Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje's interim UFC lightweight title fight is reportedly being rescheduled for UFC 249 on May 9 - who will claim the belt and a future crack at Khabib Nurmagomedov if the event does go ahead?
Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje UFC 249 Predictions & Tips
Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje Preview: Where is UFC 249 Being Held?
Before I go any further, yes this event is finally going to take place after several ‘false starts’. The state of Florida has deemed sporting events “essential” going forward, and that means UFC 249 will be held at the Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday, May 9. It will be the first of two events held at the venue over the space of several days, with Anthony Smith v Glover Teixeira headlining a UFC Fight Night card on May 13 and Alistair Overeem v Walt Harris main-eventing a UFC Fight Night card on May 16.
Road To UFC 249: Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje
The road to Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje has been unlike anything we have seen before. Yes, we have seen fights get cancelled and yes, we have seen Khabib Nurmagomedov v Tony Ferguson fall apart many times before, but the circumstances that have brought about this fight have been bizarre.
Gaethje answered the call after Ferguson v Khabib was cancelled for the FIFTH TIME, with the Russian stuck in his native Russia, and after much speculation it was confirmed that the interim lightweight title fight would take place at a casino on tribal land because Indian reservations tend to operate independently of the state and government control. However, in the run-up to the event a local governor in California contacted Disney, who own an 80% stake in the UFC’s broadcast partner ESPN, and urged them to talk UFC president Dana White into abandoning his plans to go ahead with the event. Calls were made to White in response to that, and having heard from people at “the highest level” within both Disney and ESPN, White backed down.
“This whole thing has been a battle since day one,” White told ESPN. “We’ve been fighting nonstop all day and all night since this pandemic started to put in this event on April 18, and today we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney and the highest level of ESPN. The powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event next Saturday. I love and respect my partnership with them so I postponed the event.”
White very quickly told fight fans via Instagram that the fights were not “cancelled”, they were merely being “postponed and pushed back”, and Ferguson v Gaethje will now main event a blockbuster UFC 249 card on May 9 in Jacksonville, Florida, after sports were deemed “essential” by local authorities in mid-April.
So, how did Ferguson and Gaethje get to this fight?
Ferguson’s response to that decision defeat to Michael Johnson in May 2012 has been nothing short of emphatic. ‘El Cucuy’ has established himself as a major player in the lightweight division with a 12-fight win streak, but injuries and issues away from the Octagon have meant that he has not been as active in recent years as he was at the start of this run. Ferguson has fought only once in each of the last three years, but each time he has put on an impressive showing and not one of his last three opponents have managed to go the distance with him. Kevin Lee was submitted in 2017, a broken hand KO’d Anthony Pettis in 2018 and in 2019 Donald Cerrone made the unwise decision to blow a nose that had been battered and broken by ‘El Cucuy’, causing his eyes to swell up and force the doctor to stop the fight. Ferguson has been on a tear, but what about Gaethje?
Gaethje’s stock suffered a setback when he was topped by Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier in the space of five months between late 2017 and early 2018, but he has rebounded well from those first career defeats to catapult himself back into contention. James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone have all been stopped inside one round and that impressive streak looked set to land him a crack at the UFC’s biggest money fighter, Conor McGregor. However, any plans to take on McGregor are now on hold, because Gaethje knows that if he has his hand raised on April 18 he will be next in line to face the champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
So can Gaethje ruin the UFC’s plans to finally stage a fight between Ferguson and Khabib either later this year or during 2021? Or will Ferguson cement his status as the number one lightweight contender and stay on course for that meeting with the 155lb champion? Read on for our free Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje UFC 249 predictions and tips…
Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje UFC 249 Predictions & Tips
This should be an entertaining scrap. Ferguson is a relentless fighter who pours it on his opponent, while Gaethje has showcased tremendous stopping power and is not afraid to stand and bang. It is an approach that has resulted in 18 of his 21 professional victories coming via KO/TKO, but it is also his willingness to trade leather that has resulted in his two career defeats – that third-round defeat to Eddie Alvarez in December 2017 and fourth-round loss to Dustin Poirier in April 2018.
Both Alvarez and Poirier have shown the blueprint that Ferguson needs to follow here. Gaethje is going to go all out for the stoppage early on, but he will ultimately end up punching himself out and will not be able to keep pace with Ferguson’s constant pressure. ‘El Cucuy’ will pour it on as the rounds progress and it will be too much for Gaethje to cope with as he succumbs to the third KO/TKO stoppage defeat of his career. Ferguson will have his hand raised and we can all go back to wondering if the most cursed match in UFC history, Tony v Khabib, will ever take place!
Ferguson v Gaethje Tips: Expert UFC 249 Predictions
Former middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen talking to Submission Radio: “If this was two weeks ago like it was supposed to be [my answer would be] Tony Ferguson. Nothing to see here. This is totally different with Gaethje getting an extra three weeks [to prepare]. You give a guy two weeks, and two weeks may not sound like much, but you can get into shape in two weeks. If you want a prediction I still lean towards Tony, but I do think instead of this being two rounds of fun you are now looking at closer to four rounds of fun. I prefer, as a fan, that we’ve got a little more time for these guys.”
Former lightweight title challenger Dustin Poirier talking to MMA Junkie: “I think he [Gaethje] is going to knock Tony out. Both guys on the technical side of it don’t have the most crisp technique when it comes to kickboxing, but they’re both very damaging fighters. They both go in with reckless abandonment of their own self to land the big shots. I just think Gaethje is going to land something big on the inside and hurt Tony. I really do. We’ve seen Tony hurt a few times. I just think Gaethje is going to be the one to finish him.”
UFC legend Donald Cerrone talking to ESPN: “[Gaethje’s] going to throw leg kicks, Ferguson is going to put a lot of pressure on it. We’ll see who’s got the better cardio at the end of the day. I’m probably going say it’s got to be Tony, he’s been getting ready for this [potential future] fight [with Khabib Nurmagomedov] his whole life.”
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya talking to The Ariel Helwani Show On ESPN: “I’ve never really gambled at Vegas, but if I was a betting man, which I am, I’d say Tony Ferguson.”
Ex-UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. “Justin Gaethje is one of my favourite fighters to watch, so I’m never ever going to say he shouldn’t fight somebody. I’ll watch him over Khabib [Nurmagomedov] any day of the week. He’s just fun to watch and this is my opinion only, I think Justin can knock Tony out, I really do. I think he has the style to put Tony away and I would love to see that fight before the Khabib fight.”
UFC 249 Preview: Inside The Octagon with Dan Hardy & John Gooden
In this episode of UFC: Inside The Octagon, John Gooden and former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy preview the UFC 249 main event between Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson and Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje for the interim lightweight title.
Ferguson v Gaethje Tips: UFC 249 Fighter Predictions
Tony Ferguson: “I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish. I just know whenever we talk about the fight, people keep smiling. No matter who they put in front of me, like I said in The Ultimate Fighter, this is a tournament. I’m going to go in there and do my job as best as I can. We’ve got Justin Gaethje. They call him ‘The Highlight’? I’m going to give him a highlight of his own. I’m going to hit him so hard, that dude is going to see stars.”
Justin Gaethje talking to ESPN: “My fights, either I get finished or they get finished inside three rounds. A match-up like this, with me and Tony Ferguson, one of us is going to finish the other inside three rounds. I know I’ve got about 18 to 19 minutes of pure hell, pure fury and I know how hard I hit, but after that, it is going to be extremely tough to fight with Tony Ferguson in that space. I think I’m 90% right now and I’ll be closer to 95% [on fight night]. I’ve made some big sacrifices in the last 10 days, I’ve lost 12 pounds and I have not cheated one time. When I go in there I will give 100% as I do every time. Humans recognize effort, and I will give you max effort.”