On Saturday night, with Tony Ferguson as the opponent after a bizarre, unprecedented several days, Diaz will leave the promotion as a winner, courtesy of a guillotine choke submission at 2:52 of the fourth round in the main event of UFC 279 at T-Mobile Arena. And with that, the lore of Diaz -- one of the most popular, unconventional fighters in MMA history -- continues.
Diaz was initially supposed to fight Chimaev, but Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds Friday, coming in at 178.5 for a 171-pound-limit bout. Diaz understandably opted not to fight an opponent who was so overweight. Diaz called Chimaev a "b---h ass" rookie and said he only trained wrestling during this camp because Chimaev is a dominant wrestler.
This was the final fight on Diaz's UFC contract and he has indicated that he will not return to the promotion for now. Earlier this week, Diaz's team announced Diaz would be starting his own combat sports promotion, Real Fight Inc. Diaz has been in the UFC since 2007 and is an 18-year pro in mixed martial arts.
Diaz (22-13) is a cult favorite who reached superstardom with a 2016 submission win over Conor McGregor. The California native is 2-2 in his last four fights, but he nearly knocked out Leon Edwards -- now the UFC welterweight champion -- in his most recent fight in June 2021.
Ferguson (26-8) has dropped five in a row, most recently a knockout loss to Michael Chandler at UFC 274 in May. The California native is a former UFC interim lightweight champion. Ferguson, 38, won 12 straight fights from 2013 to 2019, and is tied for the UFC lightweight record streak with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
UFC 279 results
Catchweight (180 pounds): Khamzat Chimaev (12-0, 6-0 UFC) def. Kevin Holland (23-8 1 NC, 10-5 1 NC UFC) by submission (Watch on ESPN+)
As soon as the fight starts Khamzat Chimaev immediately pursues a takedown on Kevin Holland.
Khamzat Chimaev (12-0) submitted Kevin Holland (23-8) with a d'Arce choke at 2:13 of the opening round inside T-Mobile Arena. It was an absolutely dominant performance by Chimaev, but it came one day after he missed weight for a scheduled welterweight main event against Nate Diaz. After Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds, however, Diaz refused to fight him at a catchweight, which forced the UFC to shuffle the card and schedule Chimaev against Holland at 180 pounds.
He looked perfect inside the Octagon on Saturday, as he shot straight into a takedown in the fight's opening seconds and immediately took Holland to the floor. Holland has a history of issues with takedown defense, but he came into this fight on a two-fight win streak at welterweight. He was originally scheduled to face Daniel Rodriguez in a 180-pound catchweight. Rodriguez, of California, is primarily a striker, not a wrestler.
Things went from bad to worse for Holland as the fight progressed. He tried to scramble and separate, but once Chimaev had a grip on him, he wasn't letting go. He transitioned into the d'Arce attempt in the center of the cage and produced the tap. He has now finished five of the six opponents he's fought in the UFC, including four inside the first round.
The conclusion was a disappointing one for Holland and brought a swift end to a mini rivalry with Chimaev. The two got into a brief scuffle earlier in the week, prior to a UFC 279 press conference in Las Vegas. No injuries occurred, but the UFC ultimately chose to cancel the press conference over safety concerns, after Nate Diaz's team also became involved in the fracas.
Holland, of Fort Worth, Texas, falls to 7-3 overall in the UFC.
Catchweight (180 pounds): Daniel Rodriguez (17-2, 7-1 UFC) def. Li Jingliang (19-8, 11-6 UFC) by split decision (Watch on ESPN+)
And so began the reshuffled portion of the evening's fight card.
Rodriguez, who initially was matched against Kevin Holland, ended up in the cage with Li and looked like a man a couple of weight classes bigger than his opponent. But Li was the quicker man, and even though he was significantly smaller, the Chinese fighter landed the punches that appeared to have the more significant impact.
Rodriguez got the nod from two of the three judges likely because he remained busy for three rounds and was the aggressor, walking down Li for much of the fight. All three judges scored the bout 29-28.
Rodriguez, a 35-year-old from Alhambra, California, has won four contests in a row and 12 of his last 14.
The 34-year-old Li, who originally was slated to face Tony Ferguson at welterweight in the co-main event, was fluid with his movement and landed damaging punches and kicks. But that did not prevent him from losing for the second time in his last three fights.
Catchweight (140 pounds): Irene Aldana (14-6, 7-4 UFC) def. Macy Chiasson (9-3, 6-3 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)
In one of the wildest finishes in UFC history, Aldana landed an upkick from her back to Chiasson's liver area, resulting in a TKO at 2:21 of the third round.
"We train all kinds of techniques," Aldana said.
Aldana had a great first round, landing combos. Chiasson shot for a takedown against the cage, and Aldana reversed it and ended up in position for an armbar. Chiasson defended, but Aldana was on top and landed hard ground and pound before working for another armbar.
The second round was the reverse. Chiasson landed a takedown and was dominant on the ground for most of the five minutes. Toward the end of the frame, Chiasson was looking for a choke while landing hard strikes from the top.
It appeared like the third might go the same way. After some exchanges on the feet, Chiasson got the takedown. When she postured and stood up to get better position, Aldana let fly with upkicks - and landed one to Chiasson's right side, just under her ribs. Chiasson went down immediately and referee Jason Herzog came over to call the fight.
It was a stunning TKO -- one the crowd loved. There were several chants for "Mexico" during the bout to support Aldana.
Aldana, 34, has won two straight and four of her last five. The Guadalajara native is 7-2 in her previous nine fights overall. Chiasson, a 31-year-old from New Orleans who trains out of Dallas, has dropped two of three. The bout was moved to a catchweight, rather than being at 135 pounds, at the request of Chiasson's team Friday.
Light heavyweight: Johnny Walker (19-7, 5-4 UFC) def. Ion Cutelaba (16-8-1 1 NC, 5-7-1 UFC) by submission (Watch on ESPN+)
Johnny Walker brings back his famous worm dancing celebration after a submission Ion Cutelaba.
It's been a tough stretch for Walker over the last two years, but Saturday's performance was a throwback to what once made him a standout prospect at 205 pounds.
Walker, of Brazil, tapped Cutelaba with a rear-naked choke with just 23 seconds remaining in the opening round. The finish came after Walker escaped an early armbar attempt by Cutelaba and worked his way to the back.
Cutelaba seized control early by catching a Walker kick and dumping him on the ground. However, he might have been too aggressive in his advances on the ground, as Walker scrambled to his back after escaping Cutelaba's submission attempt.
It is Walker's second win in his last six appearances and first by submission since 2017. Afterward, he said he's been working his ground game in Las Vegas to finish fights on the ground and the feet. Cutelaba falls to 5-7-1 in the UFC.
Catchweight (149.5 pounds): Julian Erosa (28-10, 6-5 UFC) def. Hakeem Dawodu (13-3-1, 6-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Erosa hurt his opponent in the standup in the first round, showed off his grappling prowess in the second and utilized both in the final round to secure a clear decision victory. The judges gave him all three rounds, handing in 30-27 scorecards.
Erosa, who is 33 and from Yakima, Washington, has won three fights in a row and six of his last seven.
Dawodu, a 31-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, tried to play catchup but could never halt his opponent's momentum. Dawodu, who missed the featherweight limit at Friday's weigh-in, has lost two of his last three fights.
Catchweight (220 pounds): Jailton Almeida (17-2, 4-0 UFC) def. Anton Turkalj (8-1, 1-1 UFC) by submission (Watch on ESPN+)
Jailton Almeida pulls out the dominant victory at UFC 279 with a submission of Anton Turkalj.
Whether it be at heavyweight or light heavyweight - or in this case, a catchweight - Almeida is a serious problem.
Almeida big-brothered Turkalj over the course of the first round before finally locking in a rear-naked choke submission at 4:27. Almeida took Turkalj down easily, got into mount and worked for an arm-triangle choke. When Turkalj defended, Almeida landed some ground and pound and slickly took the back and locked Turkalj in the rear-naked choke.
"I want to be a heavyweight," Almeida said. "Put me in Abu Dhabi (UFC 280). I'm ready."
Almeida, 31, is now 3-0 in the UFC with three first-round finishes. The suffocating Brazilian grappler seems like someone who will have a fast trajectory in the heavyweight division. Turkalj, a 26-year-old Swede, was making his UFC debut.
Middleweight: Denis Tiuliulin (11-6, 1-1 UFC) def. Jamie Pickett (13-8, 2-4 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)
Denis Tiuliulin was deducted a point after two low shots on his opponent, but he didn't need any judges on Saturday night as he finished Jamie Pickett will ground-and-pound.
The 34-year-old from Russia scored the upset victory, his first in the UFC, after rocking Pickett with a number of short elbows. Pickett couldn't stop his opponent's offense and ultimately ended up on the mat with his hands over his head.
This was Pickett's second consecutive loss. He now falls to 2-4 in the UFC.
Catchweight: Chris Barnett (23-8, 2-2 UFC) def. Jake Collier (13-8, 5-7 UFC) by TKO (Watch on ESPN+)
Chris Barnett is ecstatic after his comeback win vs. Jake Collier at UFC 279.
It was a slobber knocker, a bloody brawl between big bodies, with the more damaged of them getting the finish and celebrating with a sloppy front flip.
Barnett got smashed early on, wobbled by big punches that bloodied his face, puffed up and closed his left eye and left his mouth sagging open as if he'd suffered a jaw injury. But he withstood the punishment and turned the tide in Round 2, fending off a Collier takedown attempt and securing top position himself. He then rained down big shots until the referee jumped in at 2:24.
Then Barnett did the front flip and delivered an epic postfight interview with the crowd roaring his name.
This was most fun I've had in long time. Wow Chris Barnett did it! #UFC279— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) September 11, 2022
Barnett, who is 36 and fights out of Tampa, Florida, has won two of his last three fights in the UFC. At Friday's weigh-ins, he became just the second heavyweight in UFC history to miss the 266-pound limit; he surrendered 20% of his purse for a fight that ended up being contested at a catchweight.
Yo this is insane 🤯 that is hands down the come back of the year!!!#UFC279— Jamahal Hill (@JamahalH) September 11, 2022
Collier, a 36-year-old from Cuba, Missouri, has lost two in a row.
After the win, Barnett was transported to the hospital, per the UFC.
Women's featherweight: Norma Dumont (8-2, 4-2 UFC) def. Danyelle Wolf (1-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
She couldn't pick up her first UFC stoppage victory, but it was still a dominant win.
Dumont beat up Wolf on the feet and schooled her on the ground for a clear, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) on the UFC 279 prelims.
Wolf is a boxer with some credentials, but Dumont rocked her several times on the feet and dropped her twice in the second round. In the third, Dumont took Wolf down and landed ground and pound. By that point, Wolf was sporting a shiner on her right eye and was bleeding from the nose.
Dumont, 31, has won four of her last five fights. The 31-year-old Brazilian was coming off a split decision loss to Macy Chiasson at UFC 274 in May. Wolf, a 39-year-old training out of California, is a neophyte MMA fighter and former national Golden Gloves champion boxer who earned her way onto the UFC last year from Dana White's Contender Series.
Men's bantamweight: Alatengheili (15-8-2, 4-1-1 UFC) def. Chad Anheliger (12-6, 1-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Alatengheili showed off potent offense and strong defense in scoring his second straight victory inside the Octagon.
The 30-year-old from China wobbled Anheliger twice in the first round with straight right hands, bloodying him with the second one, and continued to land the more damaging punches and kicks throughout. All three judges scored the fight 30-27 in his favor, giving him another victory following a stretch in which he was winless in two straight.
Anheliger, 35 and from Calgary, Alberta, saw a 10-fight winning streak end. He didn't go down without a fight, though. Despite being hurt early and outstruck for most of the fight, he stood his ground and exchanged with his opponent, landing some shots but never one that was a difference maker.
Strawweight: Elise Reed (6-2, 2-2 UFC, +145) def. Melissa Martinez (7-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Three late takedowns by Reed made the difference in a fight between two women who spent much of their 15 minutes in the cage together in striking exchanges.
Reed, a 29-year-old from Princeton, New Jersey, appeared to have sustained damage to her upper left leg in the third round due to Martinez's kicks. So Reed smartly went to her grappling game to secure the win (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), her second in the UFC.
Martinez, 25 from Mexico, entered her UFC debut undefeated.
Welterweight: Yohan Lainesse (9-1, 1-1 UFC) def. Darian Weeks (5-3, 0-3 UFC) by majority decision (Watch on ESPN+)
Lainesse utilized good footwork to steer clear of trouble and landed just enough offense to eke out the victory in a battle of two fighters looking for their first UFC victory.
Both fighters had difficulty getting much offense going. Weeks was the aggressor for most of the 15 minutes but could not land much on his elusive opponent. All three judges scored the bout 29-28, with two going for Lainesse.
Lainesse, a 30-year-old from Saint-Bruno, Quebec, Canada, had suffered his first career defeat in his Octagon debut in April. After Weeks' original opponent dropped out, he took this fight on short notice.
Weeks, who is 28 and from Sedalia, Missouri, has lost all three of his Octagon bouts after coming to the UFC undefeated.