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Tony Ferguson vs. Donald Cerrone

A post shared by @TonyFergusonxt (@tonyfergusonxt) on Jun 7, 2019 at 10:22am PDT

UFC 238 is headlined by a pair of title fights with some of the sport’s top-ranked pound-for-pound fighters, and yet the fight that many people appear to be gravitating towards is the hallmark battle amidst all-action lightweight elites, Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone. Given the respective track records of El Cucuy and Cowboy, this is sure to be a fight that will provide an overload of excitement. Not only will it provide the entertainment that draws us to this sport, but it’s a de facto title eliminator in the sport’s deepest division with the sport’s two biggest stars.

Tony Ferguson

A post shared by @TonyFergusonxt (@tonyfergusonxt) on Jun 7, 2019 at 7:09pm PDT

Ferguson is currently the UFC’s number two lightweight contender, behind unranked champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and current interim champion Dustin Poirier. Ferguson is the former interim lightweight champion, after defeating Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in October 2017. Ferguson was then slated to match up with Nurmagomedov for a scheduled fourth time at UFC 223 in April 2018 before he was forced to withdraw from the bout six days prior due to a complete MCL tear. Nurmagomedov won the title by beating Al Iaquinta, who then subsequently defended his belt by beating Conor McGregor at UFC 229. Ferguson co-main evented that card against former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and won by TKO due to a hand injury by Pettis. The fight was considered by many as the 2018 fight of the year due to the constant pace and back and forth exchanges delivered by both men.

To attach a style to Tony Ferguson would be both the wrong thing to do and also, no matter what style you think he fights, chances are you’d be mistaken. The best way to label Ferguson would be “unorthodox.” If there was one major factor to pinpoint as the reason Ferguson hasn’t lost since seven months into the FOX era, it would be his relentless and constant forward pressure. Pair that with his use of unorthodox attacks, such as standing upward elbows and frequent Imanari Rolls, as well as his extremely high level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in which he holds a multitude of submissions, with the triangle choke being his most effective while in the guard, and he also will tend to incorporate a very unique ground striking attack in which he combos the 10th Planet-patented rubber guard defensive technique with his deadly elbow strikes. After they fought, Kevin Lee said to Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview that he “severely underestimated Ferguson’s elbows on the ground.” The bottom line with El Cucuy is that no matter where the fight goes, he brings danger in the form of his very diverse and unpredictable approach and attack.

A post shared by @TonyFergusonxt (@tonyfergusonxt) on Apr 12, 2019 at 3:07pm PDT

Donald Cerrone

A post shared by Donald Cerrone (@cowboycerrone) on May 2, 2019 at 7:30am PDT

The UFC’s most game ready fighter has regained championship form in 2019 after a 3-year stint at welterweight saw Cowboy achieve contendership but fall short in key moments. Cowboy previously got a title shot at lightweight back in 2015, against then-champion, Rafael Dos Anjos. That fight saw Cerrone get knocked out within the first 90 seconds of the fight. The UFC has been known to turn to Cerrone to save some lower-profile shows, as he’s been known to headline cards from Gdańsk to Singapore. Now, Cerrone has finally gained enough traction to come into significant title contention once again. Many people believe this is the best iteration of Cerrone that’s ever strapped on the gloves, and he has looked the part in his last three bouts against Mike Perry (at welterweight), Alexander Hernandez, and most recently Al Iaquinta.

A post shared by Donald Cerrone (@cowboycerrone) on Apr 29, 2019 at 8:13am PDT

Cerrone’s primary strategy stems from his Muay Thai base. Unlike Ferguson, Cerrone prefers to keep the fight at a decent distance in order to utilize his most dangerous weapon, his high kicks. While from a stylistic point of view he and Ferguson aren’t similar, from a point of uniquity he and Ferguson are both very unorthodox. As opposed to being a basic MMA Muay Thai striker- preferring to utilize punches and elbows sprinkled with some low kicks and the occasional knee- Cerrone approaches his gameplan with a much more, for a lack of a better term, MMA-oriented Muay Thai attack. Cerrone uses his punches as much as he uses his kicks or knees. He rarely uses elbows but can devastate when he does (just ask Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller). He also utilizes an effective stiff jab, which typically dictates his success in a fight; the more he’s using it, the more he’s in control. He possesses a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but rarely does he initiate grappling exchanges. Typically, if the fight becomes a grappling match, it’s at the opponent’s discretion.

The Fight Itself

A post shared by ufc (@ufc) on Jun 6, 2019 at 2:21pm PDT

What makes this fight so damn enthralling is the very nature of both men. One word: unorthodox. That idea of having no clue what’s coming next. In this fight in particular, we’re also blessed by the fact that both guys want to be the aggressor, so it’ll be full speed ahead for a maximum of fifteen minutes (although honestly, who thinks it’ll go that long?). Whose aggressive nature will take effect? Whose unorthodox attack will reign supreme? Ferguson’s 11-fight winning streak or Cerrone’s newfound jolt at lightweight? It’s hard for me to give an edge to either guy. Both men are as experienced as two mixed martial artists can be, both having gone through the wringer numerous times.

It’s as tough a fight to pick as any, but if you need an official prediction, I guess I’d have to go with El Cucuy, likely by finish.

A post shared by @TonyFergusonxt (@tonyfergusonxt) on May 10, 2019 at 4:39pm PDT

No matter who wins, one thing should be agreed upon by all: the winner DESERVES a title shot next. No argument about it. And whoever wins on September 7 in Abu Dhabi, whether it be Nurmagomedov or Poirier, any pairing of these four guys is bound to bring a pleasant stew of violence that all of us MMA-loving savages will bask in the glory of. And if some little Irishman wants to interfere win the fun, that’s fine too, because Justin Gaethje’s here too, and from what it seems, it looks like he’d kill to get his hands on the clover. Let’s rejoice in all this madness. Lightweight is the best division in MMA right now, and Ferguson-Cerrone might be the most exciting fight of any in the division.

Follow Johann on Twitter: @thejohanncastro

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