Join Matthew Wells and Patrick Auger as they preview Leon Edwards (#3) vs. Khamzat Chimaev (NR) before it takes place on December 19. Wells and Auger share their insights and analysis before the fight.
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The fight marks the return of highly-regarded welterweight contender Leon Edwards, who has not competed since July 2019. Edwards steps into the fight with an eight-fight win streak that started after losing to current champion Kamaru Usman in December 2015.
Across from him at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas is Khamzat Chimaev, a rising star within the promotion who has dominated his first three opponents in the UFC. Chimaev’s fast rise is unlike any other in the UFC and he has defeated Jonh Phillips, Rhys McKee, and Gerald Meerschaert with ease.
Here’s how Matthew Wells describes the matchup: “This matchup, it’s interesting, because Chimaev is the definition of the hype train with a rocket strapped to his back right now in the UFC. And standing in his way, the UFC has placed in front of him, against his will, or, really they forced his hand to step in here, is one Leon Edwards.”
Wells says Khamzat has the wrestling and power to disrupt the welterweight division, “but on the flipside, Leon Edwards has been in there against champion-level fighters… and he’s shut people like that down, with the exception of Usman. But what we’ve seen from Leon Edwards over the years is that he has a very interesting ability to make fighters not look great. He’s really slick when it comes to his boxing, he’s got really, really good takedown defense and he’s not terrible off his back either. He’s the definition of an all-around fighter who makes other fighters look bad.”
Patrick Auger adds that Chimaev “has never been to the judges’ scorecards and he’s never been to the third round. He’s generally imposing his will and he’s doing it fast. He has KOs at both 170 and 185 [pounds]… It seems like he’s all over the map in terms of what he’s been able to do to other fighters at both weight classes.”
Wells believes that Edwards not only needs the win, but he needs to make a statement in doing so.
“It’s important for Leon Edwards to not only get the win,” Wells says. “A boring fight is very possible here, and if it’s boring, it’s because Leon Edwards does what he did to Rafael dos Anjos. He shut him down over the course of that fight but it wasn’t particularly exciting. If you are fighting a hype train like Chimaev, doing that to him is not going to be good in the eyes of the UFC. They will want to see you go out there and finish him. They want to see you do something spectacular. If you go out there and get 10-8 rounds over him, I think that’ll be good. But if you go out there and trade 10-9 rounds here and there and win by one round, that’s not going to be enough, I don’t think, to convince the UFC to say, ‘Alright, Leon, we’re going to put you in a title fight now.’
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the Edwards camp views this fight, because, in my opinion, I feel like they need to go out there and make a statement.”
Auger agrees and says, “If he goes out there and does anything less than go out there and get a stoppage and make Chimaev look bad, absolutely terrible… It’s going to be viewed as ‘Chimaev wasn’t what we thought he was.'”
Betting on Leon Edwards vs. Khamzat Chimaev
“If I’m betting on this, it’s hard not to put money on Edwards as the underdog, especially given his resume and given what he’s been able to do. But what I would say, is that given now that they do live betting, the easiest way to do that is watch the first few minutes of the fight and then place your bet in that nature because if it gets out of round one, I think it’s going to be pretty clear who has the upper hand and what the rest of the fight is going to look like.
“MMA fans have been creating ridiculous value for underdogs in this sport for decades and this, so far, is one of those fights. Being right isn’t necessarily the most important thing when betting, you have to find the value, and the value is ridiculous with Leon Edwards being an underdog in this fight… because the guy is on an eight-fight winning streak and should be fighting for the title now.”
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Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.