Big thanks to Ollie Gadd, who wrote this piece.
On the 10th of September 2022, Nate Diaz will make his final walk to the Octagon against a rising star and #3 ranked Welterweight Khamzat Chimaev.
But wait, everything changed last-minute as Khamzat appeared at the UFC 279 weigh-ins 7.5 lbs overweight.
He calmly shrugged his shoulders, almost jokingly, about missing the weight so significantly. A UFC fan claimed to see Chimaev eating happily and drinking many bottles of sparkling water the night before weigh-in.
This was a bout promising to deliver a fight with a particular brand of violence that both fighters pride themselves in.
This severe weight miss activated a complete reshuffle of the card.
Tony Ferguson was to make his move to the Welterweight division against #14 ranked Li Jingliang. Kevin Holland was scheduled to continue his run in the division against fellow contender Daniel Rodriguez.
Also on this card are ranked Women’s Bantamweight contenders, Macy Chiasson and Irene Aldana. Both are looking to earn a title shot in a division desperate for new threats to champion Amanda Nunes.
Johnny Walker and Ion Cutelaba still open the card in a Light Heavyweight banger. The only two on the main card that doesn’t seem to need any change.
Let’s take a look at the new fight schedule and break down this UFC 279 preview with analysis and predictions for the fights.
The main card for UFC 279 is now scheduled (last-minute) to be:
- Nate Diaz Vs. Tony Ferguson (Welterweight)
- Khamzat Chimaev Vs. Kevin Holland (Catchweight)
- Li Jingliang Vs. Daniel Rodriguez (Catchweight)
- Irene Aldana Vs. Macy Chiasson (Catchweight)
- Johnny Walker Vs. Ion Cutelaba (Light Heavyweight)
Johnny Walker (18-7-0) has had a tough run recently, with a 1-4 record in his last five fights.
Despite an early start in the UFC as a first-round knockout artist, Walker has since shown some severe deficiencies in his own toughness, frequently being knocked down.
He’s also demonstrated difficulty getting up from the bottom in his loss to Nikita Krylov, which saw him held down for most of the fight.
Ion Cutelaba (16-7-1NC) has had a more patchy record in the UFC, with few genuinely notable wins but losses to elite fighters like Glover Texeira and Magomed Ankalaev.
We’ve seen Cutelaba struggle recently against the length of Ryan Spann. However, he could work his way into takedowns through brute force.
Walker’s path to victory appears simple; keep on the outside and pop Cutelaba with hard shots when he tries to enter.
The issue with this is his apparent difficulties with strong pressure wrestling, which Cutelaba will do his best to exert.
If Walker fails to catch Cutelaba early and cannot effectively keep him at a distance, I’d expect to see Cutelaba bullishly charge his way towards Walker and wrestle him for most of the fight, taking the pop out of Walker’s shots in the process.
This fight is hard to call in that the success of one fighter relies on the other fighter’s game being insufficient.
However, I see a clearer path to victory for Cutelaba in this instance, as Walker will likely depend on a big shot getting through if he can’t keep Cutelaba at distance.
Prediction: Ion Cutelaba wins by Decision
Irene Aldana (13-6-0) is seen as a power puncher in the women’s 135-pound division, scoring a recent win over Yana Kunitskaya by first-round TKO.
However, her fight before saw her chase Holly Holm around the octagon, looking for her big shots, while Holm countered her by coming in with every weapon and utilizing Aldana’s constant forward motion to grant her 5 takedowns.
Macy Chiasson (9-2-0) is an out fighter at heart, allowing her opponents to come to her for counters and wrestling them to seal what will likely be a close round.
Her issues come from some defensive holes, which see her taking strikes to give them much of the time, hanging around too long after her strikes and often throwing herself out of position when she engages.
This fight feels almost tailor-made for Chiasson to win if she can implement the same game as Holly Holm did against Aldana; outfighting and wrestling.
If Aldana appears once again content to chase her opponent around the octagon, Chiasson should be able to walk her into counters and escape, perhaps mixing in wrestling to seal the deal.
Aldana’s success will come from Chiasson’s defensive holes. As someone with clear power in a women’s division, Chiasson’s tendency to stick around after her strikes and eat a few as she gives her own combinations may be her downfall if Aldana can land hard and clean.
I see Chiasson as having the easiest path to victory unless Aldana has significantly changed things in her game.
Prediction: Macy Chiasson wins by Decision
Daniel Rodriguez (16-2-0) has made a name for himself amongst the hardcore fans of the sport for his tight boxing and his superb streak at Welterweight, only being halted in a controversial decision against Nicholas Dalby.
Rodriguez has appeared hesitant in his entries, particularly so against Dalby, who chose to fight long with side kicks and longer punches.
Li Jingliang (19-7) has won two of his last four fights (one of those a loss to Chimaev) but has continued to excite fans with his highly impactful power shots. This has helped him KO or TKO many opponents in his UFC run.
It’s always exciting to watch him jump in the cage. What I hope to see him bring are his heavy shots that will bring out a slug match between the pair.
D-Rod’s careful approach to opponents sometimes appears too cautious. Still, it could be exactly what he needs to get the edge of The Leech (Jingliang).
Jingliang doesn’t waste much time getting up in the face of his opponent and rarely backs down, but this could be playing right into the ballpark for Rodriguez, who can slip and rip with some of the best.
A tricky one to call, but it will likely come down to smarts.
Prediction: Daniel Rodriguez wins by TKO
Kevin Holland (23-7-1NC)’s Welterweight run has been exciting so far at 2-0 in the weight class.
His length as a former Middleweight has proved a great asset using kicks and straight punches to keep his opponents at range. He has seemingly struggled once his opponents enter inside his range.
Holland’s fatal flaw has always been his wrestling. Although it’s held up a lot better lately, his opponents at Welterweight have been somewhat past their prime.
Khamzat Chimaev (11-0) has had a dominant run since entering the UFC at Middleweight, making mince meat of every opponent in his path.
He stormed through even others on this card, like Li Jingliang, and seemed only to face the first challenge against Gilbert Burns, who could compete with Chimaev in the clinch up against the cage and has a comparable striking ability.
Ultimately, Chimaev won that contest unanimously but appeared to have been pushed for the first time.
What Holland lacks in wrestling is exactly what Chimaev will be leveraging on for this Catchweight bout. You have to respect Kevin Holland’s commitment to a fight anytime, anyplace (UFC can rely on these kinds of fighters massively), but this won’t be an easy fight for him.
Khamzat doesn’t take breaks on his opponents, and if he takes Kevin to the mat, then it’ll be a pretty one-sided fight.
Prediction: Khamzat Chimaev wins by TKO.
Nate Diaz (20-13) rides for the last time in the UFC before putting all his attention on his own fight promotion. Ever since Nate’s rematch loss to McGregor in 2016, he has only fought three times in the last six years and won just one of them.
Many would argue that Diaz is long past his peak abilities and what was fighting Chimaev was a seriously bad move that could get him severely injured. Now up against Tony Ferguson, the outcomes might just be more balanced for Nate to give us a final show.
Tony Ferguson (25-7) is yet another legend of the UFC roster in recent history but has had an even more rough schedule of fights. He lost his last four fights but fought some of the top names around his division, like Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira.
It has felt like sending in a seasoned fighter as a journeyman for upcoming talent. Ferguson has taken some serious beatings in these fights.
Now aged 38, this might not only be Nate’s send-off, but Tony’s too. I find it hard to believe that Ferguson can keep taking more beatings.
I fully expect this fight to stay on the feet for its entirety, with close blows being thrown in the pocket like a Boxing match. This is what the fans want to see. It’s what I want to see!
If that happens, the fight can go all rounds and become a decider. Nate still has the hands and stamina to damage Ferguson’s face the most.
Prediction: Nate Diaz wins by Decision