Nate Diaz makes his final appearance in an Octagon after an epic UFC career Saturday in the main event of UFC 279 in Las Vegas against former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson. The two fan favorites finally face-off in a welterweight fight after an unprecedented turn of events shook up the main card.
Diaz began his UFC career in 2007 on “The Ultimate Fighter” and has compiled a professional MMA record of 20-13 with 11 of those wins coming by submission. His biggest victory to date was a short-notice submission win in 2016 over Conor McGregor, who was coming off back-to-back title victories for the featherweight and then lightweight championship belts. Choking out the UFC’s first simultaneous double-champion catapulted the fighter from Stockton, California, to fame. He lost the rematch to McGregor later that year and a trilogy fight has been talked about since, but failed to materialize.
Since losing the majority decision to McGregor, Diaz has fought just three times: a win over Anthony Pettis and a TKO loss to Jorge Masvidal in 2019, then a unanimous decision loss to Leon Edwards in June 2021.
[UFC 279 result: Chris Barnett’s epic comeback, in-cage interview delights fans]
Ferguson, who first fought for the UFC back in 2011, was scheduled to face Li Jingliang on Saturday in his first fight since a devastating knockout loss to Michael Chandler in May. But after Khamzat Chimaev weighed in 7.5 pounds heavy for his scheduled bout versus Diaz atop the card, Ferguson was offered the main event slot against Diaz and accepted.
Though Ferguson is riding a four-fight losing streak, the losses were to Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Beneil Dariush and Chandler — all bona fide studs of the UFC’s stacked lightweight division. Before the losses started piling up, Ferguson was riding a incredible 12-fight winning streak in which he captured the interim lightweight title, but he never fought for the undisputed title.
Chimaev’s weight issue cost him the main event spotlight versus Diaz, but not a spot on the card as he was given Kevin Holland to face in catchweight bout in the co-main event. It turned out to be a thrashing as Chimaev quickly took down Holland and stayed in control before submitting him with a D’arce choke minutes into the first round.
No. 14-ranked welterweight Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez agreed to fight each other at a catchweight of 180 pounds just one day before the two met in the cage Saturday. Their fight ended up going the full three rounds in what amounted to a striking battle with both fighters mostly staying at distance. Rodriguez took the fight on two of the three judges’ scorecards for the split decision victory.
Irene Aldana and Macy Chiasson went back and forth in the first two rounds of their catchweight bout at 140 pounds. Aldana clearly won the first round after dominating Chiasson and even forcing her to tap out to an armbar, but it went unseen by the referee. Chiasson stormed back in the second and dealt Aldana some vicious ground and pound. In the third and deciding round, with Chiasson backing out of top control, Aldana caught her with a brutal up-kick to the liver. Chiasson crumpled to the ground and the fight was stopped.
Johnny Walker, who had lost four of his last five fights, opened the pay-per-view with a first-round submission of Ion Cutelaba in their light heavyweight matchup. The No. 13-ranked Walker had entered the fight as a +170 underdog and improved his record to 19-7. Cutelaba is now 16-8 after going 1-4 in his last six with one split draw.
Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole is cageside for the show at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas so follow our live tracker below for all of the latest updates and analysis.
UFC 279 live results, highlights, analysis
UFC 279 main card odds, results, highlights (Live now on ESPN+ PPV)
Odds via BetMGM.
Welterweight: Nate Diaz +130 vs. Tony Ferguson -155
Catchweight (180 lbs): Khamzat Chimaev def. Kevin Holland by submission (D’Arce choke) at 2:13 of R1:
Catchweight (180 lbs): Daniel Rodriguez def. Li Jingliang by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Catchweight (140 lbs): Irene Aldana def. Macy Chiasson by TKO (liver kick) at 2:21 of R3:
Light heavyweight: Johnny Walker def. Ion Cuțelaba by submission (rear naked choke) at 4:37 of R1
UFC 279 prelims results, highlights
Catchweight (149.5 lbs): Julian Erosa def. Hakeem Dawodu by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Catchweight (220 lbs): Jailton Almeida def. Anton Turkalj by submission (rear naked choke) at 4:27 of R1:
Middleweight: Denis Tiuliulin def. Jamie Pickett by TKO at 4:52 of R2:
Catchweight (267.5 lbs): Chris Barnett def. Jake Collier by TKO at 2:24 of R2:
UFC 279 early prelims full results
Women’s featherweight: Norma Dumont -def. Danyelle Wolf by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Bantamweight: Alateng Heili def. Chad Anheliger by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Women’s strawweight: Elise Reed def. Melissa Martinez by unanimous decision (29-28, 28-28, 29-28)
Welterweight: Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)