2. Khamzat Chimaev
Can you script a better freshman year on the big stage without also winning the world title?
Half the year had already passed before the Western Hemisphere had heard the name Khamzat Chimaev. In the span of ten days, he had everyone talking about his statistically ridiculous victories by stopping two opponents in less than a round and taking virtually no damage in both. Did I forget to mention that he did this in two weight classes, weighing in at middleweight one week and being ready days later at welterweight the next?
The UFC was fanning the flames of an absolute wildfire going into his first fight in the United States in August. Once again moving up to middleweight, he had a durable and more proven test in Gerald Meerschaert who by this point had more information on Chimaev than both of his previous UFC opponents combined. It did not matter. Chimaev would knock out out Meerschaert with his first punch of the fight to record a jaw-dropping 17-second finish.
Whether the UFC believes he could be the next superstar overseas or simply the greatest fighter we had not heard of yet, it is clear the promotion is putting all their chips in on Chimaev. He has been booked to face a difficult challenge in Leon Edwards twice, with positive COVID-19 tests for both men cancelling the bout in December and January. The fight is expected to be rebooked for a 2021 showdown that is expected to propel the winner to their first shot at UFC gold. Should Chimaev win, expect it to be considered the most rapid rise in UFC history at the rate that “Borz” makes appearances in the Octagon.