UFC 279 may have just opened the door for Nate Diaz vs. Jake Paul in a boxing ring. The lead-up to Saturday’s card was chaos, but the aftermath provided us clarity.
Diaz emerged victorious in what was his final UFC fight for the time being. Diaz defeated Tony Ferguson via fourth-round submission and set the stage for ventures outside of the promotion. The Stockton native did not say the word “boxing” but hinted enough that he will step foot into a boxing ring in the future.
Meanwhile, the main Diaz was supposed to face, Khamzat Chiamaev, missed weight on Friday and turned the UFC 279 main card upside down. Three fights were rearranged to salvage the pay-per-view after it was clear that Diaz would not fight an opponent who missed weight by 7.5 pounds. Chimiaev washed over Kevin Holland with little resistance and positioned himself as a villain with fans who has plenty of interesting future opponents to consider.
CBS Sports has sifted through the chaos of UFC 279 and found gold for what is next to come.
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Nate Diaz vs. Jake Paul: Diaz announced his UFC exit during his post-fight press conference. He alluded to taking over another sport in ways that Conor McGregor failed to. It’s hard to think that Diaz was suggesting anything other than a boxing match with Paul. The two have repeatedly called each other out on social media, but Diaz’s contract with the UFC always prevented the pair from making money together. Diaz has now completed the terms of his UFC deal and the door is wide open for a massive payday. Diaz fits the bill of the Paul boxing venture to a tee: huge name, smaller frame and no professional boxing experience. Paul is scheduled to fight former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva on Oct. 29. Win or lose, Diaz vs. Paul is the perfect follow-up.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington: UFC president Dana White, Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman appear to be on the same page about hosting a rematch in London between the two top welterweights after the events of UFC 278. That means Chimaev, especially after missing weight, will have to wait around if he covets a title shot at 170 pounds next. Covington (excluding Usman) is arguably best suited among active 170-pounders to deal with Chimaev’s style. He is also in need of a big fight to establish himself as a top contender. White told reporters at the UFC 279 post-fight press conference that matchmakers are speaking with Covington about a return later this year. Chimaev absorbed zero strikes in his fight with Holland and should be able to make a quick turnaround.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Robert Whittaker: White was noncommittal on whether Chimaev would fight at middleweight or welterweight following his weight miss. Should Chimaev move up, a fight with Whittaker would be phenomenal. Whittaker is arguably the most well-rounded fighter in the sport and has turned back every middleweight not named Israel Adesanya. His defensive wrestling could present a real challenge for Chimaev. The fan dynamic would be fascinating as well. Whittaker is one of the sport’s most beloved good guys and Chimaev established himself as a main event villain, flipping off fans after putting the entire UFC 279 card in jeopardy. A classic booking with intrigue and stakes.