Nate Diaz and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 279
Think you had a hectic week?
It was probably nothing compared to Dana White's.
The UFC czar saw his monthly pay-per-view show turned upside down at the last possible moment on Friday when would-be main eventer Khamzat Chimaev missed weight and necessitated fighter swaps in each of the card's top three bouts.
Chimaev's original opponent, Nate Diaz, instead wound up in the main event against veteran lightweight-turned-welterweight Tony Ferguson, while Chimaev dropped to the No. 2 slot against Kevin Holland. The foes initially penciled in for Ferguson and Holland—Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez—were matched against each other in bout No. 3.
The entire 13-bout show was broadcast live by ESPN+ with an announcing team of Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Joe Rogan, while Megan Olivi worked the room with feature pieces and breaking news. The B/R combat team was in place as well to compile the definitive list of the winners and losers from a tumultuous Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Scroll through to see what we came up with, and drop a thought or two in the comments.
Winner: Strutting to the Exit
Neither Diaz nor Ferguson is likely to become world champions.
But that doesn't mean, even with both a few years from age 40, they couldn't put together a compelling albeit hastily arranged battle into the main-event rounds in front of an adoring crowd.
The aging lightweights-turned-welterweights traded kicks, punches, and occasionally curious gestures through three rounds before Diaz turned a Ferguson takedown attempt into a guillotine choke finish at 2:52 of Round 4 atop the UFC 279 show in the Nevada desert.
It came in the last fight of Diaz's existing contract with the company, and he suggested afterward it'd be his last for the time being as he moves forward with plans to switch gears and take over "another sport."
He never specified what sport it'd be, but Diaz has been connected to a possible crossover showdown with social media star and boxer Jake Paul.
"I'm going to go out there, take over another profession and become the best at that," he said. "Then I'll be right the f--k back to get a UFC title."
He and Ferguson were relatively even across 15 minutes of unique combat before the end came in the fourth following a prolonged barrage of Diaz punches that had Ferguson reeling along the fence.
Ferguson decided to charge in for a takedown and got Diaz to the mat, but Diaz wrapped his left arm under Ferguson's throat in the process and cinched in the submission attempt with his right.
The victory by tap was the 10th of Diaz's career, giving him sole possession of fourth place in UFC history, and the first since he choked out Conor McGregor in 2016.
It was his first victory since 2019 after consecutive losses, and it was a fifth straight loss for Ferguson, who's also not won since 2019 and suffered two KOs, two shutout decisions and now a surrender since.
"That s--t was fun," said Ferguson, whose left calf was bloodied after Diaz checked a leg kick and whose right eye was gashed by a Diaz punch. A super fight is what you wanted and what you got.
"Four rounds of carnage."
Winner: Embracing the Anti-Hero
It's an awful lot like old-school wrestling.
Chimaev has succeeded in the past as a hero. And Saturday night, he thrived as a villain.
The Swedish-based menace missed weight by several pounds on Friday and was booed heavily by the T-Mobile Arena crowd because of it. However, he still handled his business in rapid-fire fashion with a first-round submission of new opponent Holland in just more than two minutes in the co-main event.
"I'm the most dangerous guy here. I'm coming for everyone," Chimaev said. "I'll kill everyone."
He certainly looked the part against Holland, with whom he was involved in a backstage fracas that led to the cancelation of a Thursday afternoon press conference.
The unbeaten supernova charged across the cage and had Holland on the mat within five seconds and never let him up, grinding him back and forth across the mat before chasing a D’Arce choke and ultimately securing it to draw the surrender at 2:13.
"Attacking like that is just knowing the guy doesn't have anything for you," Cormier said, "and that's terrifying. He took him down and made it look like he had no idea what he was doing."
Chimaev is ranked third in the UFC at 170 pounds and claimed he'd pursue both the welterweight and middleweight belts.
"I'll get both belts," he said. "I'll beat both guys and take the titles back home with me."
Winner: Creating on the Fly
Irene Aldana was in a bad, bad way.
She was coming off a second round in which she was taken down and battered for most of five straight minutes and found herself flat on her back once again as the third round began against a momentum-fueled Macy Chiasson.
And then she changed the fight. And perhaps the sport.
Aldana drove a hard heel kick into the right side of a standing Chiasson's body, instantly dropping her to her knees and rendering her unable to continue as referee Jason Herzog and the broadcast team were left in stunned silence.
It was just the third upkick stoppage in UFC history and the first to a victim's body.
The end officially came at 2:21 of the third.
"She may have changed the sport," Cormier said. "We may see that as a strategy now."
Aldana had dominated the first round with superior striking and nearly got a submission win with an armbar, but Chiasson quickly recovered with the aforementioned domination in the second.
"We train all kinds of technique, crazy and practical," Aldana said. "It came up huge tonight."
The fight was contested at a 140-pound catchweight after Chiasson had issues with her weight cut. Aldana entered the day No. 4 at 135 pounds, while Chiasson was six spots behind at No. 10.
"It was a challenge to fight at that weight. She was very heavy," Aldana said.
Winner: Returning to Relevance
Welcome back to the big time, Johnny Walker.
The charismatic 6'6' Brazilian was one of the UFC's rising stars upon graduating from Dana White's Contender Series and beginning his octagonal career with three straight first-round finishes.
But it all fizzled quickly, and with four losses in five subsequent fights—including two first-round KOs and two wide decisions—the one-time prospect had veered perilously close to suspect.
And given the one-sided, grinding nature of the first two minutes against Ion Cutelaba on Saturday, it wasn't looking much better.
But Walker was able to spin out and get to his feet by the midway point of the first round and quickly took Cutelaba down with a slam, then spent the next two minutes chasing submissions before finally locking in the rear-naked choke that ended things at 4:37.
It was Walker's 19th win in 26 career fights as a pro, but just his third submission win and first since a guillotine choke win in 2017. He's won 15 times by KO.
"I'm getting better," he said. "I want to finish guys on the ground instead of just knocking them out.
"It's all about two words: commitment and consistency. Without commitment, you'll never start, and without consistency, you'll never finish."
Loser: Backing Prelim Chalk
Betting the prelims is never an exact science.
The fighters typically have lower profiles than their main-card contemporaries, which means those of a speculative mindset need to do their homework to accumulate.
But the potential for profit was there on Saturday night.
Riding the underdog train through eight fights on early prelim/prelim cards was a positive venture, thanks to five victories for B-side fighters that yielded an overall gain of $600.
Bets on all eight favorites would have incurred a $780 loss.
Charismatic heavyweight Chris Barnett was the biggest high-risk, high-reward proposition, returning $415 on a $100 bet thanks to his stirring rally for a TKO against Jake Collier.
Joining him against the chalk were strawweight Elise Reed, who went off at +145 for a scorecard defeat of Melissa Martinez; middleweight Denis Tiuliulin, who stopped Jamie Pickett in Round 2 as a +110 underdog; welterweight Yohan Lainesse, whose -105 billing was slightly less than the -115 billing of Darian Weeks before his split-decision win; and featherweight Julian Erosa, who was +175 before a scorecard defeat of Hakeem Dawodu.
Winner: A Finishing Phenom
It may be a KO. It may be a submission.
But one thing is certain about Jailton Almeida's fights: They don't last long.
The rising Brazilian star picked his 13th first-round finish in 17 professional wins, quickly taking down late substitute Anton Turkalj before battering him on the mat and cinching in a fight-ending choke after just 4:27 of the opening session.
The 31-year-old is 17-2 overall and 3-0 in the UFC since a victory on Dana White's Contender Series a year ago. He'd debuted with the promotion as a light heavyweight but met Turkalj at a 220-pound catchweight and said afterward he planned to fight at heavyweight.
All 17 of his wins have ended in two rounds or fewer with six KOs and 11 submissions. The rear-naked choke against a previously unbeaten Turkalj was his ninth win by that method.
He took Turkalj down in the first 30 seconds and controlled position throughout, switching between barrages of punches and pursuit of submissions. The end came when a prone Turkalj turned and blocked punches with his hands and arms, leaving an opening for Almeida to sneak his right arm around his foe's throat and get a tap within 10 seconds.
"He's so patient and technical, and he's such an exciting contender in a talent-rich division," Rogan said.
Winner: Staying the Course
Let's face it, Chris Barnett doesn't look the part.
He's more Michelin Man than muscle man and became just the second UFC heavyweight to miss weight when he scaled in at 267.5 pounds for a preliminary bout with Jake Collier.
But it clearly was not about the Spaniard's looks.
Barnett's left eye was cut and swollen and his jaw appeared disfigured after a brutal first round, but he survived both the combat and a visit from the cage-side physician to rally for a second-round finish of his Missouri-based opponent to the delight of a still half-full building.
"Me and dudes like Jake, that's what we do. That's why we're in this," Barnett said. "We come out here for you all and I love it. This means the world to me."
Collier began the second round looking to continue his barrage, but the momentum turned when Barnett stuffed a takedown attempt and quickly scrambled to Collier's back. He unloaded with a torrent of lefts and rights as Collier squirmed to survive, but eventually had landed enough shots without reply to force the hand of referee Mark Smith at 2:24.
Barnett celebrated the win with a front flip that ended with him flat on his back, but giddy.
"I'm a turtle shell," Barnett said. "You let me get your back and I'm staying there."
Loser: Changing Disciplines
Given that nearly every moment of two rounds had come in stand-up positions, you'd have thought Danyelle Wolf, a multi-time amateur boxing champion, was faring well.
You'd have thought wrong.
Though taller and longer than opponent Norma Dumont, the 39-year-old was on the short end of the striking battle across 10 minutes and ultimately battered on the mat through the final five while dropping a wide decision by shutout scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 20-26.
"She's a great boxer, but I'm also a great striker and I wanted to make sure I brought that out," said Dumont, who arrived to the featherweight bout as the UFC's 15th-ranked bantamweight. "I'm really proud that I struck just as hard as a high-level boxer."
Indeed, Wolf had won national ring titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015 but transitioned full-time to mixed martial arts after not getting an opportunity to fight in the Olympics.
She debuted as a professional with a victory on Dana White's Contender Series in 2020 and was subsequently awarded a contract, but was dropped twice in Round 2 against Dumont, including the second time by a hard right hand that left her flat on her back.
Dumont got things back to the floor early in the final round and pummeled her throughout, leaving Wolf's right eye swollen and her nose bloodied by the final buzzer.
"I wanted to teach her something that's called jiu-jitsu," Dumont said.
UFC 279 Full Card Results
Nate Diaz def. Tony Ferguson by submission (guillotine choke), 2:52, Round 4
Khamzat Chimaev def. Kevin Holland by submission (D'Arce choke), 2:13, Round 1
Daniel Rodriguez def. Li Jingliang by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Irene Aldana def. Macy Chiasson by KO (kick), 2:21, Round 3
Johnny Walker def. Ion Cutelaba by submission (rear-naked choke), 4:37, Round 1
Julian Erosa def. Hakeem Dawodu by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jailton Almeida def. Anton Turkalj by submission (rear-naked choke), 4:27, Round 1
Denis Tiuliulin def. Jamie Pickett by TKO (punches), 4:52, Round 2
Chris Barnett def. Jake Collier by TKO (punches), 2:24, Round 2
Early Preliminary Card
Norma Dumont def. Danyelle Wolf by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Alatengheili def. Chad Anheliger by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Elise Reed def. Melissa Martinez by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
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