LAS VEGAS – The UFC 279 fight card has been hit with mix-and-match changes unlike any pay-per-view before.
After Khamzat Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds at official weigh-ins Friday morning, the promotion scrambled to repair key matchups on Saturday’s main card, including the creation of a new main event.
Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) will no longer compete in the headlining bout and will face Kevin Holland in the co-main event of the card. Nate Diaz remains in the top billing, where he will now face former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson. Li Jingliang and Daniel Rodriguez will meet in a 180-pound contract weight bout to round out the changes to the main card.
UFC president Dana White officially announced the changes to the card Friday afternoon.
“It’s been a hell of a night and a hell of a morning,” White said Friday evening on Instagram Live. “It’s not by coincidence that we stack guys the same weight on the same card in case anything goes wrong, but yeah, it worked out.
“Obviously, when something like this happens, you got guys that trained for another guy for a long time. Getting these guys to agree to different fights can be a little tough sometimes, but we got ’em all done, they’re locked in.”
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Diaz (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC), originally scheduled to face Chimaev, faces an opponent switch on the eve of his final-contracted UFC bout. A highly-anticipated 6-to-1 underdog matchup, sees Diaz go from facing the No. 3 UFC-ranked welterweight to the No. 11 UFC-ranked lightweight Ferguson (25-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC).
UFC 279 marks the first weight miss of Chimaev’s UFC tenure. While he competed at middleweight too, most of his UFC bouts have come at welterweight. He most recently competed in April when he defeated Gilbert Burns.
Holland (23-7 MMA, 10-4 UFC) was first to hit the scales Friday at official weigh-ins. He made weight at 179.5 pounds for his previously-scheduled 180-pound contract weight bout against Rodriguez (16-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC). Holland has headlined three events during his UFC career, and will now compete in his first pay-per-view co-main event. He is 2-0 since he dropped to welterweight with wins over Alex Oliveira and Tim Means.
“The co-main event is five rounds, the main event is five rounds,” White said, confirming the length of the top two bouts.
Jingliang (19-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC) loses his co-main matchup with Ferguson, but now will face Rodriguez in the feature bout of the pay-per-view event.
Despite all of the changes, White is pleased with how things turned out.
“Nate Diaz and Tony, like you said, the fans have wanted to see this one forever,” White said. “It’s gonna happen now before Nate leaves the UFC.
“Yesterday, there were a lot of questions about what happened. Kevin Holland and Khamzat Chimaev actually got into it yesterday backstage. Ironically, they will now fight on Saturday night, and ‘Leech’ vs. Rodriguez is also a fun fight. So, it literally couldn’t have played out any better.”
With the changes, the UFC 279 lineup includes:
-Tony Ferguson vs. Nate Diaz
-Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland
-Daniel Rodriguez vs. Li Jingliang
-Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson
-Ion Cutelaba vs. Johnny Walker
-Hakeem Dawodu vs. Julian Erosa
-Jailton Almeida vs. Anton Turkalj
-Jamie Pickett vs. Denis Tiuliulin
-Chris Barnett vs. Jake Collier
-Norma Dumont vs. Danyelle Wolf
-Heili Alateng vs. Chad Anheliger
-Melissa Martinez vs. Elise Reed
-Yohan Lainesse vs. Darian Weeks