Dana White is coming around to the idea that UFC 279’s reworked lineup may have been a blessing in disguise.
The UFC president was the in the thick of it earlier this month after Khamzat Chimaev’s weight miss by 7.5 pounds forced a frantic reshuffling of UFC 279’s pay-per-view just 24 hours before fight night. After plenty of negotiations, the original fight card — Chimaev vs. Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson vs. Li Jingliang, and Kevin Holland vs. Daniel Rodriguez — took on a completely different form, with Diaz vs. Ferguson headlining the event and Chimaev vs. Holland as well as Rodriguez vs. Jingliang rounding out the lineup.
Fans and media widely hailed the switch as bolstering the card with more competitive matchups than its original form. And after watching Chimaev demolish Holland via first-round submission while barely breaking a sweat, White has come around to the idea that UFC 279’s original marquee bout may not have made for the most competitive affair.
“After you watch the fight, you realize Khamzat vs. Nate Diaz would have been f****** — that wouldn’t have been good,” White said on “The Action Junkeez Podcast.” “Khamzat, I know the fans got pissed at him for not making weight and everything else, but Jesus f****** Christ. What he went out and did to Kevin Holland — did you see Kevin Holland post the picture the other day that his eyes were all red from the f****** choke? I mean, holy s***.”
For what it’s worth, the original betting lines didn’t reflect White’s surprise. Chimaev opened as a massive betting favorite from the moment Chimaev vs. Diaz was announced to be Diaz’s final UFC appearance, and those odds only widened as UFC 279 drew nearer. By the time fight week rolled around, Chimaev was listed as high as a 12-to-1 favorite on some sports books, while Diaz was available to be had with as high as 8-to-1 underdog odds.
Chimaev opened as a similarly massive favorite against Holland, which made sense considering Chimaev’s greatest strength — wrestling — has historically been Holland’s greatest weakness. But White argues that anyone who claims to have expected Chimaev to truck through Holland as easily as he did simply isn’t being honest with themselves.
“[People were saying,] ‘Yeah, that’s what I expected.’ No, you f****** didn’t,” White said. “If you really are honest in saying that you expected Khamzat to f****** destroy Kevin Holland, you’re lying. There’s just no way. Kevin Holland is a bad motherf*****.”