Wacky, weird and wild: Unpacking UFC 279 as Nate Diaz and villain Khamzat Chimaev win big

Nate Diaz punches Tony Ferguson in a welterweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

They were originally scheduled to face one another in a serious mismatch, but instead Nate Diaz ended his existing UFC deal with a memorable win over a fellow legendary veteran while Khamzat Chimaev leaned into a villainous role – one he carved out for himself after a massive weight miss – easing to another emphatic first-round victory during the night’s co-main event.

Diaz submits Ferguson, after Chimaev crushes Holland

Khamzat Chimaev of Russia works for a submission against Kevin Holland in a 180-pound catchweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on...
Chimaev wasted no time at all in locking a D’Arce choke finish against rescheduled opponent Holland
  • #3 ranked welterweight Khamzat Chimaev says during post-fight interview that, on doctor’s advice, he stopped weight cutting — his head coach provides alternative view
  • “There’s been a love-hate relationship the whole time I’ve been here, had the longest career, outdid everyone on pay, I wanna get out for a minute, show them how to take over, own up another sport how you’re supposed to do it,” Nate Diaz to test free agency
  • Irene Aldana scores historic R1 upkick KO to the body vs. Macy Chiasson in 140lb catchweight bout, Norma Dumont eyes featherweight title fight with Amanda Nunes
  • Johnny Walker ends two-fight losing skid, scoring first win in two years after R1 rear-naked choke submission against Ion Cutelaba while his compatriot shines on prelims

Technically given how the bulk of the main card was reshuffled on 24 hours’ notice, if that, there should be a caveat for most of what you’re about to read.

The one exception is Diaz-Ferguson, the people’s main event between two legendary veterans which should’ve been booked originally anyway.

It wasn’t a fantastic watch – understandably so – but the end result was seeing Diaz riding off into the sunset with his fervent army on a high after inflicting Tony Ferguson’s latest defeat.

How the 38-year-old still hangs onto a lightweight ranking, even at #15, is probably the conscious overcompensating for his distinct lack of luck in recent years. So after seeing Michael Chandler flatline him so emphatically a few months prior and now this, it’s five straight losses.

“That shit was wild, an honour to fight for you fans. No bs, it was fun – two legends in the sport – a superfight is what you wanted, four rounds of fucking carnage! I’m back, gotta fix some mistakes…”

Many assumed he’d call it a day as he uncomfortably stayed put in the Octagon post-fight for a brief interview with Joe Rogan. Instead, he doubled down on being back and was defensive during the subsequent press conference when challenged about his poor form. Not good.

As for the Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland co-main event, it immediately gave me Islam Makhachev vs. Bobby Green vibes and even though the latter’s wrestling deficiencies are well-documented, he did well to scramble as long as he did. The outcome was still to be expected.

But don’t cry for Trailblazer, he plans on returning soon with a stylistic matchup that doesn’t keep budding contenders across two divisions awake at night. He’s eyeing Stephen Thompson or Daniel Rodriguez next, the latter his original opponent before Friday’s drama unfolded.

Speaking of… D-Rod is now in the top-15 rankings (#14) at 170lbs after earning a dubious split decision victory during his catchweight (180lbs) matchup against Li Jingliang – the Chinese, whose popularity has grown exponentially of late, was originally slated to face Ferguson.

#4 ranked women’s bantamweight contender Irene Aldana returned with another stoppage win, this time an unorthodox but nonetheless devastating upkick to the body which shut Macy Chiasson’s lights out – quite literally – midway through R3 of their back-and-forth battle.

Perennial light-heavyweight contender Johnny Walker spoke passionately post-fight about evolving, learning from mistakes and importantly having the hunger to keep improving – all the right things – after returning to the win column, swarming Ion Cutelaba with a R1 submission.

heavyweights, look out: almeida stars on the prelims

Jailton Almeida of Brazil secures a submission against Anton Turkalj of Sweden in a 220-pound catchweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile...
Almeida secured a first-round submission against Sweden’s Turkalj and got a $50k bonus to boot

But the evening belonged to his formidable compatriot: 29-year-old prospect Jailton Almeida, who made quick work in ruthlessly dispatching promotional newcomer Anton Turkalj – holding a 8-0 unbeaten record – with a rear-naked choke during their 220-pound catchweight fight.

While another impressive display, he was originally set to face Shamil Abdurakhimov before visa issues restricted the #15 ranked heavyweight from travelling ahead of this contest. As such, they’ll likely ebook it – Almeida wants Abu Dhabi (UFC 280) or UFC 283 in his native Brazil.

Other prelims, early prelim results and what’s next?

Denis Tiuliulin of Russia elbows Jamie Pickett in a middleweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas,...
A point deduction for a groin strike saw Denis Tiuliulin’s slicing elbows come out in force vs. Pickett

Catchweight (149.5lbs): Julian Erosa def. Hakeem Dawodu via UD (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Middleweight: Denis Tiuliulin def. Jamie Pickett via R2 TKO (knee, punches)
Catchweight (267.5lbs): Chris Barnett def. Jake Collier via R2 TKO (punches)
Bantamweight: Alateneg Heili def. Chad Anheliger via UD (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Women’s Strawweight: Elise Reed def. Melissa Martinez via UD (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Welterweight: Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Up next: UFC Vegas 60 on Saturday night, headlined by an unofficial bantamweight title eliminator between Cory Sandhagen (#4) and Song Yadong (#10), while featherweight Sodiq Yusuff and women’s bantamweight contender Aspen Ladd are set for Octagon returns.

Picture source: Getty Images — post-fight quotes via UFC broadcast unless hyperlinked 

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