UFC 279: Diaz vs. Ferguson Picks, Predictions, Odds

It has been a wild lead-up to the UFC 279 card at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main event was supposed to be Khamzat Chimaev, puttting his unbeaten record on the line against veteran Nate Diaz, but the Swede failed to make weight by 7.5 pounds, and that missed weight sent shockwaves throughout the entire card.

Now, instead of Diaz fighting Chimaez, he will now face Tony Ferguson. The latter, a.k.a. "El Cucuy", was originally scheduled to fight Li Jingliang. Now, the Chinese fighter Li will be meeting Daniel Rodriguez. D-Rod was originally slated to face Kevin Holland, and he is now the opponent for Chimaev.

Does it make any sense that all six fighters are still on the card, but we just had an opponent shuffle? No, not really. But it is what it is, and we'll get you prepared.

Ferguson actually went from being a rather moderate underdog against Li, to now where Ferguson is now favored in the five-round main event against Diaz.

UFC 279 is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The early prelims will be available on ESPN+ at 6 p.m ET, with the prelims on ESPNews/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, while the main card will get underway at 10 p.m. ET on PPV through ESPN+.

Updated on 10/03/2023
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Khamzat Chimaev will now face Kevin Holland in a Catch Weight bout. (Getty Images)

Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson Picks

Ferguson will be making his welterweight debut after fighting in the lightweight division, and what a ride having to shift gears to meet Diaz instead of Li. He is currently on a four-fight slide, but there is nothing to be ashamed about losing to the Justin Gaethje in a title fight at UFC 249, falling by unanimous-decision to Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush at UFC 256 and UFC 262, and suffering a second-round KO/TKO to Michael Chandler last time out at UFC 274.

Diaz is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Leon Edwards, currently the champion in the division. Prior to that, Diaz lost via TKO/Doctor's Stoppage against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 244. He has managed just one victory in the past four fights, and that stretches back to Aug. 20, 2016, with almost a full three-year hiatus, as well as a 19-month recovery between UFC 244 and UFC 263.

Diaz is a polarizing fighter, and fans either love or hate him with little in between. This is now a rather even fight, with Ferguson holding a slight 5.12-to-4.51 significant strikes landed per minute advantage, while Diaz is much more accurate at 56.56%. Both are decent in the takedown and submission departments, so this is going to be a war we didn't ask for, but we're going to be glad we received.

To Win Fight: Tony Ferguson ML (-138)

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland Picks

Chimaev is putting his unbeaten record on the line here, but the fight loses a little luster. He was 7.5 pounds over the limit during weigh-ins, and one has to question what kind of shape he is in.

Holland holds a big six-inch reach advantage here, although Chimaev has a tremendous 7.89-to-3.90 significant strikes landed per minute advantage. In addition, Chimaev is far better in the takedown department, he is more accurate on takedowns, and when he gets you to the canvas it's over. He has a dynamite 2.69 submission average.

The freestyle welterweight has registered four finishes in five fights since arriving at the UFC level, and he can win a number of ways, posting a pair of KO/TKO victories over Gerald Meerschaert and Rhys McKee, while submitting Li and John Phillips so far. His last fight out was easily the most competitive, as he topped Gilbert Burns back on April 9 at UFC 273.

Holland is a decisive underdog here, but "Trailblazer" is on a two-fight win streak, and he was very impressive in topping Tim Means last time out via second-round submission. Prior to that he had a second-round KO/TKO over Alex Oliveira, so if Chimaev isn't focused, he might not just leave Vegas with the shame of not making weight, he might leave with his first-career L, too, if he isn't careful.

To Win Fight: Khamzat Chimaev ML (-550)

Li Jingliang vs. Daniel Rodriguez Picks

Li enters this fight as the slight underdog against Rodriguez after the scheduling swap. Previous, Li was a rather heavy favorite to top Ferguson. My how things have changed in a matter of a few hours.

Li has alternated wins and losses across the past five outings, and he is coming off a second-round KO/TKO against Muslim Salikhov last time out in mid-July. He is just 5-3 in the previous eight outings, with four KO/TKO victories during the span.

Rodriguez might lose a little bit of momentum with the change of opponent. He was amped to fight Holland, and those two have a verbal history going back a while. That was going to be a blood bath, so hopefully we'll see those two in the octagon down the road. The good news is that D-Rod is the favorite here, and he will look to use his 2.5-inch reach advantage to keep Li at a distance. The southpaw is a punching machine, holding an 8.06-to-4.39 significant strikes landed per minute advantage, and he is accurate on those strikes at 51.75%.

I think D-Rod comes out like a man on a mission and scores the knockout here, and he'll be trying to make quick work of Li, too.

To Win Fight: Daniel Rodriguez ML (-150)

Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson Picks

Aldana heads into this fight on a 3-1 run, dropping Yana Kunitskaya via KO/TKO in the first round at UFC 264. Her past two wins have been by way of KO/TKO, also stopping Ketlen Vieira in the first round at UFC 245. She can be a punching machine, posting 5.61 significant landed per minute.

Chiasson holds a 3.5-inch reach advantage here, and she is much better on the takedowns, too, leading 1.95 to 0.22 in the category. Chiasson earned a tough split-decision win over Norma Dumont last time out at UFC 274, bouncing back from a submission loss to Raquel Pennington in her previous outing.

Chiasson will be able to keep Aldana at a distance thanks to the larger wingspan, but Aldana will get it done on points. Four of the past five fights for Chiasson have ended up going the distance, while three of the past five fights for Aldana have needed the judges, too. This one won't end quickly.

To Win Fight: Irene Aldana (-175)
Total Rounds: Over 2.5 (-200)

Johnny Walker vs. Ion Cutelaba Picks

Walker and Cutelaba square off in a light heavyweight bout in the first fight on the main card. Walker is the decisive underdog at +180, although he looks like the more impressive physical specimen with a 5-inch height advantage and a 7-inch reach advantage. Cutelaba throws a lot more punches, leading 4.81 to 3.45 in significant strikes landed per minute, although Walker is much more accurate.

Walker has had some difficulty since returning from an injury in 2021, losing via unanimous-decision to fellow Brazilian fighter Thiago Santos, before getting knocked out in the first round by Jamahal Hill. This is a crossroads fight for Walker, and facing Cutelaba certainly won't be an elixir to cure his ills.

Cutelaba is a chunk of iron who can take a beating. He is just 1-3-1 across his past five fights, with only a unanimous-decision win over Devin Clark since Sept. 2019. Both of these fighters need a win - badly - so we should see plenty of desperation here. I think Cutelaba is the more consistent fighter, and he'll shine through in the end.

To Win Fight: Ion Cutelaba by KO. TKO, DQ or Submission (-125)
Total Rounds: Over 1.5 (+110)