Gilbert Burns showed Khamzat Chimaev is human. Chimaev proved he’s for real.
Chimaev faced adversity for the first time in his UFC career, getting out of danger in the second round and remaining undefeated with a unanimous-decision victory in a featured welterweight bout on the main card of UFC 273 in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday night.
In the main event, Alexander Volkanovski retained the featherweight belt with a fourth-round stoppage of “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung.
Volkanovski battered Jung consistently over the first three rounds and referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the bout in the first minute of the fourth round when Jung took a couple unanswered shots.
It was his 21st straight victory and third consecutive successful title defense
Also, Aljamain Sterling retained the bantamweight title with a split-decision win over Petr Yan. It was the first defense of the belt Sterling took when Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee in their first matchup last year.
It was a potential fight of the year candidate between Chimaev and Burns that stole the show.
Chimaev entered the fight having doled out 112 significant strikes to his first four UFC opponents and only having been hit with one, eye-popping stats that factored into him being a minus-500 favorite against the No. 2 welterweight contender despite not yet being ranked inside the top 10.
Burns found trouble early and was knocked down late in the first round, but he rallied in the second and knocked Chimaev down twice.
Chimaev righted the ship and got the better of some violent exchanges in the third to earn the favor of the judges.
“(Expletive) tough guy,” Chimaev said of Burns. “I didn’t know he was so tough. Thank you for this fight, Gilbert. I love you brother, all respect. He did three rounds strong. I (expletive) worked hard for everything. That guy was (expletive) good today.
“I’m happy. These are the things I was waiting for a long time. Now I’m bloody. I’m tired. I feel a little bit of pain. I love this (expletive).”
Chimaev is now 11-0 overall and 5-0 in the UFC. He will undoubtedly be ranked in the top 10 and most likely the top five after the victory.
UFC president Dana White has said a matchup against top contender Colby Covington is likely next, though it’s also possible momentum could grow for Chimaev to fight for the belt after he garnered so much hype for this bout.
Burns had won seven of his last eight fights with the only loss coming in a title bout against welterweight champ Kamaru Usman.
Jiu-jitsu star Mackenzie Dern edged Tecia Torres in a women’s strawweight contender bout, taking a split decision.
Dern appeared to be in the best shape of her career coming off an October loss where she faded late in her first five-round fight. She was able to hold her own in some standup exchanges and found her most grappling success in the second round.
“The kimura was tight,” Dern said of one of the submission attempts. “I tried to go for the leg lock. It was a risk I was willing to make. I was surprised (she escaped).”
Mark Madsen, a three-time Olympian who won a silver medal in wrestling for Denmark in 2016, remained undefeated in mixed martial arts with a unanimous-decision victory over lightweight Vinc Pichel in the first fight of the pay-per-view card.
Madsen is 12-0 as a pro and 4-0 since signing with the UFC. Though he controlled much of the action, Madsen was unable to inflict much damage from good positions and cruised to the finish line. His last three wins have all gone the distance.
On the preliminary card, Raquel Pennington staked a claim to a potential top contender bout with her fourth straight win, a unanimous-decision victory over Aspen Ladd.
Also, 44-year-old Alexey Oleynik earned his 60th pro win and 47th by submission, using a scarf hold to choke out heavyweight Jared Vanderaa.
Note: The 2016 featherweight bout between Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi at UFC 206 will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame’s Fight Wing, the organization announced on Saturday night.
Swanson won the fight by unanimous decision at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.