It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Li Jingliang. The Chinese fighter proved that he is as game as they come having agreed to fight Daniel Rodriguez in a 180lbs catchweight bout at the last minute at UFC 279.
Not only is the American a less-heralded name than his initial opponent Tony Ferguson, but he was also 10lbs heavier than Li who has always fought at 170 lbs. ‘The Leech’ was also stung by the cancellation of the pre-fight press conference due to a backstage fracas between the teams of Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland and Nate Diaz.
He purchased a tailored suit and practiced his English especially for the presser only to be denied the opportunity to showcase his new look and linguistic prowess. But it was the judges at the T-Mobile Arena who handed Jingliang his biggest disappointment of the weekend.
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Rodriguez utilized his boxing and scored some solid body kicks in the opening round of this catchweight contest. Li responded by circling well on the outside and landed with some slick counters and big shots to the body.
Li became more aggressive in the second stanza as he began to let his hands go inside the pocket and was landing the bigger shots as both men combined their attacks with low kicks and punches.
The striking battle continued in the final round with Rodriguez pressing forward and the Xinjiang-born fighter slowing slightly in the latter stages. The mild swing in momentum seemingly cost Li the fight with the fight scored 29-28 (x2) and 28-29 and his opponent winning by split decision.
Li has never lost two fights in a row but he suffered his sixth defeat inside the octagon here as his record slips to 19-8. Rodriguez extends to 17-2 and extends his winning streak to four and improves to 17-2.
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Best of the rest
Alatengheili won a unanimous decision against Chad Anheliger to give the Chinese contingent something to celebrate. ‘The Mongolian Knight’ snapped a ten fight winning streak for the Canadian as his record climbs to 16-8-2 while his opponent drops to 12-6.
The weekend’s big winner was undoubtedly Nate Diaz (21-13). He submitted fellow veteran Tony Ferguson (25-8) with a a guillotine choke in the fourth round of their welterweight headliner.
It was the final fight on Diaz’s UFC deal and he had originally been booked to face Khamzat Chimaev, who easily submitted Kevin Holland in the co-main event. Beating Ferguson puts the 37 year old in a very strong position as he looks to negotiate a new contract.
UFC 279, Las Vegas, September 10th
Nate Diaz def. Tony Ferguson via Submission (Guillotine choke) at 2:52 of R4
Khamzat Chimaev def. Kevin Holland via Submission (D’Arce choke) at 2:13 of R1
Daniel Rodriguez def. Li Jingliang via Decision (split)
Irene Aldana def. Macy Chiasson via KO (upkick to the body) at 2:21 of R3
Johnny Walker def. Ion Cuțelaba via Submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:37 of R1
Julian Erosa def. Hakeem Dawodu via Decision (unanimous)
Jailton Almeida def. Anton Turkalj via Submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:27 of R1
Denis Tiuliulin def. Jamie Pickett via TKO (knee and punches) at 4:52 of R2
Chris Barnett def. Jake Collier via TKO (punches) at 2:24 of R2
Norma Dumont def. Danyelle Wolf via Decision (unanimous)
Alateng Heili def. Chad Anheliger via Decision (unanimous)
Elise Reed def. Melissa Martinez via Decision (unanimous)
Yohan Lainesse def. Darian Weeks via Decision (split)