Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson will headline the UFC 279 event, to be held this Saturday, September 10 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Here are our predictions and analysis of the five main card fights.
Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson
Two of the most beloved veterans will face off in an unexpected main event.
They have 65 professional fights between them, with 46 finishes and an average of 70% in terms of submissions and KOs. We can expect great action between these two warriors and fan favorites, who are in the final stages of their careers, Diaz at 37 and Ferguson at 38.
If the bout is standing, both have spectacular boxing, good punch assimilation, and great volume of attack. Throughout their extensive careers, we have seen these two stand and trade, no matter who the opponent is. What is certain is that the fans always go to sleep with a smile on their faces after watching them go to war.
In the ground, both are experienced BJJ black belts. We can say that Diaz has a better submission game, as more than half of his wins have came via submission, however, Ferguson can also surprise if they hit the canvas.
The outcome of this fight is a real coin flip. Anything can happen.
Prediction: Nate Diaz by Split Decision.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland
Kevin Holland was the favorite against Daniel Rodriguez, but now he will have to face a big nightmare like Chimaev.
Chimaev's wrestling is among the best in the company, and it has been proven that Holland suffers when his opponents grapple with him. We saw it in his last loss to Marvin Vettori. There is no doubt that wrestling will be a clear path to victory for Chimaev.
Holland should take advantage of his distance, being six inches longer than Chimaev. As long as he can control the fight by striking from the outside, he will have a chance to win.
Although Holland has 13 (T)KO's in his 23 pro wins, with a finishing rate of 56%, it will be difficult for him to knock out Chimaev, someone who has never come close to losing.
Prediction: Chimaev by Submission.
Li Jingliang vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Size will be a crucial factor in this battle, where Daniel Rodriguez, who is tough as nails, has the advantage.
Li Jingliang was scheduled to face Tony Ferguson at 170 pounds, a fighter who made most of his career at 155 pounds. Daniel Rodriguez, who has already competed at middleweight, was initially scheduled to face Kevin Holland at 180 pounds (catchweight). Although they are relatively similar in height and reach, D-Rod has greater power.
Daniel Rodriguez will try to take the fight to his territory and impose his boxing from the beginning. The Californian southpaw will go to war as always, looking to pressure and hurt his opponent, leaving him no room to perform.
Don't get me wrong, Li Jingliang is a great striker who handles all aspects of punching and kicking, but it won't be on his feet where he gets his biggest chance. The Chinese guy is a black belt in BJJ and has a good submission game. If he can get a good position on the ground, he can work for the win.
Prediction: Daniel Rodríguez by Unanimous Decision.
Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson
Irene Aldana is one of the few interesting names left in the women's bantamweight division, at least one that hasn't lost to champion Amanda Nunes. The Mexican brings a spectacular boxing, stylist, showing great power in a weight class where it is not common.
Macy Chiasson continues to find her place in the company, fighting at 135, 140 and 145 pounds. The Ultimate Fighter winner has yet to show the expected dominance in the octagon and she now must do so against the #4 in the world.
If Aldana keeps her distance, she will box her opponent at will to dominate and take the win. Chiasson depends a lot on closing the gap and working in the clinch or getting a takedown, something that is not easy against the Mexican.
Prediction: Irene Aldana by KO/TKO
Johnny Walker vs Ion Cutelaba
This fight will open the main card for one reason: both are fighters who go forward to knock out, regardless of the consequences.
Johnny Walker and Ion Cutelaba have been unable to be consistent in the UFC, alternating wins with losses, although both are currently on losing streaks, Walker at 1-4 in his last five fights, while Cutelaba has a 1-3-1 record in his last three.
Walker comes into this fight with a five-inch height advantage and a seven-inch reach advantage, and his strategy will be based on keeping his distance, launching his power punches with the right timing.
As always, Cutelaba will come out to press from the start, and that's when Walker gets uncomfortable as he backs up and has his distance cut off. "The Hulk's" wrestling has improved a lot in recent times, while his power is still there and we must remember that Walker's chin is not reliable.
Both are in need of a win to maintain their ranking aspirations. Whoever is defeated will be practically out of the Light Heavyweight picture.
Prediction: Ion Cutelaba by Unanimous Decision.