Nate Diaz smothers Tony Ferguson to end chaotic UFC 279


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LAS VEGAS – Nate Diaz stopped Tony Ferguson with a guillotine choke in the fourth round of the hastily organized main event of UFC 279 on Saturday night.

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Diaz, 37 (21-13), ended his current contract with the UFC by finishing off fellow veteran Ferguson (25-9) in a matchup that only took place on Friday after Khamzat Chimaev was severely missed in weight for his main bout with Diaz.

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Chimaev stopped Kevin Holland with a D’Arce choke at 2:13 of the first round of their grudge match, which was also set after Chimaev (12-0) dropped 7 1/2 pounds on Friday morning.

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The UFC drastically shuffled its card to keep Chimaev and Diaz on the show, resulting in three rematches for the final three fights at T-Mobile Arena.

Diaz’s desire to fight the vaunted Chimaev seemed reckless in a distinct Diaz way, but the late match with Ferguson was far more competitive than the initial booking likely would have been. Ferguson, who only agreed to be on the card three weeks ago, had lost his previous four fights in the past three years, while Diaz was 1-2 in the past six.

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“At the end of the day, I love the UFC,” Diaz said. “I feel like I’ve had the longest career in the UFC, and I’ve had the most successful of them all.”

Diaz landed regular punches on Ferguson in the first two rounds, and he played in front of the crowd in the third with long walks around the cage between exchanges, even resting momentarily with one arm atop the cage .

Ferguson caught Diaz’s eye with leg kicks – but when Ferguson tried to get into a grappling match, Diaz applied the choke and finished at 2:52 of the fourth.

Diaz has already announced plans to start his own promotional company outside of the UFC, and each fight could be the last for a beloved fighter who has only competed four times in the past six years.

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But Diaz may not be done with the UFC, as he received a tweet earlier Saturday from Conor McGregor, who promised to complete their trilogy. Diaz and McGregor shared two largely thrilling fights in 2016, and the results catapulted Diaz to the pinnacle of mixed martial arts stardom.

“I want to get out of the UFC for a minute and show these UFC fighters how to take over another sport and how you’re supposed to do it,” Diaz said. “Because Conor McGregor didn’t know how to do it, and none of these other fighters know how to do it, so I’m going to go out there and I’m going to take another organization, another profession, and become the best at it, and then I’ll be back here to get another UFC title. This is the best fight in the world.”

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The pay-per-view played out with several big changes made just a day early because Chimaev didn’t come close to his contracted weight – then shrugged and smiled about it on the scale. Chimaev, the Chechen-born Swede considered one of MMA’s hottest emerging talents, was loudly booed by the crowd just off the Las Vegas Strip on fight night.

Instead of taking Chimaev or Diaz off the card, the UFC rushed to make three new matchups for the best three fights of the series. Diaz and Ferguson were paired in a fight long coveted by MMA fans but initially rejected by Diaz, while Chimaev was paired at a catchweight against Holland.

Chimaev and Holland were already in bad blood earlier in the week when they fought backstage at the UFC 279 press conference, forcing the cancellation of the event.

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After a frantic exchange in the opening seconds, Chimaev quickly got rid of Holland. His budding reputation as a hooker only grew when he was asked about missing weight in the post-fight interview and replied “I don’t care about (that)”, to thunderous boos.

“I’m the black belt here,” added Chimaev. “I am Mike Tyson. I am Muhammad Ali.

Li Jingliang, who started the week expecting to face Ferguson, has been paired with Daniel Rodriguez, the Netherlands’ scheduled opponent. Rodriguez (17-2) defeated Li (19-8) by split decision in an uneventful bout in which both fighters were understandably wary of their unknown opponent.

Light heavyweight Johnny Walker went the pay-per-view with a submission from Ion Cutelaba before Irene Aldana stopped Macy Chiasson with an extraordinary kick to the body as Aldana was on the canvas. Aldana dug her heel into Chiasson’s midsection as Chiasson towered over her, ending the fight abruptly.

Early in the undercard, heavyweight Chris Barnett stopped Jake Collier in the first round with punches. Barnett missed weight for his fight, which was fought at catchweight.

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