Tony Ferguson gives injury update, eyes title shot upon return

UFC 279 Preview: Tony Ferguson vs. Jingliang Li

At UFC 279, Tony Ferguson is making his welterweight debut in the UFC. He takes on Jingliang Li and looks to snap his four-fight skid. Let’s take a few minutes today to preview the scrap!

UFC 279 Tale of the Tape

As mentioned up top, Tony Ferguson is in a rough skid and is making his debut at welterweight. El Cucuy has made the move from being self-coached to JacksonWink and he’s hoping to make a big splash.

Ferugson may have dropped four fights straight, but it’s been more than a murderer’s row than the 1927 New York Yankees. He was beat by Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Beneil Dariush and Michael Chandler all back-to-back. Before that, Ferguson had a 12-fight winning streak and was positioning with a fight against then-champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Jingliang Li is in a much better spot than Ferguson going into UFC 279. In 2020 he dropped a decision to Neil Magny. In his return in January of 2021, he spoiled the return of Santiago Ponzinibbio with a beautiful left hook. The UFC threw him to the wolves (pun intended) against Khamzat Chimaev where he was absolutely mauled. In his last fight, Li upset Muslim Salikhov with yet another knockout.

In a weird spot in the division, Li is looking to boost his already attractive resume by putting away a former (interim) champion in Ferguson.

Tony Ferguson: Too many questions

Tony Ferguson has undoubtedly fought a murderer’s row at lightweight and achieved some great things in his time. But Freguson is 38 years old now and well past his prime as a fighter. He’s shown signs of slowing down and took a brutal beating at the hands of Justin Gaethje.

For Ferguson, this fight at 170 might seem like a second life but Jingilang Li is no joke and could provide his fifth loss in a row. To get through this fight, Ferguson will not be able to lie on his cardio and imposing his will to break his opponent. At 170 Ferguson will likely have less power, less cardio and be a bit slower.

The problem with Ferguson at 155 wasn’t his chin from a weight cut so that leads me to believe that it wasn’t the weight cut that was the issue. Unless Ferguson is moving to 170 is a quality-of-life thing, it’s not going to answer any questions.

To be Li, Ferguson will have to rely on his wrestling and be the aggressor but be mindful of his gas tank. Luckily this is only a three round fight and Ferguson can open up the jets a bit but with the extra fifteen pounds he needs to be mindful of the risks. His wresting against Li will also come into play. If he can get on top of Li and dole out some damage, he can get out of the fight with a win, breaking his four-fight skid.

Jingliang Li: Best win of his career (potentially)

Jingliang Li has had opportunities in the past and has come up short each time. Most recently he was mauled by Khamzat Chimaev. Ferguson is a former (interim) champion and a win over him would be great for the resume for Li.

Going into the fight, Li needs to poke at the weight added by Tony Ferguson. Going up in weight, as we talked about earlier, can drain your cardio and Li, who is a natural welterweight, could very well exploit that. I’m looking for body work for Li to slow down Ferguson’s onslaught of pace.

Li is big on head hunting and that has gotten him into trouble in the past. He will want to be disciplined and make sure to throw the jab to the body, the teep, and the side kick to the midsection.

Li can win this fight, even without the body work. A win over Ferguson will not put him closer to the title, but good on him giving Ferguson a chance. Li is good on that and has done it in the past.

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In addition to covering the UFC for My MMA News, Blaine Henry, the author, also analyzes fights from all combat sports across the globe. 

Blaine Henry can be found on Twitter, on his Substack, and Discord.

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Blaine Henry
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.