UFC 249 is a mere five days away as the UFC returns to action after an almost two-month hiatus. Today, we will break down the main event battle between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship that goes down May 9, 2020! Here we go!
After Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson, the main event clash between Ferguson and Gaethje is easily the next best thing. As Dana White publicly stated, there is no chance a fight between these two can be boring. I must agree with him as both Ferguson and Gaethje average an 80% plus finishing rate throughout their mixed martial arts careers and continue to dazzle fans every time they step foot in the octagon. The winner of this bout will go on to likely face Khabib sometime in Q4 of 2020 for the chance to unify the lightweight titles. Question is, who wins?
Tony Ferguson is one of the most well-rounded fighters in combat sports today. The California native has compiled a 25-3 record with 12 wins by knockout and eight wins by submission. Boasting a 76.5 reach and standing at 5’11, Ferguson is one of the more tall and lengthy lightweight fighters who uses his athleticism and relentless cardio effectively in his bouts. His style includes crafty and unorthodox striking, a stellar BJJ base and an aggressive pace to effectively break down his opponents round after round while looking for the finish. Ferguson is currently riding a 12-fight win streak which includes wins over Edson Barboza, Rafael dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. Along the way, he has established himself as the #1 contender at lightweight, captured the interim UFC Lightweight Championship and defeated most of the top contenders in the division. The path to victory for Ferguson is utterly clear. Ferguson will enjoy a 6.5-inch reach advantage against Gaethje which will ultimately set up his game plan for victory. He will need to keep Gaethje on the outside using his long jab and front kicks while effectively attacking the body to wear Gaethje out minute after minute. If he stays on the outside and can control the distance, Ferguson should have a smooth route to victory.
After suffering a two-fight losing streak courtesy of Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje is on a tear and has proven to MMA fans around the world why Dana White brought the former World Series of Fighting standout to the UFC in the first place. Gaethje’ s current run consists of knockout victories over James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone which has landed him a #4 ranking in the UFC lightweight division. The former WSOF Lightweight Champion is averaging an 85% finishing rate throughout his MMA career and boasts some of the most brutal leg kicks ever seen in MMA. Gaethje’ s path to victory is quite literally the opposite of Ferguson’s. Although he is the same height as Ferguson, Gaethje will be at a 6.5-inch reach disadvantage and will have to actively battle and absorb punishment to get on the inside of Ferguson’s range. Some of his most lethal weapons include his short left hook and short right uppercut which he will need to get up close and personal to effectively land. While Gaethje may have a wrestling advantage, it is unlikely he will look to get Ferguson to the mat due to Ferguson’s lengthy background in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Look for Gaethje to march forward and constantly attempt to land devastating strikes to the chin of Ferguson while mitigating Ferguson’s distance control.
UFC 249 Prediction:
It is very difficult to imagine this fight going five rounds with how Ferguson and Gaethje normally fight. While Gaethje has a formidable chance to land on Ferguson and shut the lights off, I do not see it happening. Gaethje lands an impressive 8.50 significant strikes per minute but also 10.23 significant strikes absorbed per minute. In other words, in order to hit, he gets hit…a lot. Ferguson has been baited into a close quarter striking affair in the past (think Lando Vannata and Rafael dos Anjos). However, he knows a future showdown with Khabib is at stake and will follow the game plan that best suits an optimal path to victory. Ferguson wins via knockout and claims the interim Lightweight Championship yet again. Is sixth time the charm?