UFC president Dana White announced the recipients of the $50,000 performance-based bonuses for UFC 279 during the event’s post-fight press conference. Four fighters took home ‘Performance of the Night’ awards: Nate Diaz, Irene Aldana, Johnny Walker, and Jailton Almeida were awarded the incentives.
Performance Of The Night: Nate Diaz
After a wild turn of events on Friday, Nate Diaz was eventually paired with Tony Ferguson to headline UFC 279. As you’d expect, two legends hitting the main stage was primed for entertainment, and they both delivered.
At the start, Diaz got on the front foot early, finding his rhythm and putting together combinations. Towards the middle of the second round, Diaz opened a big cut on Ferguson’s left eye, the most damaging strike of the fight, which may have been the difference maker for the two judges that gave Diaz that round on the scorecards.
In the fourth round, after 15 minutes of purely striking, Ferguson tried to find success grappling and shot for a takedown. Diaz quickly grabbed a hold of Ferguson’s neck and locked in a guillotine choke.
This victory puts Diaz at 10 submissions in UFC history, tied for third all-time. Also, with 101 significant strikes landed tonight, Diaz moves into ninth place in UFC history with 1,544 significant strikes landed for his UFC career.
Performance Of The Night: Jailton Almeida
Amidst the controversies and fight changes in the last 24 hours, Jailton Almeida is another UFC 279 athlete that fought someone on short notice. Dana White’s Contender Series Season 6 athlete Anton Turkalj stepped in on short notice for Shamil Abdurakhimov to face the surging Brazilian coming off two first round finishes.
Almeida shot for a takedown 10 seconds into the fight and was in control from there on out. Turkalj did well to get to his feet on a few occasions, but Almeida was always one step ahead and immediately dragged Turkalj back to the mat.
Late in the round, Almeida started laying down heavy strikes from top position, forcing Turkalj to turn onto his stomach. Taking his back, Almeida sunk in the rear naked choke forcing the tap. With this win, Almeida has now earned three consecutive first round finishes in the UFC, the second longest such active streak behind only Sergei Pavlovich’s four-straight round one finishes.
Performance Of The Night: Irene Aldana
After over a year since her last fight, Irena Aldana picked up right where she left off against Macy Chiasson. In the first round, the second the fight went to the mat, Aldana was in complete control. Constantly searching for armbar submissions, Chiasson needed to make all the right moves to last until the horn.
In the second, the script flipped entirely. The fight went to the ground once again, yet Chiasson was in control forcing Aldana to constantly defend strikes and submission attempts. Chiasson was in control with Aldana on her back, but the second the American tried moving to her feet and breaking away, Aldana landed an upkick to the liver, dropping and finishing Chiasson. Aldana earns the third upkick knockout in UFC history, joining previous finishes by Jon Fitch and Niko Price. It’s the first of these three to target the body.
Performance Of The Night: Johnny Walker
Opening the main card, Johnny Walker bounced back from his defeat to Jamahal Hill in February, earning his first submission victory since joining the UFC in 2018. Barely 30 seconds into the first round, Cutelaba took Walker down but couldn’t deal too much damage from top position.
Halfway through the round, Walker reversed positions and went to work, landing vicious ground and pound strikes until Cutelaba could find his way to his feet. Walker immediately took his opponents back and sent him to the ground. Walker jumped on Cutelaba’s back and started searching for submissions. Cutelaba defended well, but Walker was eventually able to sink in the rear naked choke with just over 20 seconds to go in the first.