This Saturday the UFC returns with another pay-per-view event, UFC 279, headlined by a welterweight fight between Khamzat Chimaev and Nate Diaz. Chimaev enters the bout as a prohibitive favorite, and with this being the final fight on Diaz’s current UFC contract, many view this as the UFC attempting to send their soon-to-be-former star out on a loss. Still, Diaz will enter the cage Saturday looking to win, and this being MMA, anything can happen. So let’s take a look at what each man needs to do to win this marquee matchup, any X-factors in play, and ultimately what will happen on fight night.
Paths to Victory for Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 279
This squash match is often referred to as
because Chimaev seems like the best. Bursting onto the scene in 2020, Chimaev strung together four dominant wins in which he was only hit one time in total. Chimaev won a victory over Gilbert Burns in a welterweight bout, proving that he was a formidable opponent and worthy of the title.
Against Diaz, he likely won’t need to overcome adversity, but it’s good to know he can if necessary.
Chimaev often has been called “the welterweight Khabib Nurmagomedov” because of his blend of grappling and power, and the comparison isn’t terrible. Chimaev surged to the top of the welterweight division on the back of dominant wrestling and brute physicality, manhandling other welterweights and middleweights.
Most often, he simply bulldozes his opponents to the ground, where he unloads a vicious top control game on them, hammering his way to victory. He’s also a good striker and has decent foot power. He’s certainly not a technician in that area, but he’s willing, tough, and throws very hard, which goes a long way.
As an over -1000 favorite, the truth is Chimaev can win this fight just about any way he wants. But by far the most expedient path to victory is for “Borz” to do what he does best and “smesh.” Diaz has never been a great defensive wrestler, and he’s usually content to play off his back and work a guard, which has an extremely slim chance of posing any serious threat. Chimaev can come out with one goal: to win as dominatingly as possible. There isn’t anything Diaz can do.
Paths to victory for Nate Diaz at UFC 279
So Chimaev has so much advantage in this fight, how can Nate defeat him? To paraphrase A Knight’s Tale, “with a stick, while he sleeps.” Seriously, it’s hard to envision a world where Diaz wins this fight that doesn’t come off like some insane Diaz fan fiction, but let’s give it a go.
Despite his great grappling skills, Diaz is not dangerous from behind. Aside from the Conor McGregor club-and-sub, Diaz hasn’t tapped anyone out since a guillotine of Jim Miller a decade ago, and he’s been consistently beaten by people who can outwrestle him. Chimaev is capable of doing that so Diaz must find a way for Chimaev to stop trying. The best way I know to figure it out is to play Nate Diaz and fool around with Chimaev, asking him questions, and then try to get him to fight in a striking match. And honestly, it could work.
In his bout with Burns Chimaev showed that he is willing to sacrifice a clever game plan in order to fight it out. This will be crucial for Diaz’s success. If Diaz spends fight week talking trash to Chimaev about wrestling and then punks him with a Stockton Slap during the actual fight, Chimaev might be exactly the kind of person to lose to that particular bit of mental warfare. Diaz could convince Chimaev to hunt the KO on his feet. This would make things more exciting because Diaz is able to stand up and win.
Although Diaz may not be his most dangerous at the moment, he is extremely durable and has solid boxing. He will not quit. That’s why he nearly upset Leon Edwards (now the welterweight champion), because he simply was still fighting just as hard at minute 24 as he was at minute 1. Chimaev has also proven he’s tough and doesn’t quit, but 25 minutes is not 15, and “Borz” was pretty winded after a hard fight with Burns. If Diaz can draw out the same sort of scrap, only with 10 more minutes on top of it, then he might be able to find a finish in the championship rounds.
The true X factor in this fight is whether Chimaev can fight smart. He will win if he does. That’s almost certain. If he doesn’t, he may still win, but Diaz at least has a chance to pull off the upset. It’s all a question of whether the Burns fight was indicative of who Chimaev is as a fighter, or whether that was just a one-time thing.
It would have been the best story ever if Nate Diaz pulled off an upset in his last fight at the UFC. With the odds against him and the promotions stacked against him, he won the title here. But sadly, that seems impossible. This fight will end in defeat for Nate Diaz, even his most talented version. His best years have long passed. I expect this to be one-way traffic from the jump, and while Diaz is incredibly tough, at some point the unstoppable force with break him, either by a cut or by his corner deciding enough is enough.
Khamzat Chimaev def. Nate Diaz by TKO (punches) at 3:05 of Round 3