By JohnnyRocket - Editor MyTwoCents
The main event of UFC 249 features an epic match-up of two prize fighters - Tony 'El Cucuy' Ferguson and Justin 'The Highlight' Gaethje - with great records and entertaining styles.
Ferguson is extremely unorthodox with a bag of tricks around every corner. Gaethje is a banger, he just keeps coming at you with low kicks and flying fists. He is happy to eat a few punches to get in a few bombs of his own.
Both have strong jaws and high pain thresholds, but the biggest edge that Ferguson has is his cardio. He is arguably the fittest fighter in the UFC - trains for 6 hours a day Rocky style.
Gaethje has taken this fight on short notice and has only six weeks training out of his usual 10 weeks for a big fight. This could hurt him if the fight goes into the “championship rounds” (rounds 4 and 5). Ferguson knows this and also knows that his biggest danger is getting himself caught in Gaethje’s range. Gaethje is not called "The Highlight" for nothing - his fights generally don’t last long as his punching power is second to none in the lightweight division.
Gaethje is no slouch on the ground either having been an All-American wrestling champion, but Ferguson has superior Jiu-Jitsu skills and is extremely dangerous from all positions on the floor.
HOW FERGUSON WINS: Ferguson doesn’t have the finishing power of Gaethje so his best option is to stay out of range, wear Gaethje out with a few takedowns and then go for a submission in the later rounds.
HOW GAETHJE WINS: Gaethje doesn’t have a complicated game plan so we all know what to expect. He will come in charging, looking to eat up Ferguson’s legs and balance with low kicks before landing a trademark bomb. This has to happen within the first 2 to 3 rounds for him to have any chance of success.
Ferguson is unbeaten in 12 fights stretching 6 years! That is a serious winning streak in UFC fighting terms where match-ups are generally competitive (unlike in boxing where winning records get “juiced”). He has a record of 25-3 and is the ultimate fighting champion. Gaethje is 21-2 and has won his last 3 fights all by first round knockout.
Tony Ferguson is a 1.53 favourite or 8/15 in fractional odds or -195 US odds. Justin Gaethje is 2.63 or 3/1 or +160
HOW TO PLAY THIS:
There are only two possible ways this plays out as identified above. This is not going the distance so we can rule that out. Ferguson doesn’t have the punching power to knock out Gaethje who has a strong chin. Gaethje doesn’t win by submission either. So you take Ferguson by submission at +250 as your top pick and you could hedge it with a Gaethje win by KO/TKO at +190.
OTHER NOTABLE FIGHTS:
FRANCIS NGANNOU is an absolute monster in the heavyweight division and everyone is scared of him. So they should be. Ngannou holds the world record for the most powerful punch recorded. At a promotional event in Las Vegas his punch was measured at 96 horsepower, which is the equivalent of being hit by Ford Escort at top speed or a sledgehammer being swung full force from overhead, according to Scrapdigest. His opponent JAIRZINHO ROZENSTRUIK is no slouch, but also no match for Ngannou. The betting form does not suggest otherwise either with Ngannou at -260 (around 4/11), a massive favourite. He has won his last 3 fights by first round TKO/KO and also won 7 of his last 9 all in the first round. Rozenstruik is undefeated at 10-0 but won’t last long vs Ngannou.
FIGHT OF THE HAS-BEEN
Spits UFC legend but “time-to-retire” Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis. Cowboy has lost his last three fights with the previous two not even lasting a round (Gaethje, McGregor). His performances were embarrassing to put it mildly. Pettis has lost 8 of his last 12 so it’s difficult to understand the reasoning behind making this fight. Pettis is the slight favourite here and I think he puts Cerrone into permanent retirement. Not a moment too soon either.
POTENTIAL FIGHT OF THE NIGHT CANDIDATE
The dangerous Niko Price v Vincente Luque. Luque is the big favourite, but if you are looking for a punt, Price offers some very good odds (4/1). Anyone who saw his heel kick from the ground that knocked out James Vick in his last fight will know that Price is not to be underestimated. These two have met before back in 2017 - Luque taking the honours with a second round D’arce choke submission.
UFC 249 will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1, 8 and 11 from 04:00 (SA time) on Sunday, May 10.