Chimaev-Whittaker to headline UFC Saudi Arabia

Chimaev-Whittaker to headline UFC Saudi Arabia

Editor’s Note: Published on 3/28/24, at 1:49 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on Friday, 4/19/24, at 5:35 a.m. Eastern.

Khamzat Chimaev (13-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) will take on former champion Robert Whittaker in the main event for UFC Saudi Arabia on June 22.

The promotion’s first show in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be on ABC, with the headliner serving as a middleweight No. 1 contender’s fight.

On March 30, DraftKings opened Chimaev as a -166 favorite. There was no line movement for more than two weeks until April 14 when the book slightly adjusted ‘Borz’ to a -175 ‘chalk.’

In the last five days, Chimaev’s odds have slowly become more expensive. As of the morning of April 19, DraftKings had him as a -205 favorite, leaving Whittaker as a +170 underdog.

BetRivers has Chimaev at -182, with Whittaker at +145 on the comeback. FanDuel has the undefeated, 11th-ranked middleweight at -186, while Whittaker is a +144 underdog.

Whittaker (25-7 MMA, 16-5 UFC) is off a unanimous-decision win over Paulo Costa at UFC 298 on Feb. 17. He’s 2-1 since losing for the second time to Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya.

The 33-year-old Whittaker beat Marvin Vettori via UD at UFC Paris after losing to Adesanya at UFC 271 in February of 2022. However, the Aussie lost to Dricus du Plessis, who is now the middleweight champ, by second-round knockout at UFC 290.

A win over Chimaev would pave the way for a second title shot since relinquishing the 185-pound strap the first time Whittaker faced Adesanya at UFC 243. The second-round KO win by Adesanya in Melbourne ended Whittaker’s nine-fight winning streak.

He responded with a three-fight winning streak, beating Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum by UDs to get the second crack at Adesanya.

Chimaev just won a majority decision over former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman at UFC 294 last October. ‘Borz’ tore a ligament in his hand early in the scrap with Usman, who was making his middleweight debut.

Chimaev has four first-round finishes during his seven-fight UFC tenure, including submission wins over Kevin Holland and Li Jingliang.

The 29-year-old owns 11 career finishes with six KOs and five submissions. Chimaev has a UD win over Gilbert Burns in a three-round war at UFC 273 that was one of the best fights of 2022.

The co-main event will feature third-ranked heavyweight Sergei Pavlovich against sixth-ranked Alexander Volkov. Pavlovich will be in bounce-back mode after suffering a first-round KO loss to Tom Aspinall for the interim heavyweight championship.

The 31-year Pavlovich (18-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) had won six straight fights by first-round finishes before losing to Aspinall in 69 seconds.

Volkov (37-10 MMA, 11-4 UFC) is on a three-fight winning streak since losing to Aspinall in March of 2022.

In a welterweight bout, Gastelum will meet Daniel Rodriguez, while Johnny Walker will face Volkan Oezdemir in a 205-pound battle.

Dana White announced a fifth fight Wednesday night that’ll go down in the middleweight loop, Sharabutdin Magomedov vs. Ihor Potieria.