What started out as a showcase for Khamzat Chimaev on Thursday, UFC 279 took an unbelievable turn on Friday, switching to a Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson main event.
With Chimaev not at the right weight, he was moved to the UFC co-main slot against Kevin Holland at a 180 pound catchweight. Also switching to a 180 pound catchweight, Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez squared off just before the co-main. The other UFC 279 fights stayed the same but were plagued with fighters not at the right weight. Chris Barnett grabbed a WILD comeback TKO after becoming the second heavyweight in UFC history to miss weight. Irene Aldana grabbed one of the most unique finishes in MMA history after being forced to move up to a 140 catchweight.
Finally, we saw both Johnny Walker and Jailton Almeida grab incredible 1st Round submission wins. All of the fights from the night are covered below along with BLÜ’s favourite performances of UFC 279: the BLÜ BONUSES.
UFC 279 Prelim. Action
Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks by Split Decision
Both men took a measured approach early, but it was Lainesse that seemed to try and push the action, landing some crisp jabs in between some impressive movement. After getting picked apart for the first couple minutes, Weeks went for a takedown and a guillotine attempt, but shut down fairly easily. With a clear edge in activity and damage, Lainesse seemed to be up 1-0.
Weeks turned up the heat in the 2nd Round, throwing out some more counters, even dropping Lainesse to his knees briefly. That didn’t phase Lainesse though as he was still peppering Weeks with jabs. Weeks then switched it up with a HUGE takedown attempt, lifting Lainesse off his feet, but didn’t get any control off of it. He then continued with the grappling pressure to close the round, likely bringing the score to 1-1.
Knowing the score was likely even 1-1, Lainesse started to push the pressure like he did in the opening round. Weeks was responding with some more grappling, but wasn’t necessarily making much progress. Weeks started to slow down after the grappling, but Lainesse didn’t take advantage and seemed like he was going to pay the price with another loss. The judges were split, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for Lainesse. I probably would’ve gone the other way with it, but it was certainly close enough that an argument could have been made for either man thanks to that last round.
Elise Reed def. Melissa Martinez by Unanimous Decision
Martinez started the pressure immediately, throwing out some quick combos. Reed tried to respond with some counters of her own, but was having a hard time finding her. After whiffing quite a few shots, Reed then landed a BOMB that sat Martinez down. Amazingly, Martinez quickly recovered but it was a clear big moment on the cards. Interestingly, the boxer Martinez started to shoot for takedowns, but her smaller size was definitely a problem. Reed’s larger size allowed her to control the clinch along the fence and win the round on the cards.
Reed was pressing forward early in the second round, walking Martinez down. This led to some heavy combos landed along the fence by Reed. She also managed to pin Martinez along the fence to grab some control time. Reed started to slow down and put her hands down as the round went on, but Martinez didn’t quite do enough to take advantage and win the round.
Martinez tried to push the pace in the third, but Reed was countering well with some heavy shots. Then Martinez started to blast some kicks, damaging the legs of Reed. She took advantage of this, grabbing a brief takedown and doing some heavy clinchwork along the fence. Sadly, this seemed like a bizarre strategy considering she’s clearly better at striking. The tables then turned as Reed used these positions to take her down multiple times and land some ground and pound. It was a close fight, but Reed clearly did enough to grab the decision. The judges all ended up scoring it 29-28 for Reed.
Alatengheili def. Chad Anheliger by Unanimous Decision
With the power on both sides, these guys were slow to start, not really throwing much offence out. Anheliger was landing a couple more shots, but then it was Alatengheili who landed the biggest shots of the round, stunning Anheliger a few times badly.
With those moments, Alatengheili was up 1-0 going into the second. Alatengheili continued his striking in the 2nd Round, but switched it up with some heavy kicks. He started to get slightly reckless though, allowing Anheliger to land a beautiful combo. Frustrated by that land though, Alatengheili pushed forward and landed another HUGE shot that stumbled Anheliger again. Every time Anheliger tried to jump in, Alatengheili would respond with another crisp shot. It was a MUCH closer round, but I’d have probably still given it to Alatengheili.
Alatengheili opened the final round strong, dragging Anheliger to the ground. He never really got anything going with it, but it wasn’t a good image for Anheliger. The rest of the round was more back-and-forth striking with Alatengheili landing the heavier shots, but Anheliger pushing the pace a bit. Alatengheili closed it up with another beautiful takedown though, solidifying his win on the cards. The judges agreed, scoring it 30-27 for Alatengheili.
Norma Dumont def. Danyelle Wolf by Unanimous Decision
The power of Wolf was on display early as she started to land some crisp combos that backed Dumont up. Dumont was taking her time, seemingly just waiting, seeing what Wolf was going to do. After a few minutes, Dumont threw out a counter that stunned Wolf. She landed a couple of light combos as the round closed out, but with the output of Wolf, Wolf may have clinched it.
Dumont switched up the strategy in the second, throwing out some heavy leg kicks. Finally, after a round and a half of striking, Dumont did what we expected and took the fight to the ground. Interestingly, she decided to let the boxer back to her feet, moving into a clinch along the fence. After moving back to the striking, Dumont landed a couple of BOMBS. Those almost had Wolf face-first on the canvas more than once. She managed to hold on to the final round, but really needed to make a statement in the final round to win the decision.
Wolf pushed HARD to open the final round, but Dumont responded with a HUGE slam to the canvas with over 4 minutes left on the clock. Wolf was doing a great job of defending, but was still getting slammed by some ground and pound. The rest of the fight was pure dominance on the ground from Dumont. She didn’t get a finish, but made quite the statement, maybe grabbing the attention of the champ, Amanda Nunes.
Chris Barnett def. Jake Collier by TKO in the 2nd Round
These big UFC boys let everything go early, looking like a couple of gorillas in the jungle. Both men were landing some BIG shots, but Collier landed the first knockdown. This led to a BAD cut and a closed eye for Barnett. Things slowed down quickly though as Collier went for a clinch along the fence. They went back to some brawls, but Collier landed a takedown that rattled the entire cage. Collier started to land some HUGE ground and pound, but ultimately found himself hunting a submission. It was an INSANE 1st Round, but Barnett managed to make it through, even getting through a visit from the doctor.
He opened up hard early with a CLEAN combo to the chin of Collier. Then they both started SWINGING, lighting the entire arena on fire with all of the offence. Then it was Collier that found himself on the ground with Barnett landing some HUGE ground and pound. Barnett slammed heavy ground and pound for over a minute straight until the ref called it off, giving him the first finish of the night.
Denis Tiuliulin def. Jamie Pickett by TKO in the 2nd Round
Pickett landed the first shots early, kicking and jabbing at range, while Tiuliulin was trying to get in close. After getting stumbled by a crisp jab from Tiuliulin, Pickett went in deep for a takedown. He didn’t quite get it, allowing Tiuliulin to land a couple more crisp shots. As the round went on, Tiuliulin started to get more comfortable, pressuring hard and landing some big combos. Tiululin closed the round with some more flurries, likely winning the round on the cards.
Tiuliulin kept his pressure going into the second, walking forward and landing some combos. This was really interrupting the rhythm of Pickett. He was still landing the occasional combo, but was getting beaten up pretty bad. After a second low blow, the ref decided to take a point away from Tiuliulin. This fired him up and he was GUNNING for a finish. Pickett was dropped by a BIG shot and started to get shredded by the offence of Tiuliulin. He got back up but was knocked down again. Tiululin then emptied the tank, barely grabbing a finish before the end of the 2nd round.
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #1
Jailton Almeida vs. Anton Turkalj
After grabbing multiple DOMINANT finishes, Almeida was already in the lead for my UFC Rookie of the Year bonus. In this one he was facing Turkalj who, although was undefeated, didn’t look all that impressive on the UFC Contender Series. I predicted a VERY easy 1st Round finish for Almeida.
Almeida by Finish
Almeida opened hard with some BIG kicks, switching into an easy, slick takedown. Less than a minute in and Almeida had already taken Turkalj down, slammed him and taken his back. Turkalj was doing fairly well defending but was getting rocked. The round was winding down and Jailton hadn’t grabbed a finish, but then he turned it up. Almeida let loose some ground and pound, tricking Turkalj into putting his hands up, leading to a quick, deep submission and another incredible 1st Round finish.
Jailton Almeida vs. Anton Turkalj by Submission in the 1st Round
BLÜ’s Prelim. Pick #2
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Julian Erosa
This looked like a pretty tight matchup with both men finding success in the UFC. Erosa seemed to have an edge in grappling, but Dawodu always has fairly clear advantage on the feet. It was close, but I thought that, because of Erosa’s recent struggles with striking, Dawodu would take advantage and get a finish.
Dawodu by Finish
As expected, Dawodu looked to be the quicker, crisper fighter early, throwing out some beautiful kicks. Erosa managed to grab one of those kicks and almost get Dawodu to the canvas, but the fight stayed standing. Things started to turn around quick after Erosa landed a couple of beautiful combos. Dawodu was stumbled with his back to the fence. The round closed with another HUGE shot from Erosa that buckled the knees of Dawodu, grabbing a dominant round on the cards.
A frustrated Dawodu came in heavy in the 2nd Round, pressuring forward against Erosa. He was starting to land some decent shots, but Erosa was still countering well. Erosa then decided to switch it up with a takedown. Dawodu got back up quickly, but then had Erosa climbing on his back and he was looking for a submission. He didn’t make much progress with the submission, but landed some fantastic ground and pound.
Now down two rounds, Dawodu tried to pressure forward, but was still struggling to land anything significant. With less than a couple minutes left, Erosa shot in for another takedown, once again wrapped around the back of Dawodu. The fight started off close, but Erosa dominated, cruising to a decision win. The judges ended up agreeing, scoring it 30-27 for Erosa.
Julian Erosa def. Hakeem Dawodu by Unanimous Decision
Main Card Action
Johnny Walker vs. Ion Cutelaba
With both men being WILD and also struggling recently in UFC recently, anything could have happened here. The only noticeable differences were Walker’s significant reach advantage and his strength of competition. With those factors, a 1st Round finish seemed the most likely outcome.
Walker by Finish
After a quick headkick from Walker, Cutelaba caught the kick and moved the fight to the ground. After some impressive wrestling from Cutelaba, he was reversed, leading to the fight moving back to the feet. Then it was Walker who took the fight down and took Cutelaba’s back. He locked in a few DEEP submission attempts and, after trying again and again, finally locked it in for the 1st Round finish.
Johnny Walker vs. Ion Cutelaba by Submission in the 1st Round
Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson
These top tier women’s UFC fights are notoriously unpredictable. Aldana is a few years older than Chiasson, which had me unsure, but I eventually sided with her. She’s fought the tougher opponents and has even grabbed some solid finishes recently. Thanks to those more significant wins, I thought Aldana would win a hard-fought decision.
Aldana by Decision
The size advantage for Chiasson was clear, but it was still Aldana walking forward and pushing pace. Chiasson tried to use her size, pushing Aldana into the fence. That didn’t last long though as they returned to striking. Aldana was doing very well to push Chiasson back and land strikes from a distance. Chiasson rushed in with a huge takedown, but ended up getting stuck in a BRUTAL armbar. It looked as though her arm was going to get snapped, but she survived. That being said, Aldana had likely stolen the round with those late attempts.
Chiasson really turned up the heat in the 2nd Round, pressuring forward HARD, but ended getting stuck in another DEEP submission. She was doing well to defend but was in some bad spots for a while. Macy then used her position to take Aldana’s back, slamming elbows down and looking for a submission. She locked in a submission attempt to close the round, bringing the fight to 1-1 tie.
After that dominant round, Chiasson seemed to actually slow down a bit and was having a hard time keeping up with the striking of Aldana. She then landed a BIG shot, dropping Aldana to the ground. She was getting going with her grappling, but ended up standing back up. Then, in a WILD turn of events, Aldana threw up a kick straight to the liver of Chiasson that dropped her immediately. It was so unique and unexpected that nobody even knew what happened; even the ref was a bit confused.
Irene Aldana def. Macy Chiasson by TKO in the 3rd Round
Daniel Rodriguez def. Li Jingliang by Split Decision
Rodriguez, the much bigger man thanks to this last-minute matchup, opened with the offence, pressuring Li and landing combos. Li was being evasive, landing some decent shots of his own, but was being very careful not to get hit by Rodriguez. His main weapon was the body kick that he was repeatedly landing. He then went even lower, kicking the leg out from under Rodriguez. It was close, but I was more impressed by Li, especially with a possible knockdown that may have been counted from the leg kicks. That being said, Rodriguez landed some big shots and could’ve taken the round.
Li opened the 2nd Round confident, landing some nice combos early. Although Rodriguez was landing some crisp jabs, he was struggling with the movement of Li. With a minute left in the round, Li pushed it into high gear, landing a beautiful combo, stunning Rodriguez. With the extra output and damage from Li, I’d have scored it, once again, for Li, now up 2-0.
Li had clearly found his range, landing some crisp combos early. He was using his frantic pace to slow Rodriguez down. Rodriguez would start to land jabs, then Li would throw out some wild combos to back him up. Rodriguez never stopped trying to land his offence though and started to really push it in the last couple minutes. It was close, but I’d have scored it 29-28 for Li. The judges were split, scoring it 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 for Rodriguez. You could say Li Jingliang was robbed of the victory
Khamzat Chimaev def. Kevin Holland by Submission in the 1st Round
Right out of the gates, Chimaev ran in and lifted Holland through the air and slammed him into the canvas. Somehow, Holland got back up but was brought down again quickly. He found himself in a DEEP submission. After getting out of multiple submissions, Holland was still struggling and couldn’t get out the hole. Less than 3 minutes in and it was all over with Chimaev grabbing yet another INSANE 1st round finish.
UFC 279 Main Event
Nate Diaz def. Tony Ferguson by Submission in the 4th Round
Diaz opened with the pressure but it was Ferguson that landed the first couple of big shots. They were being fairly patient in the opening round, but both men were landing some decent strikes. As the round came to a close, Diaz seemed to be the one in control after stumbling Ferguson a BIG combo. Diaz opened with a couple of nice kicks, but Ferguson was still doing well, landing a couple of combos that backed Diaz up. Once again, Diaz was the one that started to steal the momentum, landing a couple of shots that eventually busted Ferguson open. It was impossible to tell who was getting the better of most of these exchanges and even harder to tell who was ahead on the cards.
In the 3rd Round the story started to be the leg kicks from Ferguson, just destroying the legs of Diaz. This led to Diaz trying to turn to some shenanigans and grappling. Sadly, neither of which was stopping Ferguson’s kicks. But Ferguson’s leg was pouring out blood due to the kicks. Once again, Diaz turned it up, walking into Ferguson with those wild combos. This time though, I gave the round to Ferguson thanks to all those nasty kicks.
The 4th round had the same slow start, but heated up as Diaz landed a crisp combo that wobbled Ferhuson. He was constantly walking Ferguson down and landing some big combos. Then, for the first time in the fight, the fight hit the ground. Just as they were getting started, Diaz locked in a submission and Ferguson was stuck. He was forced to tap out, giving Diaz his first finish since submitting Conor McGregor. If that’s the last fight for either or both these acclaimed UFC men, that would be okay; it’d be a fantastic way for both men to end it.
BLÜ’s Record for the Night
Main Card: 4-1
KO of the Night: Irene Aldana
Sub. of the Night: Nate Diaz
Brawl of the Night: Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson
Most Valuable Fighter
This legend was the only one out of the switched matchups that took on someone who had weighed in almost 10 pounds heavier. Not only that, he was his regular cool, respectful and energetic self all week AND… HE WON HIS FIGHT. Maybe two of those judges were blind or something. However, the MMA community, the commentators and UFC President, DANA WHITE HIMSELF agreed that Jingliang was robbed. This man deserves every kind of bonus you can throw at him.
In what may have been his last UFC appearance, he originally took the fight against Chimaev, which is badass enough. Then, he ended up getting a UFC matchup that should’ve happened years ago. He took the whole thing like the gangster he is, had an instant-classic fight and even grabbed a finish. His next stage won’t be in the UFC, but it’ll surely add to his already legendary legacy.