We have an incredibly exciting lightweight bout this weekend at UFC 256, as the No. 3 ranked UFC lightweight contender Tony Ferguson takes on the No. 7 ranked UFC lightweight contender Charles Oliveira in the co-main event of the evening.
Tony Ferguson (25-4) vs. Charles Oliveira (29-8) 1 NC
This is a very compelling fight, Ferguson was just on the longest win streak in UFC lightweight history up until his last fight with Justin Gaethje, and ‘Do Bronx’ is on a seven-fight win, and finish streak himself. This fight was talked about as a potential match up for ‘El Cucuy’ immediately following his Gaethje fight, and now, six months later, it’s finally going down.
It’s honestly a good thing it took this long, Ferguson took so much damage in that Gaethje fight, it’s a wonder if he’ll ever even be the same fighter. Being 36-years-old, turning 37 in February, he may not be. It’s hard enough recovering from an outing like that, let alone being the age he’s at.
It’s unfortunate, Ferguson’s been one of the best in the world for some time now. It’s been three years since he won the interim UFC Lightweight Championship, and he’s been getting up there in age for some time now as well, it’s too bad he never got his shot.
Many of us were thinking, and hoping even, that Ferguson would be former multiple-time Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler’s first UFC fight, and that maybe Khabib Nurmagomedov would come back to face the winner, before riding off into the sunset.
However, that clearly didn’t happen, and now we have ‘El Cucuy’ versus ‘Do Bronx’ to look forward to this weekend. This is such a fun fight; Tony needs to get back in the winners circle, and Oliveira needs that big name on his resume in order to propel his career forward.
Oliveira, 31, is in the prime of his career, he’s been looking absolutely incredible lately. ‘Do Bronx’ has always been an elite talent, but he’s really been coming into his own lately.
He’s always had good striking, he’s always been good at Muay Thai, but he was never the most durable, and he didn’t believe in it the way he believed in his grappling.
Now, Oliveira believes in his striking just as much as his grappling, and it shows. He secured the first knockout victory of his UFC career last year in May when he fought Nik Lentz for the third time, and followed that up with a knockout victory over Jared Gordon.
Just before those two bouts, he also tuned David Teymur up on the feet for their entire fight, a 39-1 multiple-time professional kickboxing champion.
Oliveira decided to grab Teymur’s neck once he had him hurt, rather than finish the fight with strikes. Nonetheless, this was perhaps his most impressive performance to date, it was his coming out party.
‘Do Bronx’ also won five of his first six fights via (T)KO, something not many people know. At that, he did it at 155 and 170 lbs. Not to mention, two of those knockout victories came over Viscardi Andrade and Mehdi Baghdad. Andrade is a UFC veteran, and Baghdad is a world class kickboxing champion.
This also included capturing the PFC Welterweight Championship.
‘El Cucuy’ also won a title prior to joining the UFC, as he defeated Brock Jardine, another UFC veteran, via TKO in round four to claim the PureCombat Welterweight Championship.
Another small fact, Ferguson fought multiple-time world kickboxing champion Joe Schilling in Schilling’s third mixed martial arts fight, as well as Ferguson’s third, and submitted (Von Flu choke) him in round two.
The striking these two possess makes for a very entertaining fight, as does their grappling. Oliveira is the more technical striker, but Ferguson sets that pace not many can keep up with. Oliveira has been known to fold when the pressure is put on him in his fights, and if anyone can make their opponent quit, it’s Tony Ferguson.
The grappling of these two makes this fight even more compelling. They’re both very well rounded talents.
‘Do Bronx’ has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt for years and years at this point, and he has the most submission victories in UFC history (14) to show for it.
He also has the most submission victories in UFC featherweight history (6), and the most Performance of the Night awards (10). He’s tied with Donald Cerrone for the most finishes in UFC history (16), the second most post-fight bonuses in UFC history (16), and the highest finish percentage in UFC history (93.75%).
That’s quite the resume. What’s pretty surprising about Oliveira, is despite him being the most dangerous submission fighter in the sports history, he’s been submitted three times. First by Jim Miller (kneebar), then by Anthony Pettis (guillotine choke), and then by Ricardo Lamas (guillotine choke).
All three of them are high level BJJ black belts, but it was surprising to see each time it happened.
He has however submitted some high level grapplers himself, including Efrain Escudero (rear naked choke), Jonathan Brookins (anaconda choke), Hatsu Hioki (anaconda choke), Nik Lentz (rear naked choke & guillotine choke), Myles Jury (guillotine choke), Will Brooks (rear naked choke), Jim Miller (rear naked choke) in their rematch, and Kevin Lee (guillotine choke).
It appears those days of being carelessly caught are behind him. After being submitted back-to-back by Pettis and Lamas, he hasn’t been submitted since. He’s actually only lost a single time since, to Paul Felder via TKO in 2017. Aside from that, he’s 8-1 in his last nine. In the UFC’s lightweight division, that’s a near impossible feat.
‘El Cucuy’ is no stranger to win streaks himself, as he was tied with Khabib Nurmagomedov for the biggest streak (12) in divisional history.
This included nine finishes, defeating the likes of Danny Castillo (split decision), Gleison Tibau (rear naked choke), Josh Thomson (unanimous decision), Edson Barboza (D’Arce choke), Rafael dos Anjos (unanimous decision), Kevin Lee (triangle choke), Anthony Pettis (TKO), and Donald Cerrone (TKO).
Submitting Tibau is no easy feat; he isn’t the best fighter, but he’s a good fighter, and he’s always been an absolute assassin on the mat, being a longtime BJJ black belt.
Ferguson’s fight with Gaethje was just the second promotional defeat of his career. He won his first three fights in the UFC, capturing The Ultimate Fighter 13 championship, before losing a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson, a fight he broke his arm in.
Ferguson’s grappling, like Oliveira’s, is at a very high level. He’s been a 10th Planet student for a long time now, and received his BJJ black belt under Eddie Bravo about five years ago, one of the best BJJ coaches in the entire world. ‘El Cucuy’ has finished some great fighters, and has completely out-classed many others.
His last two wins, over Pettis and Cerrone, one was a corner stoppage, and the other was a doctor stoppage, both of which were stopped between rounds two and three. That just gives you an idea of the tenacity Ferguson possesses, opponents can’t keep up.
He’s kind of like Colby Covington without the wrestling. Ferguson can wrestle, and he is credentialed at it, being an NCWA National Champion, a North Central Conference Champion, and a two-time NCWA All-American. He just doesn’t use it, that’s the thing.
Ferguson can certainly wear Oliveira out, and perhaps even finish him, but this version of Oliveira is no joke. Not that the older version of him ever was, but he just couldn’t take a lot of the punishment his opponents dished out earlier in his career.
It’s hard to imagine either of these two being submitted, but they both possess the skills to do it, and they both possess the skills to finish the fight on the feet as well.
Even as tough as ‘El Cucuy’ is, Oliveira will hit you so many times with so many different strikes simultaneously, it’s confusing, and makes it hard to breathe when you’re just being swarmed like that.
‘Do Bronx’ has always been a very dangerous threat that could defeat anyone on any given night. In pure grappling, there isn’t a 155 lb fighter alive Oliveira couldn’t submit, or at least defeat on the mat. There are a lot of great grapplers at lightweight too, that’s really saying something.
It’s almost too bad we don’t get five rounds between these two. That being said, it may not even last three.
Ferguson stands 5’11” and boasts a massive 76.5” reach, while Oliveira stands 5’10” and has a good reach himself of 74”. Their frames are quite similar, and the way they fight is similar in some ways, and completely different in others. This is going to be a good one!
Who wins this insanely high profile match up between two top ten lightweights?
I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.