In as unique a pay-per-view main event because the promotion has stated in a while, UFC 279 touches down in NEVADA on Saturday headlined by way of a crossroads welterweight bout pairing new sensation Khamzat Chimaev against legendary warrior Nate Diaz.
The truth that Diaz enters the ultimate fight of his UFC deal — with the expectation being he exits the Octagon once and for all — has only put into the soap opera components of the fight card, which lacks a title episode of any sort and is not deep in some recoverable format.
Once we draw nearer to this weekend’s fight card inside T-Mobile Arena, let’s have a closer consider the biggest storylines.
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1. Nate Diaz’s willingness to simply accept this fight is why fans adore him
He’s 37. He’s got just one single UFC win within the last six years. He’ll also be facing an unbeaten future star who’ll enter the Octagon as high as a -1100 betting favorite. Why would the native of Stockton, California, to remain to face this unyielding monster in the 28-year-old Chimaev? The romantic answer is that Diaz is definitely about this life. (As older brother Nick once famously said, “Avoid being scared, homie.”) However the the truth is that Diaz was sick and tired of being placed on ice by UFC brass. Was the promotion simply offering Diaz fights it knew he wouldn’t accept hoping of awaiting Conor McGregor’s return from injury for a trilogy fight? It is possible, however the better answer is that Diaz remains an ideal boxing opponent for YouTube star turned pugilist Jake Paul. In any event, Diaz was fed up with waiting so he began pushing for the main one fight UFC couldn’t refuse — an opportunity to potentially damage Diaz’s brand along the way out while giving Chimaev the perfect platform to become crossover star before fighting for the 170-pound title. Knowing Diaz, he probably would’ve accepted this fight anyway, even minus the contract drama. Let’s remember, he’s got taken on the UFC’s prized calf before (McGregor) and was not surprised concerning the result.
2. Was Khamzat Chimaev exposed at all in his all-action victory over Gilbert Burns?
That is the million dollar question for anybody hoping to produce a big chunk of cash betting on Diaz as an enormous underdog. Chimaev and Burns co-authored among 2022’s craziest fights at UFC 273 in April, with the native of Chechnya, Russia, coming away with a detailed unanimous decision after three rounds. In accordance with Chimaev, he purposely eschewed his dominant wrestling attack to be able to showcase the amount of of a savage brawler he is able to be if as soon as demands it. Others in the fight game, however, have openly pondered whether Burns’ capability to trade huge punches on relatively even terms proved that Chimaev was human (with techniques his demolitions of Gerald Meerschaert and Li Jingliang didn’t do). The Burns fight was notable since it was the very first time in Chimaev’s 11-fight pro career that his opponent managed to get to Round 3. The Diaz fight will undoubtedly be Chimaev’s first attempt at the five-round limit also it just so happens ahead against a fighter fit and dogged enough never to be truly out of a fight until it’s over. Just ask newly crowned welterweight champion Leon Edwards.
3. Tony Ferguson attempts a bold reinvention at 170 pounds
It had been just over 2 yrs ago that “El Cucuy” was riding a 12-fight win streak in arguably the sport’s most dangerous division. No, Ferguson never did obtain the possiblity to finally challenge former lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov after five attempts by the UFC to schedule the fight. However the notion of Ferguson’s career falling off a cliff in the same way he was finally closing in on an elusive title shot didn’t seem realistic at that time. But Ferguson is suddenly 38 and riding a four-fight losing skid, which includes included two devastating stoppage losses. The former welterweight winner of “THE BEST Fighter 13” returns to the 170-pound division for the very first time in 11 years when he faces Jingliang, the Chinese slugger who recorded knockouts in all of his last four wins. Does it get easier for Ferguson in his new division? Improbable, especially with just how much damage his aggressive style often welcomes. In any event, Ferguson has been this type of ready-and-willing warrior for UFC for so a long time that the opportunity to achieve this has been earned. However the challenger Ferguson is dealing with is very much indeed an uphill battle.
4. Expect Kevin Holland-Daniel Rodriguez to steal the show
It is a welterweight matchup (contested at a catchweight of 180 pounds) that hardcore UFC fans rejoiced upon hearing. Rodriguez, who enters having won 12 of his last 13, returns from the 13-month layoff because of hand injury when he welcomes the brash Holland, who’s 2-0 since reducing from middleweight. Not merely is this a pivotal pairing in the 170-pound rankings as each fighter looks to crash the very best 15, the expectations from fans has been that will undoubtedly be nothing lacking a war. Yes, Holland can wrestle and he showcased his ground game in June by submitting a stubborn veteran in Tim Means. But Holland wants to throw hands as much as he wants to talk and something can get “D-Rod” to become a willing dance partner. Buckle up.
5. Johnny Walker is near running out of chances
The 6-foot-5 Walker once appeared to never meet a spinning strike he couldn’t become a highlight-reel knockout. Actually, back 2019, he looked to be one win from an improbable title shot after opening his UFC career with a trio of first-round finishes. Walker has lost four of five after that, however, and the newest attempts from new trainer John Kavanagh of SBG Ireland to tone down the Brazilian’s high-wire act has been difficult to view. Walker appears not comfortable in the cage nowadays and he’ll undertake the rugged Ion Cutelaba this weekend in a light heavyweight bout that wouldn’t be inaccurate to declare as a must-win for Walker with regards to his overall job security at age 30.
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