UFC 279: Diaz vs. Ferguson Preview

The UFC 279 card that we will see this weekend is not the same one that was expected earlier this week.

Just one day ago, the plan was that veteran Nate Diaz would face undefeated contender Khamzat Chimaev in the main event of a pay-per-view card from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

But plans quickly had to change. After Chimaev missed weight by an overwhelming seven-and-a-half pounds, the card had to be shifted around. So it did. The promotion scrambled for hours, negotiating with fighters and attempting to salvage the card.

In the end, a new fight was made for the main event. Taking the stage last on Saturday night will be Diaz, along with the gritty former title challenger Tony Ferguson.

While UFC 279 is certainly much different than what it was before, the show still has all of the names that were previously expected on it, just some of them in new pairings. And now the card has a main event that sees two fan favorites pitted against one another.

Here’s a full preview of one of the more unusual fight cards that have emerged from UFC’s calendar this year.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Early Prelims (6:00PM EDT / 3:00PM PDT) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)

Bout 1: Darian Weeks (5-2) vs. Yohan Lainesse (8-1) (Welterweight)

Welterweights Darian Weeks and Yohan Lainesse will kick off the evening.

Lainesse suffered a loss in his UFC debut earlier this year. He was finished in the second round of a fight against Gabe Green, getting his UFC debut spoiled and taking his first loss as a pro.

Prior to then, Lainesse earned a belt in CFFC and scored a UFC contract through an impressive performance on “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Weeks is still in search of his first UFC win. He has lost his first two fights for the promotion, dropping bouts against Bryan Barberena and Ian Machado Garry.

Bout 2: Elise Reed (5-2) vs. Melissa Martinez (7-0) (Strawweight)

Undefeated strawweight Melissa Martinez will make her UFC debut on Saturday night when she meets Elise Reed.

Martinez has earned seven wins as a pro since debuting in 2016. Most of her victories have come under the Combate Global label, including a title win in 2019.

Martinez is coming to the UFC after an extended break from the ring, having last fought in late 2019.

Reed’s UFC record is currently one win and two losses. She took a loss in her last bout, getting finished by Sam Hughes in May.

Bout 3: Chad Anheliger (12-5) vs. Alatengheili (15-8-2) (Bantamweight)

Both riding the momentum of recent finish wins, bantamweights Chad Anheliger and Alatengheili will fight on Saturday night.

Anheliger won his UFC debut in February, scoring a late finish victory against Jesse Strader. This debut came a few months after he earned a UFC contract on “Dana White’s Contender Series,” defeating Muin Gafurov in that appearance.

Alatengheili picked up his first UFC finish win earlier this year, putting away Kevin Croom in just 47 seconds. The win also scored Alatengheili his first victory since 2019, with more recent results giving him a loss and a draw.

Bout 4: Norma Dumont (7-2) vs. Danyelle Wolf (1-0) (Featherweight)

Nearly two years after she first joined the UFC roster, Danyelle Wolf will make her debut against Norma Dumont.

Wolf made her MMA debut on the 2020 season of “Dana White’s Contender Series.” She entered the show with an extensive background in boxing but had not competed in MMA before. After defeating Invicta FC veteran Taneisha Tennant via unanimous decision, Wolf was offered a UFC contract.

Dumont is a tough first UFC opponent for Wolf, as she has fought in the promotion five times and even appeared in a main event bout.

Dumont had a three-fight winning streak broken in May, as Macy Chiasson overcame her via split decision at UFC 274.

Preliminary Card (8:00PM EDT / 5:00PM PDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)

Bout 5: Jake Collier (13-7) vs. Chris Barnett (22-8) (Heavyweight)

In the sole heavyweight bout on the card, Jake Collier and Chris Barnett will compete.

Collier has kept a surprisingly steady pattern of winning and losing fights since joining the UFC in 2014. He is coming off a loss in this instance, with his last fight being a decision defeat against veteran Andrei Arlovski.

Barnett’s last fight was a technical decision defeat to Martin Buday. A win for him this weekend would even his UFC record at two wins and two losses.

In what is an incredibly rare thing to see, Barnett missed weight for his heavyweight bout on Friday.

Bout 6: Jamie Pickett (13-7) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (10-6) (Middleweight)

Middleweights Jamie Pickett and Denis Tiuliulin will meet next.

Pickett had a two-fight winning streak going earlier this year. However, that was stopped in February after he lost a short-notice fight against Kyle Daukaus. He’ll look to get some momentum back this weekend.

Tiuliulin lost his UFC debut in March, getting submitted by undefeated prospect Aliaskhab Khizriev. Before then, he had attained 10 wins and five losses as a pro.

Bout 7: Jailton Almeida (16-2) vs. Anton Turkalj (8-0) (Catchweight 220 lbs)

Fighting in a quick turnaround UFC debut, Anton Turkalj will face Jailton Almeida as part of the prelims.

Turkalj won his UFC contract in late July, defeating Acacio dos Santos on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” This fight was the eighth win in his undefeated pro record.

Turkalj took this fight to replace Shamil Abdurakhimov.

Almeida has earned two victories since joining the UFC roster this year. His first fight was a first-round finish victory against Danilo Marques at light heavyweight. He then won his heavyweight debut in May, submitting Parker Porter early.

After experiencing two different weight classes, Almeida will be fighting at an odd 220-pound catchweight this weekend when he faces Turkalj.

Bout 8: Hakeem Dawodu (13-2-1) vs. Julian Erosa (27-9) (Featherweight)

The prelims will wrap up Saturday with a fight between featherweights Hakeem Dawodu and Julian Erosa.

Dawodu has climbed up the featherweight ranks since entering the UFC roster in 2018. His five-fight winning streak was snapped by Movsar Evloev last year, but Dawodu has since bounced back with a win over Mike Trizano.

Erosa has seen a fair amount of success since kicking off his third UFC campaign. He scored his fourth win through five fights in February, beating Steven Peterson in a split decision.

Dawodu missed weight for this bout, coming in three-and-a-half pounds over the featherweight limit.

Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (PPV)

Bout 9: Johnny Walker (18-7) vs. Ion Cutelaba (16-7-1) (Light Heavyweight)

Ranked light heavyweights Johnny Walker and Ion Cutelaba are set to kick off the main card.

Walker has struggled in high-profile UFC bouts as of late. He has lost four of his last five fights, albeit against highly respected names in the 205-pound division. His last bout was a first-round finish, getting caught early with punches from Jamahal Hill.

Cutelaba is also coming off a loss, having suffered a first-round guillotine choke loss to Ryan Spann in May.

Bout 10: Irene Aldana (13-6) vs. Macy Chiasson (8-2) (Catchweight 140 lbs)

Fighting at a catchweight of 140 pounds, Irene Aldana and Macy Chiasson will compete on Saturday night.

Chiasson’s last victory was a split decision over Norma Dumont up at featherweight. Prior to then, she was submitted by Raquel Pennington.

Aldana will be returning to the cage for the first time in over a year. Her last fight came in July 2021, when she stopped Yana Kunitskaya within a round due to strikes.

She has been booked for bouts since then, although two have fallen through in recent months.

Bout 11: Li Jingliang (19-7) vs. Daniel Rodriguez (16-2) (Catchweight 180 lbs)

The sudden changes to UFC 279’s lineup start with the third-to-last bout on the card. In this matchup, Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez will face off.

Li was originally scheduled to meet Tony Ferguson in a welterweight fight, and Rodriguez was booked to meet Kevin Holland at a catchweight of 180 pounds.

Because of this, Rodriguez is essentially walking into this fight with a near 10-pound advantage over Li. He seems to be okay with this change, stating in an interview with TSN that “when they need me to save the card, no problem.”

Li is coming off a big win from July, snapping the extensive winning streak of Muslim Salikhov with a second-round finish victory. This put him back into the win column after suffering a one-sided defeat to Khamzat Chimaev in 2021.

Rodriguez will be appearing for the first time in over a year. He is riding the momentum of a highly successful 2021, scoring three wins within the year, including one over veteran Kevin Lee.

Bout 12: Khamzat Chimaev (11-0) vs. Kevin Holland (23-7) (Catchweight 180 lbs)

While Khamzat Chimaev was first scheduled to headline this card, that’s not what will happen on Saturday. After missing the welterweight limit, Chimaev will meet Kevin Holland at a catchweight of 180 pounds.

The antics surrounding this weekend’s event have certainly taken a lot away from what Chimaev is aiming to achieve in the UFC. However, he certainly has something to gain from winning this weekend. A victory over Holland will add to the already impressive resume that Chimaev has attained since joining the UFC roster in 2020.

Chimaev’s biggest win yet came in April, going the distance against Gilbert Burns for a unanimous decision victory. This fight was especially notable since Chimaev was visibly tested by Burns and had to overcome adversity for the win.

Holland has had a good 2022 so far. Bouncing back from a rough 2021 that saw him suffer two losses, Holland has moved down to welterweight recently and earned two wins over veterans, beating Alex Oliveira and Tim Means.

While the fight this weekend doesn’t apply to Holland’s current welterweight run — as it is held nine pounds higher than the weight class — a win would certainly be big for him this weekend.

Bout 13: Nate Diaz (20-13) vs. Tony Ferguson (25-7) (Welterweight)

Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson weren’t planning on crossing paths this weekend, but that is exactly what will happen. The potential dream match for some fans will take place this weekend, and only because of last-minute changes to the card.

Diaz, one of the most prolific fan-favorite fighters in UFC history, is appearing for the first time in 2022 this Saturday. He is coming off two losses from recent years, dropping bouts to Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards.

Diaz has been vocal about how this weekend is the final fight on his current UFC contract, likely marking the end of his time with the promotion altogether. Saturday’s main event could be the final chapter in the Diaz saga.

Saturday’s bout gives Ferguson the chance to end a historic skid.

Two years ago, Ferguson was next in line for a title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov. But after the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined his fight against the then-champion, that bout didn’t happen.

Months later, the losing streak of Ferguson started and has yet to stop since. It kicked off at UFC 249 when Justin Gaethje finished him late in an interim title fight with punches.

In the following months, Ferguson lost one-sided affairs to Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush.

Ferguson’s last defeat was arguably his hardest yet, suffering a front-kick knockout against Michael Chandler in May of this year.

Ferguson can end a losing streak on Saturday against a legendary name in the sport. Or, “MMA’s anti-hero” can ride off into the sunset with a respectable win.

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