LAS VEGAS — When Friday ended, the UFC 279 main card was completely different than the one scheduled when the day began.
In an unprecedented turn of events, the top three fights set for Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena were all altered by Friday evening, a chain reaction set off by once-headliner Khamzat Chimaev missing weight by 7.5 pounds. Nate Diaz, Chimaev’s expected opponent in the main event, declined to fight someone who missed weight so badly, rather understandably.
The UFC, led by chief business officer Hunter Campbell and president Dana White, scrambled to reshape the biggest bouts until late afternoon local time. The end result? Diaz will now meet Tony Ferguson in the welterweight UFC 279 main event. In the co-main event, Chimaev will take on Kevin Holland at a 180-pound catchweight. Both bouts will be five rounds.
Diaz (20-13) is one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster. The California native is going into the final fight on his UFC contract and has indicated this will be his final fight in the UFC, at least for now. Diaz, 37, has lost three of four, but nearly knocked out Leon Edwards — who is now the UFC welterweight champion — in his most recent fight in June 2021.
Ferguson (25-7) has dropped four 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, tied for the UFC lightweight record streak with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Chimaev (11-0), a rising star, was an overwhelming favorite against Diaz and the main event was set to be a showcase of his skills before he caused the drama by missing weight by so much. The 28-year-old Chechen fighter, who trains in Sweden, is 5-0 in the UFC with four finishes. Holland (23-7, 1 NC), a 29-year-old Texan, is unbeaten in three straight fights.
Also on the card, Ferguson’s original opponent, Li Jingliang, will meet Daniel Rodriguez, who originally was expected to face Holland. Plus, Irene Aldana and Macy Chiasson meet in a 140-pound catchweight bout and Johnny Walker and Ion Cutelaba clash in a battle of light heavyweights.
Fight in progress:
Welterweight: Darian Weeks (5-2, 0-2 UFC, -125) vs. Yohan Lainesse (8-1, 0-1 UFC, +105)
Still to come:
Welterweight: Nate Diaz (21-13, 15-11 UFC, +105) vs. Tony Ferguson (26-7, 15-5 UFC, -125)
Catchweight (180 pounds): Khamzat Chimaev (11-0, 5-0 UFC, -550) vs. Kevin Holland (23-7 1 NC, 10-4 1 NC UFC, +400)
Catchweight (180 pounds): Li Jingliang (19-7, 11-5 UFC, +130) vs. Daniel Rodriguez (16-2, 6-1 UFC, -155)
Women’s catchweight (140 pounds): Irene Aldana (13-6, 6-4 UFC, -180) vs. Macy Chiasson (9-2, 6-2 UFC, +155)
Light heavyweight: Johnny Walker (18-7, 4-4 UFC +180) vs. Ion Cutelaba (16-7-1 1 NC, 5-6-1 UFC, -220)
Men’s featherweight: Hakeem Dawodu (13-2-1, 6-2 UFC, -220) vs. Julian Erosa (27-10, 5-5 UFC, +180)
Catchweight (220 pounds): Jailton Almeida (16-2, -700) vs. Anton Turkalj (8-0, +500)
Middleweight: Jamie Pickett (13-7, 2-3 UFC, -135) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (10-6, 0-1 UFC, +115)
Heavyweight: Jake Collier (13-7, 5-6 UFC, -470) vs. Chris Barnett (22-8, 1-2 UFC, +360)
Women’s featherweight: Norma Dumont (7-2, 3-2 UFC, -410) vs. Danyelle Wolf (1-0, 0-0 UFC, +320)
Men’s bantamweight: Alatengheili (15-8-2, 3-1-1 UFC, -165) vs. Chad Anheliger (12-5, 1-0 UFC, +140)
Strawweight: Elise Reed (5-2, 1-2 UFC, +145) vs. Melissa Martinez (7-0, 0-0 UFC, -170)
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