UFC 279 delivered a boatload of action following a controversial, at-times fractious fight week in Las Vegas, as Nate Diaz waved farewell to the UFC after adding one more win to his record.
Diaz defeated Tony Ferguson in the main event at T-Mobile Arena, snatching “El Cucuy’s” neck for a fight-ending fourth-round guillotine choke. And, after his victory, he visited with Joe Rogan to give his take on a crazy fight week in Sin City, before addressing his fighting future.
Despite finding himself on the losing end of the deal in the headline bout, Ferguson was in good spirits after a fight with Diaz he clearly thoroughly enjoyed.
He may have taken another loss, but “El Cucuy’s” passion and enthusiasm for the fight game seems as strong as ever, as he recapped his short-notice scrap with Diaz after the bout had concluded.
The co-main event saw Khamzat Chimaev completely dominate Kevin Holland to claim a first-round D’Arce choke submission finish of “Trailblazer.”
Chimaev was originally set to face Diaz in the main event, but missed weight by a colossal 7.5 pounds, forcing the UFC into a last-minute reshuffle of the top three matchups.
Instead, Chimaev faced Holland in a 180-pound catchweight contest and, after taking his man to the mat in the opening seconds, never let go of his opponent until Holland had tapped out a submission.
A fired-up and defiant Chimaev visited with Rogan after his win and appeared to have no issue with what had happened earlier in the week, when he also found himself in the middle of a backstage melee before the pre-fight press conference.
His big question mark now, which Rogan attempted to chat to him about, was whether Chimaev could be trusted as a legitimate championship contender at 170 pounds following such a huge weight miss.
The third bout that was reshuffled the night before the fight was the main card clash between Daniel Rodriguez and Li Jingliang. Originally, Rodriguez was set to face Holland, with Li scheduled to face Ferguson. But Chimaev’s weight miss resulted in “D-Rod” and “The Leech” going toe to toe in a 180-pound catchweight bout that saw the Chinese athlete concede a sizeable weight advantage to his opponent.
Many viewers thought Li had done enough to win at the end of the three rounds, but only one of them was sat cageside scoring the bout. It meant Rodriguez claimed victory via split decision, and he shared his thoughts on a crazy week, and a hard-fought victory, with Rogan after the bout.
The women’s bantamweight bout between Irena Aldana and Macy Chiasson had a dose of drama of its own during fight week when the pair agreed to switch things up and compete at a catchweight of 140 pounds. The bout served up plenty of action, with Aldana dominating the opening round only for Chiasson to come storming back in the second.
But, with Chiasson pushing the pace on the Mexican contender in the final frame, a thumping up-kick that connected with the liver of Chiasson gave Aldana a body-kick knockout victory off her back to keep her very much in the title conversation at 135 pounds.
The main card opener promised fireworks, but few would have predicted that Johnny Walker would finish Ion Cutelaba via submission. Yet that’s exactly what happened when the breakdancing Brazilian finished hard-hitting Cutelaba via rear-naked choke to snap a two-fight skid and claim victory over a notoriously tough opponent.
After his victory, and his trademark celebration, Walker chatted with Rogan to unpack his victory, and the improvements he’s made to his game.
Whether he opts to fight at heavyweight or light heavyweight, Jailton Almeida looks like he could make some big waves in the UFC, and he served notice of his skills with a first-round submission of Anton Turkalj in their heavyweight preliminary card clash.
After his impressive victory, Almeida chatted with Rogan as he set out his stall for what he hopes is a run that will take him all the way to the top of the UFC.
Don’t make Denis Tiuliulin angry. That seems to be what happened at UFC 279 as the Russian middleweight reacted in the perfect way to having a point deducted, by TKOing his opponent not too long after.
Tiuliulin’s finish of Jamie Pickett gave him his first win in the UFC, and after his victory he broke down his success with Rogan in his post-fight interview.
Despite fighting on the prelims, Chris Barnett made sure the fans leaving the T-Mobile Arena did so with the memory of his performance still fresh in their minds.
His thrilling come-from-behind performance saw Barnett defeat Jake Collier, and his infectious enthusiasm and love of the sport was there for all to see as he celebrated joyously in the octagon.
Then came his post-fight interview with Rogan, which he used to not so much answer Rogan’s questions, but instead hail the Las Vegas fight fans, whose chants helped him turn the fight on its head after a nightmare first round.