LAS VEGAS — Nate Diaz will take on fellow veteran welterweight Tony Ferguson at UFC 279 after Khamzat Chimaev badly missed weight for his main-event showdown with Diaz.
The top three fights on the pay-per-view card were shuffled because of Chimaev's failed weight cut Friday, but all six fighters will still compete Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Chimaev weighed in 7 1/2 pounds over the limit at 178.5 pounds at the UFC Apex gym, and the Chechnya-born Swede's mistake led to several late adjustments to the show on the Las Vegas Strip. Chimaev will fight rival Kevin Holland instead, while Holland's scheduled opponent will fight Ferguson's scheduled opponent.
Ferguson was scheduled to face Li Jingliang in the penultimate bout of UFC 279. Instead, the longtime title contender who briefly held the lightweight belt will step up to the five-round main event against Diaz, one of the most popular fighters in mixed martial arts.
The 37-year-old Diaz was a major betting underdog against Chimaev, one of the world's top welterweights, but his fight with Ferguson is expected to be much more competitive. Diaz is in the final bout of his contract with the UFC, and he has already announced plans to start his own promotional company.
Although Chimaev is facing hefty financial penalties for his mistake, he will stay on the card to face Holland in a 180-pound catchweight bout. The matchup carries bad blood: Chimaev and Holland got into a physical fight Thursday before the UFC 279 news conference, forcing the promotion to scrap the event.
Chimaev shrugged his shoulders and smiled when told of his weight — and moments later, he posted a joking meme about missing weight on his Twitter account.
Holland was scheduled to face Daniel Rodriguez on the undercard. Rodriguez will face Li instead in a 180-pound catchweight bout.
The UFC also made several additional weight adjustments to the card. Most prominently, the bantamweight bout between Macy Chiasson and Irene Aldana is now a 140-pound catchweight bout.
Featherweight Hakeem Dawodu and Heavyweight Chris Barnett also missed weight for UFC 279, but will stay on the card in their original bouts. Dawodu will give up 30% of his purse to opponent Julian Erosa, and Barnett loses 20% of his purse to Jake Collier.
The UFC is providing refunds to fans with tickets who no longer want to see the reshuffled card, although every fighter scheduled for the show is still competing.
There are three Canadians on the card: Calgary featherweight (Mean) Hakeem Dawodu, bantamweight Chad (The Monster) Anheliger of Airdrie, Alta., and Montreal welterweight Yohan (White Lion) Lainesse.
Dawodu (13-2-1) takes on American Julian (Juicy J) Erosa (27-9-0) while Anheliger (12-5-0) faces China’s Heili (The Mongolian Knight) Alateng (15-8-2) and Lainesse (8-2-0) meets American Darian Weeks (5-2-0).
Dwodu missed the non-title featherweight limit of 146 pounds, weighing in at 149.5 pounds. A portion of his purse will go to Erosa as a result.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press