Veterans Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson left it all in the cage in the main event of UFC 279, with Diaz taking home a submission victory in the fourth round of a grueling fight.
The fight that fans had wanted all along finally went down in Las Vegas at UFC 279, as fan favorites Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson fought at welterweight. The set of circumstances that led up to this fight coming together were unpredictable, to say the least. Khamzat Chimaev, Nate Diaz’s original opponent, missed weight so egregiously that new matchups needed to be made on short notice. It all fell into place as two former lightweight stars, both Ultimate Fighter winners, met at welterweight towards the tail end of their careers.
As two fan-favorite action fighters who destroy opponents with pace, cardio, and their own special brands of unique striking, this fight promised to be unmissable. Proving that prediction right, the pair came out swinging immediately. Tony got one of his trademark spinning elbows early on, showing flashes of the old Tony. From the very beginning, Tony was pushing the pace and pressing forwards. Nate would turn his back halfway then throw an awkward side kick quite often.
In response, Tony did the same, backpedaling towards Nate before attacking. El Cucuy’s shin started leaking blood early on after a clean check from Diaz, which seemed to bother him momentarily. A few times, Tony dumped Nate on his back but did not follow up to gain top control. The octagon position of the fight was still being controlled by Ferguson, but Nate soon lulled him in and landed a clean hook that caught Tony off guard. Multiple missed spinning attacks from El Cucuy got Tony in trouble as he left his back open to Nate, getting struck clean several times for his trouble before one big hook knocked him off balance with around a minute left in the round. None of this deterred Tony, who kept spinning. However, Nate landed another clean combo to end the round and likely took the round on the scorecards late, despite Ferguson starting off well.
Some classic Tony antics started the second round and he hit the floor on all fours and then came after Diaz with an attack. El Cucuy still had the issue of spinning telegraphed attacks, missing, overextending, and getting punished for it. At this point, the boxing fundamentals of Nate seemed to be outpointing the unorthodox methods of Tony, who did not have the same speed that he used to. However, he did start to land from time to time as he began to commit more to the leg kicks, gaining some momentum as a result. Nate Diaz’s patience still gave him an advantage though, able to counter the awkward timing of Tony over and over again. As such, Diaz began to gain the front foot and force Tony back to the fence. Astoundingly, Nate did not get a cut early on his infamous forehead scar tissue but rather Tony was cut over his eyebrow and was leaking into his left eye like a Diaz brother himself. Nate’s lead right leg was beat up, but when the round won he had likely banked his second in this five-round fight.
In between rounds, Tony Ferguson’s corner told him to go for a takedown. Thus far he had not listened to their tactical suggestions. Tony began the third round by kicking to all levels, but when he targeted the leg he got major reactions from Nate, who now began to grow a bump on his leg. Soon after, Nate began pacing the outside of the cage and shaking his head, but it seemed to be only a trick to lure Tony in and Nate returned to fighting soon. Diaz ate more leg kicks and a big right hand from Tony, but returned a leg kick of his own that hurt Tony’s cut-open leg. Undeterred, Tony kept targeting Nate’s lead legs after a failed takedown attempt. With two minutes left in the round, Nate turned the forward pressure on and began walking Tony down along the cage, winning back some of the points he had lost early in the round. At one point Nate continued his antics when he stopped against the cage and talked to someone outside of the cage, pointing at Tony all the while. He did this again as the round ended two minutes later. Although Nate had started the round down, he caught up late and the round could have been anyones.
Early in the fourth round, the first of the championship rounds, Tony tried one of his scrambles along the ground to get at Nate’s legs and almost got kicked in his face for his troubles. It would have been illegal but that did not stop Nate from throwing it. A few good left hands landed soon after for Diaz, one of which really stumbled Tony backward. With three minutes left, a vicious onslaught of combos from Nate sent Tony back along the cage, allowing Nate to continue his combination work. The boxing of Nate was still superior and it forced Tony, who had abandoned the leg attacks, to shoot a takedown. He landed the takedown but Nate used that to sit back into his guard with a guillotine locked up. incredibly, for the first time ever, Tony Ferguson tapped. He had withstood a Charles Oliveira armbar that almost broke his arm and a Beniel Dariush leglock that shredded his knee without tapping, but Nate Diaz was the one to tapout El Cucuy.
After the fight, it was all love between the legends. They embraced and Tony lifted Nate up in the air at one point, showing him off to the crowd in his final UFC fight. The ever entertaining Nate Diaz talked about taking over another sport, perhaps referring to boxing, in his post-fight interview, as he waved goodbye to the promotion that he said he always had a “love-hate relationship with.” However, he did not close the door on, and even alluded to, a potential return in the future after doing some things outside of the UFC.
Tony was interviewed by Joe Rogan and despite the loss, he seemed happy. He said it was fun to get back in there and provide the fans with “four rounds of carnage.” In a wholesome moment, he talked about being there for his wife and son. And to end the night, he grabbed Joe Rogan and lifted him in the air as well.
Nate Diaz def. Tony Ferguson by Submission (Guillotine Choke) in Round 4 (2:52)