Chimaev (13-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) was declared No. 1 contender after defeating Kamaru Usman by majority decision this past Saturday at UFC 294. Middleweight champion Strickland didn't think Chimaev's performance was worthy of a title shot, and neither does Whittaker.
Chimaev appeared to slow down after a strong 10-8 Round 1 against Usman, and Whittaker thinks that could pose an issue in a five-round fight against Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC).
“Usman's a tough fight, and he beat him,” Whittaker said on his MMArcade Podcast. “Whether it was worth a title shot, I don't think so. Neither does Strickland, but it is what it is. How Chimaev will go against other middleweights? It's hard to say. Styles make fights. But he's going to be fighting Strickland, and Strickland's got some pretty good takedown defense. Not to mention he's an awkward guy to stand with. Just the way he throws.
“I can see Strickland giving Chimaev a hard fight. I think it's going to be a hard fight. I don't think Chimaev's going to run through him. Over five rounds, Strickland's very energy efficient. He almost gets faster during the rounds. I think he's (Chimaev's) going to have a really hard test, a really hard fight on his hands. Because if anyone's going to last the round, it's going to be Strickland.”
However, the oddsmakers think otherwise. According to DraftKings, Chimaev is a -310 favorite, meaning a $310 bet would be needed on “Borz” to return $100 profit. Strickland is a +250 underdog, meaning a $100 bet on the champion would win $250.