LAS VEGAS — Nate Diaz stopped Tony Ferguson with a guillotine choke early in the fourth round of the hastily arranged main event of UFC 279 on Saturday night.
The 37-year-old Diaz (21-13) ended his current UFC contract by defeating fellow veteran Ferguson (25-9) in a bout that was only made on Friday after Khamzat Chimaev severely missed weight for his main event bout with Diaz an event.
Chimaev stopped Kevin Holland by choking D’Arce 2:13 into the first round of their grudge match, which was also set up after Chimaev (12-0) missed weight by 7 1/2 pounds on Friday morning. The UFC dramatically reshuffled its card to keep both Chimaev and Diaz on the show, resulting in three new matches for the last three fights at T-Mobile Arena.
Diaz’s desire to fight the vaunted Chimaev seemed reckless in a way that is clearly Diaz’s nature, but the late matchup with Ferguson was far more competitive than the original card likely would have been. Ferguson, who only agreed to the card three weeks ago, has lost his previous four fights over the past three years, while Diaz is 1-2 over the past six years.
Diaz landed regular punches on Ferguson in the first two rounds, and he played to the crowd in the third with long walks around the cage between exchanges, even resting one hand on the cage for a moment.
Ferguson got Diaz’s attention with leg kicks – but when Ferguson tried to enter a grappling match, Diaz applied the choke and finished at 2:52 of the fourth.
Diaz has already announced plans to start his own promotional company outside the UFC, and any fight could be the last for a beloved fighter who has competed just four times in the last six years.
But Diaz may not be completely done with the UFC, as he received a tweet earlier Saturday from Conor McGregor who vowed to end their trilogy. Diaz and McGregor split two hugely exciting fights in 2016, and the results catapulted Diaz into the highest echelon of MMA celebrities.
The pay-per-view came out with some significant changes made just a day earlier because Chimaev didn’t come close to his weight cut — and then shrugged and smiled about it on the scale. Chimaev, the Chechen-born Swede considered one of MMA’s hottest rising talents, was loudly booed by the crowd right off the Las Vegas Strip on fight night.
Instead of removing Chimaev or Diaz from the card, the UFC is scrambling to make three new matches for the first three fights on the show. Diaz and Ferguson were paired in a fight long desired by MMA fans but initially rejected by Diaz, while Chimaev was matched up in the weight class against Holland.
Chimaev and Holland already had bad blood from earlier in the week when they fought backstage at the UFC 279 press conference, forcing the cancellation of the event.
After a frantic exchange in the opening seconds, Chimaev made quick work of Holland. His burgeoning reputation as a heel only grew when he was asked about missing weight in the post-fight interview and replied, “I don’t care (about it),” to thunderous boos.
“I’m a black belt here,” added Chimaev. “I’m Mike Tyson. I am Muhammad Ali.
Li Jingliang, who started the week expecting to face Ferguson, has been matched with Daniel Rodriguez, Holland’s scheduled opponent. Rodriguez (17-2) defeated Li (19-8) by split decision in an uneventful fight in which both fighters were understandably wary of their unfamiliar opponent.
Light heavyweight Johnnie Walker took the lead with a submission of Ion Cuțelaba before Irene Aldana stopped Macy Chiasson with an outstanding upkick to the body as Aldana lay on the canvas. Aldana drove her heel into Chiasson’s stomach as Chiasson towered over her, ending the fight abruptly.
On the early undercard, heavyweight Chris Barnett stopped Jake Collier in the first round with punches. Barnett missed weight for his bout, which took place in the catchweight division.