While history tends to remember champions most fondly of all, it would be fair to say that in 2020 fewer fighters made more of a splash than Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland.
Chimaev, the Chechen brawler, compiled the fastest three-fight winning streak in UFC history with a series of brutal knockouts. His mission in 2021 will be to start shaking up the welterweight division –although he can go up to 185lb – with victories over ranked fighters.
The first of those may well have come against Leon Edwards, the highly-rated grappler on an eight-fight winning streak of his own, including high-profile victims in Donald Cerrone and Rafael dos Anjos. However, that scrap has now been postponed twice, although Dana White remains hopeful it will still happen at some point this year.
Chimaev is seeking a new opponent then, and he may just have found one in the considerable form of Kevin Holland. The middleweight has delivered some seriously good performances of late after a mixed bag of a career in the fight game.
The 28-year-old has been contracted to numerous MMA organizations in his time, and after an inconsistent start to his UFC career,Holland appears to have knuckled down. Having won Performance of the Night honors in victories against Joaquin Buckley, Charlie Ontiveros, and Ronaldo Souza – he is also tying the record for most wins in a calendar year at five in 2020.
A big striking middleweight, Holland would somehow need to convince Chimaev that stepping up to 185lb would be worth his while. This could be his toughest task of all, given that big money fights against the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, and Kamaru Usman are all available to the Chechen at welterweight.
But it’s an explosive brawl that most fight fans would love to see, and Holland would be only too pleased to give it to them. That is, if Chimaev could be persuaded to step up to the 185kg division. It seems that Holland may have already begun the effort to tempt the Chechen Brawler, by goading him to come up to his weight class and telling the media that “… if he comes up here to 185, I’m gonna bang that boy up!”. Although, whether or not these jibes are working remains to be seen.
What About Chimaev vs Conor McGregor?
If his fight with Edwards had gone ahead, Chimaev would have presumably come face-to-face with Conor McGregor on Fight Island.
Even though the pair have never met, there has been searing animosity between them, the bad blood has been growing as a result of a series of insults thrown over social media. There is a possibility that they could meet in 2021 if the Notorious One can be convinced – and he usually can when the money is right – to step back up to the welterweight limit.
Don’t worry big brother I’m going to smash this chicken for you 👊🏽 https://t.co/YyEJfwUMmm
— Khamzat Chimaev (@KChimaev) December 26, 2020
Chimaev, a friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s, was so incensed by McGregor’s comments about the Russian before their 2018 contest that he apparently flew to Ireland to confront him – only to be stopped at the arrivals lounge by airport security.
Assuming that McGregor defeats Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, which he is expected to do comfortably according to the latest MMA outright winner betting odds, he will be looking to do big business this year. While a shot at the vacant lightweight title against Justin Gaethje seems the most likely path, a grudge match against Chimaev is not completely out of the question if Dana White can get the terms right.
After that, who knows? It could be boom or bust for the Notorious One, or fire the man known as ‘Borz’ to the top of the tree in the UFC.