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4 reasons to watch 'UFC 279: Chimaev vs. Diaz,' including a rising star's first headliner

Take a closer look at some of the biggest storylines ahead of Saturday's event in Las Vegas.

UFC returns to Las Vegas for "UFC 279: Chimaev vs Diaz," which features the surging Khamzat Chimaev taking on fan-favorite Nate Diaz in the main event. Fans will also see Tony Ferguson return to 170 pounds after spending 11 years in the UFC lightweight division. Also, Kevin Holland makes his third trip to the octagon this calendar year, and Dana White's Contender Series Season 6 athlete Anton Turkalj fills in on short notice to make his UFC debut.

As fight night approaches, here's why you should tune in to "UFC 279: Chimaev vs. Diaz" live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, Sept. 10.

1. Khamzat Chimaev headlines first event against Nate Diaz

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By now, everyone knows who Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) is. Joining the UFC in July of 2020, it took Chimaev a week-and-a-half to etch his name into the UFC record books. Earning back-to-back victories only 10 days apart on Fight Island, Chimaev broke the record for quickest turnaround between UFC wins in the modern era. Not to mention those victories were at two separate weight classes, welterweight and middleweight.

Since then, he's been on a more traditional path; taking a few months between fights and having a proper training camp to prepare for his opponent. His performances were far from traditional, however, and have left fans awestruck by his sheer dominance inside the octagon.

At the UFC APEX, Chimaev wasted no time against Gerald Meerschaert, securing a one-punch KO in 17 seconds. He then followed that up with a one-sided performance against Li Jingliang which included Chimaev simultaneously carrying Li on his shoulders while speaking to UFC president Dana White octagonside.

But in his toughest fight to date, fans learned that Chimaev can also weather the storm and defeat opponents in 15-minute wars. Fighting Gilbert Burns at UFC 273, the two earned "Fight of the Night" honors for a back-and-forth battle that saw Chimaev earn a unanimous decision on the scorecards.

Hearing all of this, you may think there aren't many opponents that can push Chimaev to the brink of defeat. But in the main event at UFC 279, Chimaev will stand across Diaz (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC), a UFC veteran known for being battle-tested and never backing away from a challenge.

Known for his iconic submission victory over Conor McGregor, Diaz has fought numerous title challengers and former champions over the years, including Jorge Masvidal, Rafael dos Anjos, Anthony Pettis and McGregor twice.

In his last bout, Diaz fought the current welterweight champion Leon Edwards before "Rocky" earned the 170-pound title at UFC 278 last month. That fight was a perfect example of Diaz's character as a mixed martial artist, as he overcame an onslaught of offense and turned the tide in the later rounds. At the end of the fifth round, Diaz landed a straight left that had Edwards backed up against the cage on wobbly legs. Although Diaz was unable to find that finish and ended up losing on the scorecards, the fight showed that he's plenty capable of hanging 25 minutes with the current welterweight champion.

2. Tony Ferguson's first welterweight fight since 2011

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After winning "The Ultimate Fighter 13" in a welterweight bout against Ramsey Nijem, Ferguson has spent 11 years in the UFC lightweight division, where he's amassed 14 victories, including 12 in a row over a six-year span.

As of late, Ferguson hasn't been able to find as much success in the octagon, dropping four fights in a row, albeit to four elite lightweights in Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje, Beneil Dariush and Michael Chandler.

The worst of those losses came last May against Chandler. Dropping "Iron" in the first round, and looking the best he's had in years, Ferguson was on the wrong end of a highlight-reel front kick from Chandler that knocked him out for the first time in his UFC career.

But only four months later, Ferguson is back in action at UFC 279, this time at 170 pounds against the current No. 14 welterweight contender Jingliang (19-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC). There's a lot of questions heading into this fight: how will Ferguson be physically at 170, can he compete with ranked welterweights, has he recovered from his loss to Chandler? Those answers will soon be answered in the co-main event at T-Mobile arena on Saturday.

3. Kevin Holland makes third octagon appearance in 2022

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One thing you can always count on is activity from Holland (23-7 MMA, 10-4 UFC). Winning five bouts in 2020, tied for the most in a calendar year in UFC history, Holland has become a fan favorite for his frequency in the octagon and impressive victories.

2022 marked the start of "Trailblazer's" run at welterweight, after competing in the middleweight division in his previous 13 UFC bouts. His debut at 170 pounds couldn't have gone any smoother at UFC 272 when Holland challenged Alex Oliveira.

After a close first round that saw Oliveira on Holland's back trying to sink in a submission, Holland flipped the script 38 seconds into the second round, finishing "Cowboy" with vicious ground-and-pound elbows. Three months later, Holland won his second welterweight bout against Tim Means at the Apex, submitting Means a minute into the second round.

On Saturday, Holland will face Daniel Rodriguez (16-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC), who returns to the octagon after a year-long layoff in a catchweight bout at 180 pounds.

4. Anton Turkalj becomes first DWCS season 6 athlete to fight in UFC

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On Dana White's Contender Series Season 6, Week 1, Anton Turkalj (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) fought Acacio Dos Santos to a decision victory that was reliant on his dominant wrestling racking up control time. That night, White didn't award Turkalj with the coveted UFC contract, but when Shamil Abdurakhimov was forced out of his UFC 279 bout against Jailton Almeida (16-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC), just two weeks before their meeting, Turkalj got a phone call.  

In front of him is a difficult test in Almeida, a 16-2 Contender Series alum riding an 11-fight win streak, with all victories by way of finish. Taking the fight, however, speaks volumes about Turkalj and the type of fighter White wants in the UFC; someone who will fight anytime, anywhere. Turkalj and Almeida will meet at a catchweight of 220 pounds.

This story first published at UFC.com.