will likely stay on the feet.
Chimaev is a much more active striker than Usman, landing an average of 7.30 significant strikes per minute while getting hit 3.98 times per minute. Usman averages 4,46 significant strikes per minute and absorbs 2.75.
Despite this being Usman’s first middleweight fight, he is only two inches shorter than Chimaev. Surprisingly, Usman has a one-inch reach advantage.
UFC 294 co-main event: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman – What’s at stake?
While neither of these men is ranked at middleweight, the co-main event of UFC 294 has incredibly high stakes for both men. UFC CEO Dana White has said the winner of Chimaev vs. Usman will be the next opponent for UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland.
“That is an absolute fact,” White said on The Pat McAfee Show. “The fact that these guys are taking this fight on short notice, (the winner) will get the next shot at the title barring injuries and other things that can possibly happen.”
Best Bets: UFC 294 co-main event: Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman
This is a tough fight to pick because outside of his contest against Gilbert Burns, betting favorite Khamzat Chimaev has not been tested. Meanwhile, the betting underdog, Kamaru Usman, has been fighting the best of the best for several years. Had Usman gotten an entire camp in for UFC 294, the betting odds would be tighter as he would have had more time to prepare. With how this fight came to be, my betting pick is for Chimaev to win via decision, but for those who like Usman, there is some betting value in picking the ex-champ to triumph in Abu Dhabi.
Best UFC 294 Co-Main Event Betting Pick: Khamzat Chimaev to beat Kamaru Usman via decision.
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