Editor’s Note: Story initially published on July 19, but updated on July 24.
According to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Nate Diaz will face Khamzat Chimaev in the UFC 279 main event at T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas on Sept. 10.
Chimaev told ESPN, “I am going to handle Nate Diaz’s funeral with the UFC.”
Diaz’s representative Zach Rosenfield told ESPN, “This is a fight that Nate has been asking for since the middle of April.”
It will be the final fight on Diaz’s contract, opening him up to become a free agent and potentially explore his options in boxing. The 37-year-old Diaz (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC) has been with the promotion since 2007 when he won Season Five of The Ultimate Fighter by defeating Manvel Gamburyan via second-round TKO.
Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) is ranked third in the welterweight division after beating Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) at UFC 273 on April 9 in Jacksonville. It was the first time Chimaev has gone the distance in 11 professional bouts.
In the last hour, FanDuel opened the 28-year-old Chimaev as a -1250 favorite, leaving Diaz at +800 on the comeback. DraftKings has the Allstar Training Center product at -1150 with Diaz as a +750 underdog.
By July 24, the most expensive price on Chimaev was -1250 at DraftKings and BetRivers. The cheapest price available was -1000 at BetMGM. As for Nate, his best comeback payout was +800 at DraftKings and BetRivers.
Four-figure prices on UFC favorites are extremely rare. Not even Jon Jones has had a price that high in his dominant career. There have seen several instances where fighters like Jacare Souza, Chad Mendes and Paige VanZant were four-figure favorites in scraps against short-notice opponents.
Only stars like Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nunes, Cyborg Justino and Anderson Silva have had multiple fights in which they were favored by -1000 or more.
Diaz has been pushing the UFC to give him a fight for several months, requesting scraps with the likes of Dustin Poirier, Vicente Luque and others. As he told Ariel Helwani last week on The MMA Hour, the Stockton native believes the promotion has been waiting for Conor McGregor to get healthy so that they could book the much-anticipated trilogy bout.
For those concerned that Diaz-McGregor III won’t ever happen if Nate signs with another organization or starts boxing, he shot that down last week on Helwani’s show.
“I’m never retiring. [Conor] needs to bring himself back to life without me. I’ll be back [to complete the triology] later.”
It’s unclear exactly what Nate has in mind for his next career step, but the most important thing to him is his freedom to make that decision. If he makes his boxing debut against Jake Paul, BetOnline has him listed as a -230 favorite with Paul as a +160 underdog.
Diaz has lost back-to-back fights to Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards. However, the UFC 244 scrap with ‘Gamebred’ for the ‘BMF Title’ was far from over, but the doctor unnecessarily stopped the bout due to a cut over Diaz’s eye before the start of Round 4. (Yes, Masvidal was cleary ahead by at least 30-27 scores, but there were 10 minutes left to go.)
Although Edwards won a UD (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) at UFC 263 last June, Diaz buckled him with a combination late in the fifth and final stanza. From there, Edwards was in complete survival mode and Diaz simply ran out of time.
Diaz will be up against it in September in what’s — by far — the richest underdog spot of his storied career. He was an underdog in the +350 to +400 range in his first fight with McGregor and his last time out against Edwards.
Diaz cashed as a +375 ‘dog in his second-round submission win over McGregor at UFC 196. He also hooked up his gambling supporters with a +300 return in a UD victory over Michael Johnson at UFC Orlando in December of 2015. Diaz also prevailed as a +250 ‘dog in a 2011 victory over Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.
Diaz has only been finished three times in 33 pro fights, while the undefeated Chimaev has 10 finishes in 11 bouts.
Dana White and the UFC brass have clearly stuck it to one of the most popular fighters in the promotion’s history with this matchup. Chimaev is a natural middleweight who will fight at 185 pounds in the not-too-distant future. While he can still get down to 170 in his 20s, Chimaev is making a run at the welterweight title.
In fact, he’s only listed as a +115 underdog to the current 170-pound champion Kamaru Usman, who is a -135 ‘chalk’ at BetOnline for a potential bout vs. Chimaev. If that doesn’t give you a clear indication of Chimaev’s talents, consider that Usman is 15-0 in the UFC and has successfully defended his belt five times.
Not only would I pick Chimaev to beat Usman if they were fighting tomorrow, I might pick him to beat Israel Adesanya for the middleweight strap, too. That’s how highly I think of Chimaev, who finished seven of his first 10 career fights in Round 1. Before his win over Burns, only three of his opponents had made it to Round 2 and all three of those victims lasted 75 seconds or less in the second stanza.
Chimaev is a dominant wrestler with vicious ground-and-pound skills in his repertoire. With all the scar tissue built up around Diaz’s eyes from decades in the fight game, it’s easy to imagine elbows from Chimaev cutting Nate up early and often.
However, if there are two skills Diaz has in bunches, it’s undoubtedly his endless cardio and his ability to absorb punishment. He has an uncanny knack for remaining competitive in fights that he’s clearly losing on the judges’ scorecards.
There’s really only been one opponent who tossed Diaz around like a ragdoll with superior wrestling and strength. That was Rory MacDonald in a UD victory at UFC 129 back on April 30 of 2011.
In the five days since this bout was announced, many UFC fighters and analysts — Jack Hermansson and Michael Bisping quickly come to mind — have predicted carnage for Diaz. I agree with that notion. Chimaev will be dominant nine times out of 10 in a bout with Diaz, if not 19 times out of 20.
With that said, it is a fight in a cage and sometimes strange things happen. Only one thing is for sure: IF Nathan Diaz can pull a shocker and hand Chimaev his first career loss, he will stick it to Dana and the entire promotion in so many ways, including their plans for Chimaev to fight for the belt in his next fight.
Would it be the biggest upset in UFC history? Let us know below…