UFC 249: Preview and Prediction for Ferguson-Gaethje

30 Apr , 2020,
A. J. Riot

For the love of all that is holy, finally, we get some real, live sporting action coming up soon.

On May 9th, UFC 249 is supposed to take place. Who knows if local regulations will still permit it a couple of weeks from now; we could see a regression in the control of this outbreak. That said, I really, really, really, sincerely hope we get to see this event.

It’s not Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov like we all wanted. But according to Dana White, the winner of this fight will get Nurmagomedov. Khabib withdrew in his scheduled tilt against Ferguson because he was ‘stuck in Russia’ due to the coronavirus – yeah, yeah, a likely story. But Dana says we’ll see Khabib fight the winner of the May 9th fight in the fall, ‘100 percent.’

Dana has gone back on his word many-a-times, so I’m just hoping that this is true. Dana White also said, “The Ferguson vs. Gaethje fight is one of the most violent fights you will see.” – White via ESPN. Ok … I disagree. But we’ll see. But hey, man. I like the hype.

What I think will actually happen is Tony Ferguson will systematically brutalize Justin Gaethje. Contrary to the statement I just made, the odds are pretty tight. Justin Gaethje is only a +165 underdog, which means, the moneyline experts in Vegas don’t think that Ferguson will completely roll the former Division 1 wrestler.

One of the things that stands out the most between these two is the KO/TKO percentage. Ferguson is at just 48% compared to Justin’s 85%. But, Ferguson brings his total finishes up to 80% with his submission skills. The second stat – and perhaps most significant– that jumped out at me is how much each of these two fighters absorbs. Unfortunately for Justin Gaethje, he also wins this number as well. Tony Ferguson has great stand-up defense and only absorbs 3.55 significant strikes per minute. On the flip side, Gaethje eats 10.23 … that’s triple the number of punches and kicks landed per minute. When fighting against a guy like Ferguson, who has a seemingly bottomless gas tank, this spells trouble. El Cucuy isn’t going to punch himself out; he’s just going to keep on punching, and punching, and elbowing, and kneeing. And this stat right here is the number one reason why I think the oddsmakers are dead-wrong in-lining this fight out so closely.

Justin Gaethje hasn’t yet met with the tenacity to precision combination of a fighter like Ferguson. He’s going to end up a bit shell-shocked when Ferguson pours it on and keeps relentlessly pouring it on non-stop.

Ferguson has won 12 straight, and not slouches, either. Dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis. Gaethje has won three straight and been vocal about how much he deserves a title shot. But, sorry, in my humble opinion, losing back to back to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez before winning three mean that you still have a bit of a hill to climb for a title shot … well. Dana White is giving the No. 6 man a shot at the interim title.

Don’t get me wrong, this will be an entertaining fight. There is a ton of talent at 155, so it’s almost impossible to not put elite-level fights in the lightweight class. But the bottom line here is Justin Gaethje needs to win early in the fight. He has to get lucky and land a big shot in the early rounds because Ferguson is just one of those guys who gets stronger and stronger as the fight wears on. He wants to take you into the later rounds and test your will. The thing that Gaethje has going for him is much like El Cucuy, his will won’t break. That said, his body will. And he absorbs far too many shots to go the distance with a guy like Ferguson and win.

I saw one pundit say that the MMA world will be stunned when Justin Gaethje knocks Ferguson out withing the first two rounds. And in this sport, that is always a possibility. Any fighter is always just one error away from getting KTFO. But, I don’t see that happening on May 9th. Gaethje will put up a valiant fight, but he’ll be bloody and battered by El Cucuy.