Just two weeks ago, Swedish sensation, Khamzat ‘Borz’ Chimaev had yet to make his Octagon debut. Ballymena prospect, Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee, on the other hand, was still on the books of Graham Boylan’s, Cage Warriors promotion.
This weekend on Yas Island for UFC Fight Island 3 – Chimaev will make his second UFC appearance in eleven days, while McKee will go to battle for the first time in the promotion – as part of a four-fight deal. Talk about a fairytale story for both of these captivating talents.
Captivating talents they are, however – put these two on paper together, and you’re likely to find two highly-contrasting styles. 26-year-old undefeated upstart, Chimaev; a gruelling grappler, who gets to test his abilities at welterweight this time around, following his second-round D’Arce debut win against John Phillips at 185-pounds last Wednesday. 24-year-old all-around talent, McKee; a dangerous customer on the feet with a knack for accumulation damage, as well as a grappling repertoire which has produced three submission wins from ten total triumphs.
Chimaev, a training partner of three-time light heavyweight title challenger, and heavyweight debutante, Alexander Gustafsson at Allstars Training Centre – has been tipped for eventual world champion status in the future. McKee, a product of Next Generation I.M.M.A. in Northern Ireland – was denied that opportunity amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, following the cancellation of a Cage Warriors event in May, which the emerging talent was set to headline with vacant welterweight spoils up for grabs.
7-0 challenger, Chimaev’s route to the UFC came following a string of four consecutive finishes under the Middle Eastern promotion, Brave Combat Federation’s banner. The four aforenoted finishes add to three more stoppages – giving Chimaev a picture-perfect finish rate.
Riding a three-fight rise since his unanimous judging defeat to Terry Brazier – McKee had bested all three of his Cage Warriors opposition prior to his short-notice call to the UFC. With three finishes of Jefferson George, Perry Andre Goodwin, and Hakon Foss, most recently – McKee was in line to compete for the welterweight title, which has been vacated by Bellator MMA signee, Ross ‘The Hitman’ Houston. Also of note, McKee holds a victory over former Cage Warriors lightweight best, Jai Herbert – whom he shares this weekend’s card with, as well as a professional debut win over experienced challenger, John ‘Johnny Jitzu’ Redmond.
Given the short-notice circumstances of this tie, and the simple fact that McKee is facing someone as dominant as Chimaev in his first Octagon outing, he’s most definitely up against the cosh from the get-go. The possibility of offensive wrestling from Chimaev will be evident from the first klaxon – as displayed with his timely takedown of the above-mentioned, Phillips.
An interesting factor it must be noted is the incredibly quick turnaround for Chimaev. He’ll face his second weigh cut in two weeks, but this time – he’s forced from 185-pounds, all the way down to 170-pounds. I’m not a massive proponent of back-to-back weight shedding, with a case study pointing to Tony Ferguson’s performance opposite Justin Gaethje at UFC 249, an alarming aspect to this fight.
Chimaev managed to land two successful takedowns against Phillips, and from there, sliced and transitioned with relative ease. Against somebody who’s more traversed as McKee, especially from his back – Chimaev will most definitely be on guard for submission attempts from the bottom.