Fresh off of his KO win over Jorge Masivdal, Kamaru Usman was quick to talk about making his next title defense. With Dana White saying that Colby Covington would be next for the champion, Usman was quick to dismiss Colby’s claim as deserving another shot and instead mentioned a different name. Wanting to stay active, Usman mentioned the 6th ranked contender Michael Chiesa and how he was more deserving of a shot. This started a conversation out of nowhere as to whether Chiesa could be next in line to challenge ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’.
After suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, Michael Chiesa moved from lightweight to welterweight. Despite winning the 15th series of “The Ultimate Fighter” at lightweight, he had never been able to really breakthrough to the top levels of the division. Being submitted by Kevin Lee and Anthony Pettis, Chiesa moved up to welterweight to take on Carlos Condit at UFC 232 in December of 2018. His grappling ability proved to be a huge divide between the two and Chiesa secured the kimura submission in the second round.
He followed this win up with a win over Diego Sanchez the following July. From here, Chiesa met another former lightweight who had moved up in former 155 pound champion Rafael Dos Anjos. This fight proved that his decision to move up was correct as he controlled the fight and earnt a unanimous decision win over a very respected opponent. A fourth win was added to his streak at welterweight in January of this year when he once again used his grappling to dominate his opponent. A third consecutive decision win, this time in a main event against Neil Magny, saw Chiesa climb to just being outside of the top 5.
When looking at the landscape of the welterweight division, Chiesa holds the best win streak outside of the champion and Leon Edwards. Whilst Edwards seems to be the clear choice for the title shot, Leon has had various issues with staying active and due to that, has a fight scheduled with Nate Diaz for UFC 263. Though a win over Diaz would surely get him a title shot, Usman has made it clear that activity is important to him. Though Chiesa hasn’t been the most active fighter on the roster either, he has managed to string four wins together since moving to 170 pounds in December of 2018.
When looking at the contenders surrounding Chiesa, many have already faced Kamaru Usman or do not have enough wins to justify a title shot. Though Stephen Thompson and Vincente Luque also have multiple good wins, the simple fact is that Chiesa has a bigger streak but is behind them in the rankings. This is due to him fighting the likes of Magny and Dos Anjos who weren’t in the top five and him only being in the division for four fights. It would seem more likely that Usman would look to make his fifth title defense against Leon Edwards if he can get past Nate Diaz but ultimately if Usman wants to fight sooner, Chiesa in some ways would be the frontrunner.
Though Dana White seems very keen on playing out a rematch between Usman and Covington, Colby has only fought once since Usman stopped him at UFC 245. Covington vs Usman 2 is a far bigger fight but there’s an argument there that Chiesa is more deserving and that’s exactly what Usman’s response to the Colby news was. Despite Leon Edwards being on an 8-fight win streak since losing to Usman, his inactivity over the last couple of years could see someone leap in front of him despite him having a fight booked.
As to how serious Usman is about giving Chiesa a shot, this remains to be seen. Convincing Dana White of this will be a mountain all by itself as though he managed it with the Masvidal rematch, Jorge is a far bigger draw in the sport than Chiesa is. With Usman seemingly steering away from White’s desired plans, the coming months or even weeks with UFC 263 approaching, will be very telling as to what is next for the UFC’s welterweight champion.