Kamaru Usman has been one of the most dominant UFC fighters of the last decade. He has not lost a fight since his second pro bout in 2013 and has defended his UFC welterweight title five straight times. The Nigerian star seems downright unbeatable right now.
However, there are three talents in the division that may have what it takes to beat “The Nigerian Nightmare,” and one of them might do so in the champ’s next fight.
Khamzat Chimaev: The Chechen Crusher
Maybe we are jumping the gun by suggesting that 10 fight veteran Khamzat Chimaev (10-0) could beat a superstar the caliber of Usman (22-1). But Chimaev has been that special after only four fights in the UFC. Not even legends like Brock Lesnar or Jon Jones dominated in the same fashion that “Borz” has to start their UFC careers.
In four bouts, split between the middleweight and welterweight divisions, the 27-year-old has scored finishes in every fight, and only one — his 2020 debut — made it to the second round. The Chechen star has been hit fewer times in the Octagon than he has Octagon wins. It is an incredible stat, and he has done this with an utterly dominant wrestling style that would make lightweight GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov nod in approval.
Chimaev has also shown that he has solid punching power to combine with his outstanding ground game. Both are key skillsets that would be a challenge for the champ. But what makes Chimaev different from the rest is the immense confidence he has after going unbeaten thus far as a pro. And in the fight game, confidence is of massive importance.
Leon Edwards: Second times a charm
Leon Edwards (19-3) is expected to be Usman’s next title challenger at some point this summer. Aside from being one of the very best 170-pound fighters in the world, “Rocky” has some unique inside intel on Usman. That comes from the pair’s first encounter all the way back in 2015.
Granted, both men are far better fighters than they once were. However, having felt the strength, speed, and agility of an opponent before an eventual rematch is an extremely useful tool in fight preparation. The same could be said for the champ as well, but if the Englishman could use that past experience to stuff Usman’s wrestling attack the second time around, he could be a terror in a points-scoring striking battle for five rounds.
Sean Brady: The dark horse
Sean Brady (15-0) is likely a couple of big wins away from getting a title fight, but like Chimaev, there is something special about him. Also, like his fellow welterweight super-prospect, he has championship-level grappling.
Having wins over UFC veterans like Court McGee, Jake Matthews, and Michael Chiesa is an impressive way to build an Octagon resume. Without a doubt, Brady still has much more to prove, but in a division where Usman has toppled much of the best talent, you have to dig deep into the rankings for the next big threat.
In 2023, Brady could be a serious threat to Usman if he still holds the gold. Assuming the 29-year-old can continue to evolve as a striker, his ground game is at a level where he could give the champ major problems if the bout turned into an all-out mat battle.