Ben Askren isn’t sold on Khamzat Chimaev before UFC on ESPN+ 36: ‘I don’t really know what to expect’

Unlike a lot of MMA fans and media, Ben Askren isn’t aboard the Khamzat Chimaev hype train just yet.

Chimaev, the unbeaten All Stars Gym prospect, burst onto the UFC scene in July when he ran through two opponents in just 10 days. Chimaev (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has looked unbeatable in his stoppage wins over John Phillips and Rhys McKee, but Askren chalks it up to Chimaev not facing top competition.

However, on Saturday, Chimaev will face Askren’s good friend and teammate, Gerald Meerschaert, at UFC on ESPN+ 36 in his toughest test to date.

“The hard part about it is, we saw him twice in the UFC,” Askren told Submission Radio. “But the first guy he fought, John Phillips, he’s 1-4 in the UFC. So, he was very unsuccessful. And the second guy he fought was a new addition to the UFC. So, (Chimaev) has not won a UFC fight. And so it’s like, OK, well, he definitely smashed these guys, there’s no doubt about that, but are these guys Gerald Meerschaert-level competition? And the answer to that is no, they’re definitely not.

“So, sometimes people can look great against guys who aren’t as good, and then when they step into a little competition, it’s a lot harder. So, I don’t really know what to expect out of Chimaev. I know Gerald is really good. He’s really tough. But, yeah, I don’t know about Chimaev yet.”

Nobody’s had an answer to Chimaev’s grappling, but Meerschaert (31-13 MMA, 6-5 UFC) is no slouch on the mat. He has 23 submission wins to his name, including five in the UFC.

Askren thinks once Meerschaert is able to weather the early storm, he’ll turn the fight around.

“Well, I think one of the things is, Gerald’s really hard to submit,” Askren said. “He’s really hard to control. He never wrestled but (has) fairly solid wrestling. So, one of the things I can see happening, for sure is Chimaev comes out like a ball of fire and isn’t able to do the damage, isn’t able to get the submissions, and then Gerald starts taking over as the fight moves on. I can see that happening 100 percent.”

He continued, “That would be huge if he can win this fight. I couldn’t believe how fast Chimaev took off. That was wild.”

Chimaev is currently double booked, which Meerschaert greatly feels disrespected by. Should he get past Meerschaert, Chimaev already has his next fight set against former two-time UFC title challenger Demian Maia.

But Askren thinks Meerschaert should take it as a motivating factor and an opportunity to take all of Chimaev’s steam with a win.

“I told Gerald it’s great,” Askren said. “It adds to the story, and you can steal somebody else’s hype. I mean, that’s for sure, right? So, there’s this hype behind Chimaev. Steal his hype. Make it yours. And, you know, Gerald probably can’t make welterweight, which is the Maia fight. So, just tell Maia to bump up or something. I think that’s the move for sure.”

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