Analysis

Khamzat Chimaev’s Keys to Victory at UFC 279 – Video Analysis

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The UFC 279 main event will be a rare occasion where a PPV is headlined by a fight where there isn’t a belt on the line. These spots are usually reserved for Conor McGregor or the infamous ‘BMF‘ belt fight. In Las Vegas, however, on September 10th, Khamzat Chimaev and Nate Diaz will clash in a welterweight main event without any real implications. Yes, the next welterweight contender may come out of this fight, however, there are other clear contenders for the belt that would be more deserving, for example, the former championKamaru Usman.

Whatever you think of this fight, this card or the theory behind the fight being made, there’s little doubt that it will provide plenty of headlines, excitement and an entertaining build-up.

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We take a look at how ‘Borz’ can remain undefeated, hand Diaz a third straight loss and catapult himself into the welterweight title picture.

How Can Chimaev Beat Diaz?

Luckily for analysts, Chimaev went three rounds last time out against Gilbert Burns in what was a fight of the year contender. Prior to that, he’d gone 3-0, out-landed his opponents 224-2 and not been tested at all. We got 15 minutes of action which had it all including stand-up battles, ground game exchanges and tactical adjustments.

Slam the Leg Kick

Unfortunately for Stockton’s own, there is a clear blueprint as to how to beat him. With his boxing-heavy style and stinging jab, he puts a lot of weight on his lead leg. We first saw the leg kick utilised against Diaz when he faced Rafael dos Anjos back in 2014. RDA landed 26 of 29 leg kicks across 15 minutes, the majority of which were on the thigh of Diaz. The leg kick itself has evolved over the years and now the low leg kick to the calf is much more prominent. There is less ‘meat’ on the calf and we’ve seen the damage that it can do in multiple fights.

We also saw this as a clear tactic that Conor McGregor used against Diaz in their rematch. McGregor clearly followed the blueprint that dos Anjos used to defeat Diaz. Again, however, the kicks landed on the upper part of Diaz’s leg, rather than the calf. McGregor landed 40 of 45 leg kicks across 25 minutes, hampering the movement of Diaz massively. What McGregor did well was time when Diaz’s weight was planted on his lead leg meaning that he took the full force of the strike. If he was lighter on his lead leg in a more muay Thai style, he would be able to lift his leg up, meaning that the impact wouldn’t be so damaging.

We’ve seen a slight evolution in Diaz’s defensive game with regards to the leg kick. Although there is still a long way to go, he looked to anticipate the inside leg kicks of Leon Edwards last time out by lifting his leg off the ground in order to not take the full weight of the kick. There is still a lot of work to be done, however.

Get Diaz on the Ground

We know what Chimaev’s game is all about. Get his opponent down and ‘smesh’ and then either look for the submission or just continue to throw strikes. He’s landed six takedowns throughout his UFC career at an accuracy of 66%. With that being said, he’s relentless in his pursuit. He prefers to control his opponents on the ground up against the cage, rather than in the middle of the Octagon. This limits the options for his opponents to get away from him and increases his superiority in the position.

Against Burns, Chimaev shot for a takedown within the first eight seconds of the fight. This was the same case when he faced Li Jingliang. He clearly made ‘The Leech’ believe that the two would strike, however, as soon as his opponent threw a strike, Chimaev level changed and not only carried his opponent around the octagon towards the cage, but also then grounded him too. He shot for a takedown after just four seconds.

This is a common theme in Chimaev’s game. He baits his opponents into throwing big before changing levels and getting the fight to the ground. In his UFC debut against John Phillips, he did this after just four seconds again. This is another great example of how Chimaev baits opponents into exchanging before fully committing to the takedown.

This is clearly how Chimaev likes to ground his opponents because he’s been doing it his whole career. Back in his BRAVE CF days, he’d land the same takedown over and over again. He’d convince his opponents that he strike with them and then land the takedown following a big swinging strike. In his last fight before entering the UFC, we saw this play out. Here we can see how his opponent looks to counter with a swinging left hook from a Chimaev kick. The next thing he knows, he’s on his back with Borz on top of him.

Although Diaz is a 3rd-degree black belt in BJJ, we have seen him controlled on the ground more often than not in recent times. Against Leon Edwards, Edwards was able to not only take the Stockton man down at will, but he was able to control him on the ground with relative ease. With 11 submission victories, it would suggest that Diaz is dangerous on the ground, however, he’s only recorded one submission in his last 10 fights, dating back to 2012. With that being said, Chimaev has to be careful when going to the ground with Diaz because he still has that BJJ background to rely on.

Luckily for Diaz (in a way), he doesn’t have one-punch knockout power and he knows this. This means that he’s unlikely to recklessly throw heavy strikes, leaving himself open for the Chimaev takedown. With a takedown defence of just 41%, the majority of the time Diaz is taken down, it’s from the clinch. If Chimaev can force his opponent into the clinch, his chance of landing a takedown increases massively.

Damage Diaz in the Clinch

We can predict that the majority of this fight, if Chimaev took the easiest route to victory, would take place in the clinch. We know that Diaz has a weakness when it comes to defending takedowns from the clinch and Chimaev is skilled enough to utilise this. If Chimaev chooses to close the distance and get the fight to the clinch, he should not only look for the takedown but look to hurt Diaz in the clinch with strikes. He’s the bigger, stronger man so controlling the American in the clinch shouldn’t be an issue.

Against Masvidal, Diaz struggled in the clinch, which allowed Masvidal to hurt Diaz on multiple occasions. ‘Gamebread’ was able to utilise his superior strength in order to control Diaz and manipulate the Stockton man’s movement to his benefit. We can see in the example below how Masvidal pulls down on the head of Diaz, forcing him to lift his head up which allows Masvidal to land the brutal elbow. Diaz then looks to exit the clinch with his hands down and pays massively for it as Masvidal records a knockdown.

Chimaev rarely looks to strike with opponents in the clinch, preferring to bodylock them, control them and subsequently get them to the floor to do damage. With that being said, it would benefit him to strike with Diaz in the clinch and utilise his opponent’s flaws.

Against Burns, Chimaev looked to exit the clinch by utilising the same technique as Masvidal did against Diaz. He pulls down on the back of Burn’s head to exit, however, doesn’t look to throw the strike, preferring to circle out instead. We can see below how he does this, however, against Diaz he may be more willing to stay in the clinch and strike.

Chimaev is the far bigger man, struggling to make welterweight and a move up in weight to middleweight (where he has competed four times in 11 fights). He’s two inches taller but importantly, he appears far stronger than Diaz. Diaz used to make lightweight with ease (although his last 155lbs fight was in 2015), whereas Chimaev hasn’t ever made lightweight. We also know just how strong Chimaev is following his wrestling match with UFC middleweight, Jack Hermansson. Realistically, Chimaev has the option in the clinch due to his superior strength. He can decide whether to hold Diaz there, take him down or mix it up and strike with Diaz in the clinch. The more risky strategy is to strike with Diaz because Diaz is effective at striking in the clinch, despite his defensive flaws.

Other Keys to Victory

  • Manage his gas tank. Diaz has famous cardio and we saw Chimaev become slightly fatigued in his three-round fight with Burns last time out
  • Pump the jab. We know that Diaz has a lot of scar tissue so pumping the jab and looking to open up cuts on Diaz could provide him with a way to victory. Diaz’s fight against Masvidal was stopped due to cuts
  • Don’t let the moment get to him. It’s Chimaev’s first main event and happens to be on a PPV against one of the UFC’s biggest stars. He needs to manage his emotions all week and look to focus on the fight itself throughout rather than talking to Dana White or anyone in the crowd like he has done previously.

Whatever happens at UFC 279, we know one thing for sure. Both men will bring the heat, come to fight and put on an entertaining bout for as long as it lasts.

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Frazer is a 26 year old MMA and boxing enthusiast from Coventry, England.

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