If Paul Felder thinks it would take a “monster grabber” to beat Kamaru Usman, it seems few rising title contenders fit that description better than Chechen phenom Khamzat Chimaev.
The 27-year-old from the Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, Sweden, battled his way through UFC middleweight in the welterweight divisions with 12:44 fight time over four fights . And after his latest victory, a first-round submission to Li Jingliang, he now looks set to be in contention for the title – with a fight against former challenger Gilbert Burns, at UFC 273 on April 9.
But, while Chimaev’s results so far have been nothing short of stunning, Felder isn’t quite convinced he’s ready to be a title contender just yet. If for no other reason than questions surrounding the 6’2” fighter’s ability to consistently hit the 170lb limit.
“Even though we are all in agreement right now that [Khamzat Chimaev is] the best guy in the division, hands down,” the UFC commentator and former lightweight fighter explained on a recent episode of MMA Fighting The fighter against the writer podcast, “You have to prove to me first — and I’m sure the UFC staff — that you can make welterweight easier than you did last time around,” Felder said. “It was a shit show.”
Despite his obvious talents, the ‘Irish dragon’ also made it clear that he thought Chimaev had to ‘beat some of those guys who worked’.
As for the current suitors who might bother Usman? It’s no huge surprise that the two men Felder is most excited to see compete for the belt are two of his longtime training partners, from Renzo Gracie Philly and Roufusport – Sean Brady and Belal Muhammad.
“Those two guys for me are,” Felder explained, “after what Belal showed in his last performance with [Stephen] ‘Wonder Boy’ [Thompson] and what Sean has shown throughout his career, I think he’s one of those two guys going forward [fighting for the title].
“I don’t think that’s the case yet. I think Leon is next and should be next. But what about someone who will really challenge [Usman] in the future, I think this is one of them.
While Edwards would appear to be the next slated opponent for Usman, a title fight between the two men has yet to be officially announced. Edwards’ manager Tim Simpson told MMA Fighting in February that he was confident his client would fight for gold this summer.. But that the UFC is currently waiting on while Usman recovers from a hand injury.