After an afternoon of scrambling to fix the fight card, UFC president Dana White has solved the problems brought on by Khamzat Chimaev missing weight for UFC 279.
White announced his new plan for Saturday night’s fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which will now be headlined by Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson.
So instead, Diaz will now fight Ferguson. It will mark the last bout on Diaz’s current UFC contract.
Ferguson was supposed to square off against Li Jingliang on the card on Saturday, and both of those fighters weighed in at 170.5 on Friday.
Now, Chimaev and Kevin Holland will fight instead on the card — something that is sure to be heated after their altercation earlier this week that resulted in a canceled news conference. Holland was going to fight Daniel Rodriguez on the card initially.
Rodriguez and Jingliang will fight to round out the card now, too.
And suddenly, the UFC 279 main event is a close call.
Just hours after a botched weigh-in knocked prohibitive favorite Khamzat Chimaev out of a would-be five-rounder with Nate Diaz, the now-37-year-old ex-title challenger goes from a huge underdog to a near pick ’em proposition against skidding veteran Tony Ferguson.
The new main event is perched atop a reconfigured card that now has Chimaev in the co-main against Kevin Holland, while the foes that had initially been penciled in with Ferguson and Holland—Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez, respectively—will meet in the No. 3 slot.
The Ferguson-Diaz bout matches a pair of guys in their late 30s who’ve fallen on hard times, with Ferguson having lost four straight fights since UFC 238 in June 2019 while Diaz has dropped two in a row and hasn’t earned a victory since UFC 241 two months later.
The B/R combat team took in the breaking news and dissected the new matchup while looking at a handful of potentially decisive factors. Scroll through to see how we see things and feel free to drop a thought or two of your own in the comments section.
Diaz’s best chance to beat Chimaev was probably in a drawn-out striking match.
Against Ferguson, it may not be so clear a path.
Though the Stockton-based fan favorite is one of the company’s best with his hands and can string together combinations to the head and body that seem effortless, he actually has less than half as many KOs (five) in 20 career wins as Ferguson (12) does in 25.
But while he hasn’t always had his hand raised over a semi-conscious opponent, he is capable of hurting his opponent with the sorts of shots that can change a fight’s dynamic, as he did on the way to a choke-out of Conor McGregor six years ago at UFC 196.
As for Ferguson, it may be a question of how much pop he’s got left.
The prolific career KO ratio was compiled during a long run at lightweight and prior to the four-fight skid in which he’s been stopped twice and shut out twice.
He was a master striker in his successful days, dynamically mixing front kicks from distance before focusing on the legs and working in spinning elbows as the combat got closer. The success of his punches was often tied in to his movement and defense from in close as well, which allowed him to stay in range to land counters.
How much the four beatings have taken from him and how much, if any, the move to welterweight will help could go a long way toward deciding the outcome.
If not a knock down, drag-out battle between two aging sluggers, it may turn out to be a battle on the ground between two jiu-jitsu aces with an affinity for one another’s necks.
Diaz has racked up no fewer than eight submissions in his 15 UFC wins, including seven by chokes.
His high watermark came in the aforementioned bout with McGregor, during which he battered the Irishman with enough punches to prompt the Notorious One into an ill-advised takedown that saw Diaz gain position and lock in a decisive rear-naked choke.
Where Diaz had been facing a size disadvantage against Chimaev that might have neutralized his grappling acumen, both he and Ferguson stand six feet tall and are comparable in reach, which could make it a much more interesting proposition.
Ferguson, meanwhile, has six choke-outs in his 15 octagonal triumphs since 2011, though the most recent one—against Kevin Lee in Round 3 of an interim lightweight title bout at UFC 216—came just a month short of five years ago.
He’s worked into chokes by defending takedown attempts as well as by snapping foes down during clinches. He’s chased submissions via leg locks, knee bars and heel hooks as well, and could attack Diaz in a number of ways if he gets to the floor in a controlling position.
— Fight Haven (@FightHaven) September 11, 2022