UFC 279 on Saturday got off to a slow start, but it found its rhythm as the event progressed. The welterweight headliner ended on a high note , and the catchweight co-headliner went as expected.
The preliminary portion of the card began with Yohan Lainesse eking out a split decision against Darian Weeks. The ‘White Lion’ improved to 1-1 in the UFC following a successful appearance on Contender Series nearly a year ago. Elise Reed returned to the win column with a unanimous decision against Melissa Martinez, the promotional newcomer who suffered her first loss as a professional. Alateng Heili earned a decision over Chad Anheilger. The ‘Mongolian Knight’ stunned the ‘Monster’ several times and got the better of him on all fronts. Norma Dumont dominated Danyelle Wolf, winning the exchanges on the feet and on the ground. That performance may have moved the Brazilian one step closer to a championship opportunity against reigning UFC featherweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Chris Barnett gave the crowd its first finish of the night with a second-round TKO of Jake Collier in an all-action affair. It appeared as though Collier was in for a short night at the office after coming thisclose to finishing Barnett, but ‘Beastboy’ survived and rallied. The fight returned to the ground, and Barnett pounded away on Collier until referee Mark Smith was forced to step in. Add this one to the list of ‘Comeback of the Year’ contenders! Denis Tiuliulin was annoyed with the point deduction he received for kicking Jamie Pickett in the groin (twice), but he removed the need for the judges anyway. The Russian hit Pickett with a knee up the middle and followed up with ground-and-pound for the stoppage. Jailton Almeida steamrolled Anton Turkalj, getting the recent Contender Series graduate to the ground and wrapping him up in a rear-naked choke that left him with no choice but to tap. Watch out for ‘Malhadinho’ because he is a problem at light heavyweight and heavyweight! Julian Erosa shined against Hakeem Dawodu for a clean sweep of the judges’ scorecards. Excellent performance from ‘Juicy J,’ who is now 5-1 since re-joining the UFC.
The main portion of the card saw Johnny Walker snap a two-fight skid with a first-round rear-naked choke of Ion Cutelaba. The Brazilian celebrated by doing the worm, which was a lot cleaner than his first attempt after finishing Misha Cirkunov with a flying knee at UFC 235 three years ago (remember that?). REDEMPTION! Irene Aldana crushed Macy Chiasson with a nasty upkick to the liver (!) for a third-round TKO. What a way to finish such a competitive fight. Daniel Rodriguez left the Octagon with a split decision over Li Jingliang. Based on the reaction in-person and online, most disagreed with who got their hand raised, but that is still a win for ‘D-Rod’. Khamzat Chimaev wasted no time with Kevin Holland, running through his opponent and snatching up a D’arce choke immediately. ‘Borz’ leaned into his recent heat, dismissing his weight miss and vowing to compete for gold at welterweight and middleweight.
Nate Diaz completed his UFC contract by submitting Tony Ferguson with a guillotine in the fourth round. In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Diaz said he wanted to ‘show all these UFC fighters how to own another sport,’ an indication that he may move over from mixed martial arts to boxing — for now. He mentioned returning to the promotion at some point, so perhaps this is not the last we see of Diaz in the Octagon.
Performance of the Night: Nate Diaz, Irene Aldana, Johnny Walker and Jailton Almeida
Chris Barnett def. Jake Collier by TKO (punches) at 2:24 of Round 2
Denis Tiuliulin def. Jamie Pickett by TKO (strikes) at 4:52 of Round 2
Jailton Almeida def. Anton Turkalj by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:27 of Round 1
Johnny Walker def. Ion Cutelaba by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:37 of Round 1
Irene Aldana def. Macy Chiasson by TKO (liver upkick) at 2:21 of Round 3
Khamzat Chimaev def. Kevin Holland by submission (D’arce choke) at 2:13 of Round 1
Nate Diaz def. Tony Ferguson by submission (guillotine choke) at 2:52 of Round 4
Fight of the Night: No Fight of the Night
Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Elise Reed def. Melissa Martinez by unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
Alateng Heili def. Chad Anheilger by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Norma Dumont def. Danyelle Wolf by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Julian Erosa def. Hakeem Dawodu by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Daniel Rodriguez def. Li Jingliang by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)