UFC 279 could have so easily been worse. Li Jingliang vs. Daniel Rodriguez may have been a dud, Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland may have been a complete and utter route, but Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson had the most entertaining bout possible on a night when they were both set up to lose badly—and that’s a good thing.
So, does the UFC still have a place for Ferguson if he can’t find a way to win a fight? Will Chimaev get forced to middleweight, or is there still some path to welterweight gold for the rising star? And did Julian Erosa just make himself a top 15 fighter in the featherweight division?
To answer those questions—and several other things—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
There’s nothing but blue sky out ahead of Nate Diaz right now. He walked out of the UFC with a big payday in a PPV headliner, with a big moral victory over an opponent who almost certainly would have crushed him had they actually fought, and he got his hand raised for just the second time since 2016. His fight with Tony Ferguson may have been cartoonish at times and hardly a showcase of electrifying skill or dominance, but it was exactly the kind of victory to only make a potential boxing bout against Jake Paul all the more appetizing. A reminder that win or lose, Diaz is a lot of fun to watch and can absolutely command a crowd and hold their attention. All while not looking so dangerous that he’d feel like too big a step up in competition. Rarely has there ever been such a clear slam dunk in future fight booking, especially when the UFC isn’t involved. Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz is coming to a boxing ring in 2023.
That’s five straight losses for the former UFC interim lightweight champion. But, if fans expected ‘El Cucuy’ to exit UFC 279 on a down note, that seems to be anything other than the case. Despite looking shaky in boxing exchanges all fight, Ferguson was quick to tell fans that he was “back” and feeling good—with just a few adjustments to make in the wake of this loss. At 0-5 in the last two years, however, it remains to be seen just how far on this comeback journey the UFC is willing to follow T-Ferg. I’d have to expect that stepping up and helping to save this PPV will buy him an extra fight, but if he loses that then it’s hard to imagine where he’d go next.
If Ferguson is gonna stay at welterweight, I’d love to see him booked against Robbie Lawler. That’s the kind of legend vs. legend fight I’m here to see him take. But Ruthless is booked against Santiago Ponzinibbio right now. So instead I’ll go ahead and say book Ferguson against Matt Brown. If he’s going back to lightweight? Then I dunno? Maybe Clay Guida or Joe Lauzon? But those don’t hold much real interest.
Khamzat Chimaev just absolutely ran through Kevin Holland on a day’s notice. He hit a double leg straight off the opening bell (with the duck under on the glove touch) and never let Holland have a moment’s breathing room after. Once he found his way to the D’arce setup he hung onto that choke and readjusted it over and over until he got the tap. An absolutely venomous man on the mats and a physical force that few opponents seem primed to deal with. The only question really is, now, does the UFC risk him on the welterweight title shot that he had already seemingly earned? If nothing else, this weight miss made it more likely than ever that Usman gets that rematch with Edwards next, but that doesn’t mean Chimaev can’t just wait for the winner of that bout. If he doesn’t want to wait, then throw him into a bout against Paulo Costa at 185 or against Colby Covington at 170. If he does wait, then the UFC better make damn sure they have a fill-in title fight opponent ready and waiting in the wings. Costa vs. Chimaev is a great next bout if Chimaev is going to fight again soon.
A pretty tepid performance from both Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez both here. It seems like the short notice nature of the bout really got to both men. Lots of jabbing lots of low kicks, a few heavy exchanges early and then it was mostly a probing contest of points. I’m not all that convinced Rodriguez won it, but it was close enough that I’m not going to take real umbrage with the decision. That should set Rodriguez up for a ranked opponent next time out, even if this wasn’t the kind of fight that’s gonna have fans filled with anticipation. Bookings with the likes of Neil Magny, Geoff Neal, Michel Pereira or Michael Chiesa would all be choice. The bout against Pereira seems like it would be especially fun and unpredictable. Michel Pereira vs. Daniel Rodriguez is a great way to see if ‘D-Rod’ can make a real place for himself in the rankings.
By the look of things, Macy Chiasson had finally found her moment against top flight competition. Despite a rough first round that had Irene Aldana appearing thoroughly dominant, Chiasson came out in the second, found herself a takedown and spent the rest of the round crushing ‘Robles’ from top control. That dynamic seemed bound for repetition in the third when Chiasson got Aldana down again and postured up over her to land heavy shots. Suddenly she was on the mat and it was Aldana getting her hand raised in victory. One of the most surprising KO’s I’ve ever seen. That victory has Aldana in spitting distance of title contention once again.
That could mean the UFC goes for rematches with Ketlen Vieira or Raquel Pennington, or a fight with Pena if she’s not getting an instant title bout rematch. If the UFC wants to book Nunes vs. Aldana they might as well. She’s as fitting a challenger as anyone. But I’ll go ahead and say Aldana vs. Pena is the fight to make. If Pena can pick off a top contender or two, the idea of her fighting for the belt again makes more sense. And if Aldana wins that, then there’s no doubt she should get a chance at gold.
A badly, badly needed win for Johnny Walker in a fight that seemed to get off to a miserable start. Cutelaba got him down early and seemed to have Walker stuck on his back. But the Brazilian scrambled free, turned the tables and got a takedown all his own to wind up in back control hunting the RNC. Some hard fought hand-fighting later and Walker had his first win since 2021. That likely puts the Brazilian right back in among the edges of the top 15 looking for an action battle. Fights with Jim Crute, Dustin Jacoby, or possibly Azamat Murzakanov all seem like they’d be fun options. Considering his recent struggles, I’ll say the UFC should go with the fighter lowest on the totem pole. Murzakanov looks like a possible future contender, a win over Walker would be huge for him. And if Walker can pull that victory off, it’d be a great way to prove he’s truly back to compete with the elite at 205. Walker vs. Murzakanov seems like a fantastic light heavyweight scrap.
An unbelievably gutsy performance from Julian Erosa, who took the fight to Dawodu early and with full confidence in his power. Despite eating a few shots and a whole lot of low kicks, Erosa made that strategy pay off with a bevy of uppercuts that had Dawodu badly rocked. Even though he didn’t get the finish, that set the tone for the rest of the bout and drove ‘Juicy-J’ on to a sweeping unanimous decision victory. That lines Erosa up for any of several featherweight wars. Bouts like Billy Quarantillo, Jonathan Pearce, Nathaniel Wood, or Ricardo Ramos. The answer here seems obvious to me. At 6’ 1” is Erosa too tall a task for the former bantamweight? Can Wood keep his rise on track toward the top 15 at 145 lbs? A surefire war and a great test for the ‘Prospect’, Wood vs. Erosa is must see entertainment.
As expected, this was an absolutely crushing performance from Almeida. He got Anton Turkalj backing up early, shot in on him, took him down, and then spent the next four minutes setting him up to get subbed. Absolute masterclass from the Brazilian. After the bout, he told Joe Rogan that he wants to stay at heavyweight and wants to fight again on next month’s PPV. I don’t think there’s any room for him on that card, but it shows he’s eager to get back out there as fast as possible. That could mean bouts with opponents like Sergey Spivak, Chris Daukaus, Sergei Pavlovich, or even a re-booking of his bout with Shamil Abdurakhimov—if the Dagestani can get his Visa issues solved. I’ll say that Spivak vs. Almedia is the fight to make. Spivak’s huge size and aggressive wrestling game should make for an entertaining battle against the grappling ace.
Midway through the first round of this fight it looked like Chris Barnett was in a lot of trouble. He’d been dropped, Collier was forcing a war on him, and he was starting to look tired. By the end of round 1, things only looked worse. His left eye was closing badly, his mouth was hanging open and speculation was running rampant that his jaw may be broken. When Barnett’s corner told him, “You got this” between rounds, it seemed like a last desperate grasp for confidence in a war that was already lost. Before long, Barnett was down on the mat again, with Collier on his back looking for the RNC. A minute later, off a busted takedown, it was Barnett on Collier’s back dropping shots.
A remarkable comeback TKO for the ‘Beast Boy’. Time to put him in another fun action fight. Chase Sherman has had a lot of recent struggles, but recently fought his way to a big win as well. Sherman vs. Barnett seems like a great booking to take advantage of two all-out action fighters struggling to find consistent form.
OTHER BOUTS: Kevin Holland vs. Michael Chiesa, Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews 2, Macy Chiasson vs. Pannie Kianzad 2, Ion Cutelaba vs. Marcin Prachnio, Hakeem Dawodu vs. Makwan Amirkhani, Anton Turkalj vs. Ihor Potieria, Denis Tiuliuin vs. Roman Kopylov, Jamie Pickett vs. Dusko Todorovic, Jake Collier vs. William Knight, Norma Dumont vs. Ailin Perez, Danyelle Wolf vs. Vidal/Pascual loser, Alateng Heili vs. Said Nurmagomedov, Chad Anheliger vs. Ronnie Lawrence, Elise Reed vs. Yazmin Jauregui, Melissa Martinez vs. Iasmin Lucindo, Yohan Lainesse vs. Preston Parsons, Darian Weeks vs. Evan Elder
About the author