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UFC 279: Quick picks and prognostications

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MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC 279.

UFC 279 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNEWS and early prelims on ESPN+.

Last event’s results: 3-3

Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2022: 89-54-1

Welcome to MMAJunkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.

With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by Tipico Sportsbook.

If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.

So, without further ado…

Ion Cutelaba (-210) vs. Johnny Walker (+160)

Kicking off the pay-per-view portion of the card is a light heavyweight showdown between Ion Cutelaba and Johnny Walker.

Both men are action fighters at heart, but Walker has become overly conservative while Cutelaba’s wildness can still cost him at times. That said, Cutelaba has shown some positive improvements since working at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas (a gym that I have a long-stated bias with).

Unless Walker can find a hail marry submission in a scramble, then I suspect that Cutelaba can detonate the SBG product’s chin within the first round.

Irene Aldana (-175) vs. Macy Chiasson (+135)

In a slew of catchweight contests, Irene Aldana meets Macy Chiasson on the main card.

Although the weight allowance definitely helps Chiasson more, I still suspect that the stylistic dynamic of this fight ultimately favors Aldana. Aside from being a superior striker in boxing range, Aldana has underrated counter grappling and clinching that could come to light in this fight.

Add in the fact that Aldana tends to pick up speed down the stretch, and I think that she can force a stoppage on a flagging Chiasson by the third round.

Li Jingliang (+120) vs. Daniel Rodriguez (-155)

Continually getting the short end of the stick while maintaining a smile on his face is Li Jingliang, who ends up having to face Daniel Rodriguez at 180 pounds – despite making 170 pounds for an entirely different opponent (story here).

Not only is Rodriguez a dangerous fighter with a completely different style than Tony Ferguson (Li’s initial matchup), but the Los Angeles native will also be the first UFC-level southpaw of Li’s career.

As much as I want to see Li sport his spectacular blue suit in the winner’s circle, I’ll begrudgingly pick Rodriguez to rain on the parade by stinging the Chinese fighter with impactful counters en route to a big win on the scorecards.

Khamzat Chimaev (-550) vs. Kevin Holland (+370)

UFC fighters Khamzat Chimaev left, and Kevin Holland exchange words during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 279 mixed martial arts event Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. UFC president Dana White keeps the fighters separated. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

The co-main event in Las Vegas features an impromptu matchup between Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland.

After grossly missing the welterweight limit for his first main event encounter opposite Nate Diaz, Chimaev now finds himself facing another familiar foe in Holland.

Even though I’m officially picking Chimaev to use his wrestling prowess to replicate the success that Brendan Allen had against Holland, I wonder what this fight could look like if the Chechen fighter is unable to produce a finish within the first seven minutes given his aggression and pacing.

Add in Chimaev’s giant weight miss and all the fight-week craziness, and I don’t blame anyone for taking a small stab on the underdog at the betting window.

Nate Diaz (+105) vs. Tony Ferguson (-135)

Despite the chaotic shuffle caused by Chimaev, the newly-minted main event between Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson makes much more sense from a matchmaking perspective.

Ferguson, who is officially 3-2 against UFC-level southpaws, should find some early success as the more diverse attacker and aggressive starter. That said, I have a sneaky suspicion that Diaz’s size and underrated clinch acumen could take over this fight if Stockton’s finest turns this into more of a grappling match.

I don’t disagree with the money that pushed Ferguson to favorite odds, but I’ll reluctantly side with Diaz (who actually prepared for five rounds) to out-grapple and outlast the former lightweight kingpin for a win on the scorecards.

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