UFC 279 is in the books and after and was absolutely crazy, both inside and outside the cage. With fights backstage, weigh-in drama, and a card that ultimately had different fights than originally planned, crazy may be an understatement.
Going into fight week, the general sentiment was that Khamzat Chimaev would go in and finish Nate Diaz bringing Diaz’s contract to a brutal end. With a clear favorite in the main event and no belts on the line, the card was rather lackluster. Some fan favorites like Kevin Holland and Tony Ferguson were on the card, but overall it didn’t seem like the MMA world cared.
However, when Khamzat Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 lbs, the card was shuffled. The top three fights of the card were scrambled. Rearranging opponents creating ultimately what fans and the media would agree to be a better card. Let’s dive into who I think ultimately grew their brand the best this past weekend.
I believe that Khamzat Chimaev may be the biggest winner of the weekend. Coming into the event, Chimaev was viewed as a complete wrecking ball of a human that can/will destroy any human put into the octagon with him. The general sentiment was that he was a huge talent and was exciting, but he was becoming a little stale personality-wise.
After reports of him getting into physical altercations backstage at the press conference, Khamzat came into the weigh-ins wildly overweight. With a shrug and unconcerned look, Khamzat left the scale leaving MMA fans wondering what would happen to the card.
Ultimately Chimaev would be paired up to fight against Kevin Holland which is who Chimaev had the initial altercation with backstage. Khamzat would submit Holland in the first round after taking him down in the opening seconds in what some claim to be a fake glove tap. Regardless of what you think about the glove tap, it, in culmination with everything else, completes the creation of UFC’s new villain.
Chimaev is the biggest winner out of how everything played out in my opinion. If you didn’t have a strong opinion on Chimaev coming into the week, you definitely left with one. The man seems to feed off the boos. He played the role of the villain perfect to the t, and if he so chooses could easily allow this to become his brand. Regardless of what this does to his weight class in future fights and his current rankings, he will get paid massively for his next fight and bring in a giant wave of hype.
The Leech was definitely the biggest loser in the short term, but I believe this weekend has secured a large mass of fans supporting him for the rest of his career. After getting a new suit and learning English for a press conference that got canceled, not much was going right for the 34-year-old.
Li saved this card, and everyone across the MMA community can agree. After the reshuffling of fighters, Li took on Daniel Rodriguez, who was preparing for a fight 10 lbs above what Li was preparing for. The fact Li took the fight won over anyone who wasn’t already swayed by the events at the presser.
The fight itself may go down in the L column for Li, but there is nothing in the fight to hang his head at. In a fight that a large portion of the MMA world, Dana White included, believes to have been scored in the wrong direction, Li showed great ability against someone with a significant advantage. Though it’s a hard loss in Li’s career, his new fanbase will surely support his endeavors, making what I consider a massive win for his brand, which may be a bigger win than D-Rod would’ve.
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