The wait is almost over, against all odds this Saturday May 9th UFC249 is going ahead with Tony Ferguson squaring off against Justin Gaethje in the hotly anticipated main event.
The fighters are all weighed in and the main event is set, 5 rounds for the interim lightweight championship of the world. In my mind it doesn’t really need to be for a title, the interim belt really is just a placeholder, granting the right to a match up with Khabib once travel restrictions allow.
Now this is not necessarily the main event we had in mind pre COVID-19, it seems the MMA Gods just don’t want Tony vs Khabib to happen. That being said Tony vs Gaethje is a very intriguing matchup, both fighters are exciting and will throw down no doubt, however I think this is a risky fight for Tony in terms of stakes and styles.
Let’s start with El Cucuy, Tony Ferguson has the moniker El Cucuy (the boogeyman loosely translated) for good reason. He is feared throughout the division in a similar way to Khabib. Tony is on a 12 fight win streak against some top level competition.
Ferguson has one of the most unpredictable jiu jitsu guards in the game, training at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu with Eddie Bravo. Eight of his 25 total wins have come by way of submission, he is very adept at securing D’Arce chokes and he just attacks so well off his back.
He is equally unpredictable on the feet attacking from unorthodox angles with kicks, elbows and everything in between. This is another area that Tony is very strong however in this particular match up I believe this is where his vulnerability may lie.
The interesting thing is that I believe that Tony has a better chance at beating Khabib than he does Gaethje. The main thing we wondered with the Khabib matchup was just how Khabib would handle the ground game of Ferguson. We knew that on the feet Tony will likely pick Khabib apart.
I do not think that Tony has the same advantage standing with Gaethje, and he does have a habit of getting hit. Take a look at Ferguson vs Pettis, the fight was back and forth but Tony clearly got dropped, the fight was then stopped because Pettis broke his hand. While Tony is a very good striker he does get hit, probably more than he should.
Justin Gaethje has a level of power that can just turn out the lights, his last three wins have all been first round knockouts. Also let’s not forget that he knocked out Michael Johnson who has a win over Tony Ferguson.
Gaethje is also notoriously difficult to take down and is an excellent wrestler, he generally uses his wrestling to keep the fight standing where he loves getting into a war, not always coming out on top but willing to engage.
While from a technical standpoint Tony should be and is the favourite going into this match up, I just think that stylistically this could well be a bad one for El Cucuy. I don’t really see this fight going to the ground, that is where Tony would hold an advantage, I just don’t see how it gets there.
Where my money is going
In my opinion Gaethje’s wrestling is too good for Tony to take him down and that is not something that Tony generally goes for in any event. This will likely play out on the feet and Tony is more than capable of picking Gaethje apart.
However as I pointed out earlier, Tony does get his, he is not invincible and Gaethje has power in his hands that can separate any man from their senses. With Justin Gaethje currently a 3/1 underdog that is where my money is going, it only takes one.