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Staff Predictions: Can Nate Diaz beat Tony Ferguson at UFC 279?

Staff Predictions: Can Nate Diaz beat Tony Ferguson at UFC 279?

Tony Ferguson

Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson is the new main event for this Saturday night’s UFC 279 event in Las Vegas.

It’s been a crazy 24-hour period for the UFC with a canceled press conference and now main even fighter Khamzat Chimaev missing weight before his welterweight clash with Diaz. Chimaev hit the scales 7.5 pounds over the 171-pound limit for welterweight and now finds himself facing Kevin Holland, who weighed in at 180 pounds for a catchweight clash with Daniel Rodriguez.

Ferguson was scheduled to face Li Jingliang in what would be his return bout to welterweight. Now, he’s up against Diaz in what is a considerably “easier” opponent, at least according to the betting odds. Diaz, too, finds himself in a more appealing matchup considering that he was a massive underdog in the original main event but now is considered to have a fair chance of winning this new five-round fight.

Despite the late change, our team of experts here at The Body Lock got together to provide our Diaz vs. Ferguson picks and predictions, along with a detailed breakdown of the fight before it happens on Saturday night at UFC 279.


Watch Diaz vs. Ferguson fight tonight

  • Date: Saturday, Sept. 10
  • Time: PPV Main Card starts at 10 pm ET, Prelims start at 6 pm ET
  • Watch: ESPN+ PPV (order here)

Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson is the main event of the UFC 279 PPV main card.

Fans can order UFC 279 on the ESPN+ website to watch every main card fight live, including the Diaz vs. Ferguson fight. After ordering, fans can stream every UFC 279 fight to a preferred device, including TVs, mobiles, computers, laptops, tablets, and more.


Betting Odds

Nate Diaz was a huge +750 underdog against Khamzat Chimaev, but he’s now found himself in a much more competitive fight at odds of +105 against Tony Ferguson.

  • Nate Diaz: +105
  • Tony Ferguson: -135

Staff Predictions

Braeden Arbour

After one of the craziest days before a UFC event in the history of MMA, we are now left with Nate Diaz taking on Tony Ferguson at UFC 279. In many ways, this is a perfect fight, and a game of inches as the two men share many similarities. Both are rangy boxers who are natural lightweights now fighting at 170lbs. Both men are known for their cardio and relentlessness rather than their one-punch speed or power. Both men are known for a slick jiu-jitsu game and submissions rather than power wrestling when it comes to their grappling. The two even share the same height and reach within a degree of half an inch making them almost virtually identical

With so much in common, it comes down to the details. For Ferguson, it’s in the elbows. He has a history of bloodying up his opponents with savage elbows and knees in the clinch and even in his guard. He throws elbows from many different angles and chains them into his boxing style very fluidly. Compared to Diaz, Ferguson excels in dirty boxing, he likes to land while controlling with a single plum or other position in which one arm is anchored to his opponent controlling posture.

Diaz, on the other hand, is moreso a pure boxer, and has sustained a tremendous amount of scar tissue over the years, leaving him even more vulnerable to get cut up by Ferguson. Diaz, while not as adept at dirty boxing, utilizes his range better than Ferguson. He throws an offbeat jab-cross and rolls underneath or leans away from counters very well. In close, he does his best if he can trap his opponent against the fence and go forehead to forehead while ripping hooks to the body and head, but unlike Ferguson, he doesn’t look to clinch.

On the mat, while both are high-level black belts, I believe Diaz has better technical grappling and control, while Ferguson’s success has largely been in his ability to snap onto submissions in any position. Diaz has a better history in controlling top position and transitioning a beat ahead of opponents, and if the two hit the floor I give Diaz a slight advantage. That being said, Ferguson should be the better wrestler, and it will be a tough task for Diaz to take him down, although once there, Ferguson is usually happy to play guard.

Ultimately this is a very good match-up for both men, it will likely be a grueling and drawn-out fight. That being said, I do think that Diaz has superior range, he has been fighting and training at welterweight longer recently, and I think unless or until Ferguson catches Diaz in a submission, Nate gets the better of the grappling exchanges.

Pick: Nate Diaz to win

Michael Pounders

Following the 48-hour whirlwind that can only be described as an unprecedented circus, we have an updated main event for UFC 279 between two legends of the sport that somehow never crossed paths until now. Many lifelong fans of the sport have been clamoring for Ferguson and Diaz to square off. Both are incredible fighters and personalities. While I, like many others, am excited about this unexpected fight, it has to be recognized that neither man is near the prime of their career.

Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson is 38 and on a 4-fight losing streak. Meanwhile, Diaz is 37 and has lost 2 of his last 3. In their primes, Ferguson was an awkward but persistent striker with excellent cardio and an unmatched ability to walk through fire and brimstone round after round. Further, his wrestling, grappling, and famous Imanari roll made him a threat on the canvas as well. Ferguson typically won fights by outlasting and out-willing his opponents in entertaining wars where Ferguson broke opponents down often en route to a late-round finish. Lately, Ferguson has abandoned his own offensive grappling and attempted to stand toe to toe with opponents until someone drops or wrestles him.

In striking matches, Ferguson has shown to still be effective, with unique but high-level footwork, toughness, and an ability to land with pop. However, opponents have been able to wrestle Tony and control him for significant periods of the fight. While Ferguson still scrambles with explosion and attempts submissions, the end result is “El Cucuy” being taken and held down early and often. His path to victory, one we haven’t seen since 2019, is still the same when at his peak: make it a war on the feet and land on top during scrambles. But, if an opponent can land with more power and volume or offensively wrestle, Ferguson has struggled.

Diaz fought with a similar style as Tony- on the back of cardio, toughness, and abnormal striking with a sneaky submission game to add as another layer. Nate and his brother Nick, have excelled in 5 round fights because they have the cardio to not only go 5 rounds but get better the later the fight goes on. Diaz is able to rack up volume throughout a fight while absorbing a hellish amount in return without so much as batting an eye, even if that eye is bleeding profusely.

Diaz’s striking style, outside of his famous “Stockton Slap,” where he literally slaps his opponent, is varied and awkward. Diaz typically fights with his hands low and moves freely in the octagon. His low hands allow him to land a quick jab from below his opponent’s eye line, making it more accurate and difficult to defend. His footwork, which is more like casually standing and walking in contrast to traditional footwork, is awkward enough to throw the timing off his foe and further improve his accuracy and effectiveness. Diaz, who isn’t the most powerful striker, inflicts damage through his volume and pressure, death by a thousand cuts. For Diaz, finishing fights tends to happen more on the mat, through his counter jiu-jitsu rather than on the feet or through his offensive wrestling.

This fight could go a variety of ways, neither guy is at his peak and neither guy prepared for the type of fighter they are now facing. Ferguson prepared for a powerful striker who had decent wrestling chops. Meanwhile, Diaz prepared for an elite wrestler with heavy power. In this fight, it should come down to who can land the more significant damage. Neither is likely to get the finish, neither should gas out, and neither should have the edge on the mat. I like Ferguson to be the one to damage Diaz slightly more. It’s a thin margin of victory, but Ferguson’s elbows and edge in power should be enough to give him the nod in the judges’ eyes.

Pick: Tony Ferguson to win by decision

Joe Pounders

Before getting into the specific fight between Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson, I want to discuss a few critical components of this fight. Notably, both Diaz and Ferguson were scheduled to fight different opponents – Chimaev for Diaz and Jingliang for Ferguson – but a frantic turn of events now pegs the two future HOF fighters against one another.

Beyond a shuffle of the deck, with neither fighter preparing for one another, there are additional factors at play. For starters, Tony Ferguson was training for a three-round fight; meanwhile, Diaz was training – he says he wasn’t preparing for a specific style/fighter – to face one of the hungriest and most dangerous contenders currently on the UFC roster. While the advantage seems, at first glance, to go in the favor of Diaz, given his preparation was for a five-round affair versus a hungry killer, the experience of Ferguson accompanied by him having inherently elite cardio should make this fight quite even from the jump.

Knowing the aging fighters are now facing one another, the breakdown of each, from a skill standpoint, does make for slightly easier analysis. In particular, I was originally forecasting Ferguson altering his traditional hyper-aggressive, cardio-depleting tactic to fight an uncommonly safe fight. But now that the power threat of his original opponent is not as threatening with Diaz, I fully expect Ferguson to fight exactly how his fans know him to do: hyper-aggressive, unorthodox movement and angles, razor-sharp elbows in the clinch, and ultimately, seeking for a war.

Where Ferguson is able to fight his traditional style given the somewhat weakening durability – finished in two of his last four fights, and losing 4 of his last 4 – Diaz would have and will continue to fight how Diaz fights. This style is rooted in elite cardio, underrated boxing – an occasional Stockton Slap – with frequent output, and strong grappling albeit he prefers to stand and bang. What is interesting, given the change in opponent, is that the likely strategy of using elite durability parlayed with elite cardio to weather an early storm, to then, win in the latter rounds when the younger, less proven fighter’s cardio depletes, will no longer work to the same degree in this fight. This is because Ferguson, being a future HOF and a fighter that weaponizes his cardio in his own right, understands how to go five hard rounds. While Diaz trained for a 5-round affair and Ferguson didn’t, accompanied by Diaz perhaps having one of the most historic gas tanks in the UFC, I do not foresee cardio being able to be weaponized in this fight.

Even though this belief is had, Diaz has the overall game to win, and knowing Ferguson is at the same point in their careers, I expect Diaz to have all the confidence in himself to put forth a vintage Diaz performance.

I expected both Diaz and Ferguson to lose in their original matchups, but now, I believe either can win. Moreover, I would be remiss if I did not say just how amazing it is to see these two fight one another. This is because both are elite at being unorthodox and contrary to the norm, but, what is even more interesting, both have somewhat mirroring styles.

From a logical standpoint, Diaz is perhaps the smarter bet, given he trained for a five-round affair and has fought far more frequently at the welterweight division than Ferguson has. While I say this, I still find myself backing Ferguson in this matchup. Ultimately, I believe he is that notch better on the feet while knowing both are more than good enough to keep the fight standing. In total, this fight should be a back-and-forth affair, and while I anticipate Ferguson getting the win, the only known forecast is that Diaz will bleed!

Pick: Tony Ferguson to win

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