Nate Diaz scored a fourth-round submission win over Tony Ferguson at UFC 279, winning the last fight of his UFC deal in a wild bout that capped an extraordinary week.
A backstage brawl caused Thursday’s press conference to be cut short, and the card was thrown into disarray on Friday morning when Khamzat Chimaev missed the welterweight limit for his proposed main event fight against Diaz.
That miss forced a reshuffle in which Ferguson stepped up to meet Diaz while Chimaev took on Kevin Holland and Li Jingliang faced off against Daniel Rodriguez, but the rescheduled main event did not disappoint.
The 37-year-old Diaz picked Ferguson apart for the first three rounds before grabbing a guillotine choke in the fourth to end the fight in front of a sold-out crowd at the T-Mobil Arena.
The fan favourite from Stockton, California opened a cut above Ferguson’s right eye in the second as his pin-point boxing started to tell.
Ferguson fought back, chopping at the lead leg of Diaz to slow him down, but Diaz was still able to land his combinations to force his opponent back and he played with the crowd, strolling around the cage and leaning against it to take a break.
Ferguson shot for a takedown in the fourth round but Diaz, who submitted Conor McGregor to hand the Irishman his first loss in the UFC in 2016, circled his arm around Ferguson’s neck and dragged him to the ground to secure the win.
“I want to get out of the UFC for a minute and show these UFC fighters how to take over and own another sport,” Diaz said in the octagon.
“I’m gonna go out there, take over another profession … and then I’ll be right back here to get a UFC title.”