This Saturday the UFC will mark a milestone as it is the first massive sport to present a show and / or sports day in the framework of the global pandemic. Such an unprecedented and important evening will be marked by a packed card and a stellar fight that promises action and brutality for 25 minutes.
Until March we were counting that Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson would finally define who is the best light weight in the world, but the spread of the Covid 19, and all measures regarding confinement and social distancing, threw overboard the fifth attempt for both fighters will finally meet in the octagon; due to the confinement of Russian in his country. Justin Gathje emerged as a new rival for Ferguson in mid-April, in the unsuccessful attempt to keep UFC 249 in that month. After negotiations, criticism and questioning, the UFC confirmed the realization of the event and with it the fight between Gathje and Ferguson, but this time, for the interim title.
The most “damn” fight in MMA history will have to wait again, but the UFC will bring us a fight that promises to be one of the bloodiest and most brutal fights in division history and here is the breakdown and prediction for Ferguson vs Gaethje. .
How to talk about the technique of a fighter who has such an atypical technique? Ferguson is a freestyle fighter (and he really is). The execution in his hitting escapes the classic parameters in the disciplines of striking. It is recurrent that Ferguson throws blows at strange angles, with his chin exposed; or to make unusual movements while elbowing everywhere. The biggest factor that makes this striking so successful (it’s not for nothing that Ferguson has a streak of 12 consecutive wins), is that it has as its ultimate goal wear and tear and the brutal objective of breaking. And this is accompanied by endless gas tank and pressure like few others within the UFC.
Ferguson is a fighter who is not afraid to “pull the trigger” and who also “smells blood” when he sees or feels the opponent succumb. Yves Edwards commented on “The Joe Rogan Experience” that Ferguson kicked him in the tibia many times just because he saw that they hurt. That is the line that Cucuy follows throughout the combat. When Tony enters fully with his elbows, low kicks and front kick, many times leaving his hands down and his chin up, he does it to cut completely or generate a lot of damage; without preventing the cons or the dangers.
If Tony wanted to use fighting as a primary weapon in his arsenal, he could do it perfectly, since his credentials as a former university fighter are very good; but Tony “is the kind of guy who prefers to make you bleed using his elbows.” But not to be confused with Tony’s fight: Not because he doesn’t knock down, it means he doesn’t use it. There are several “scrambles” in which Tony ends without being knocked down and if it were to happen, another problem opens up for whoever is above:
The Cucuy must have one of the most aggressive guards in MMA. When you close both legs around the rival’s waist, infinite elbows will start to rain at all possible angles until you catch the opponent in some triangle or position from which you will take advantage. Eddie Bravo’s black belt has developed a lethal flush-to-canvas game and an already patented finish, El D´arce Choke.
If there is anyone who can be credited with being “wild” outside of Tony Ferguson, it is Justin Gaethje. The former All American has made a barbaric career at the tip of brutal fights both in his time at PLF (ex WSOF) and in the UFC. His fights against Luis Palomino, Luiz Firmino, Michael Johnson, Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Porier will be remembered by a Gaethje who went to demolish or be demolished. After his fight against Porier, a turning point would come for Justin in his way of fighting .
It was rare that a fighter like Gaethje who was formed, in his foot fight, by Trevor Wittman was not more rigorous or cautious when it came to hitting. Many believe that Gahtje fought that way because he found real trust there (trust that Gaethje mentions a lot as a fundamental factor in fighting well). Whatever the reason, Gaethje resumed his career after his last loss with a different approach; and he’s managed to have three knockouts in a row in the first round, taking very little damage. Gaethje was a brutal hook, upercutts, overhands, and low kicks fan, who today more accurately chooses punches, inputs and outputs; not falling thus in that chaos that distinguished him in much of his career and for which he was nicknamed the “Highlight”
Gaethje is a fighter of pressure, intensity, long breath, damage, and knockout. The “Highlight” today, will measure your distance and start your job with those lowkicks until you start to feel the right distance to start dropping heavy artillery, but this time and unlike the Gaethje of before, feeling the right time to connect
It is almost impossible to speak of Justin Gaethje’s other virtues other than standing up. The American has been clear in refusing to use his fight to achieve victories and has been emphatic that he will not use the fight since that sport is part of the past and that he fights to entertain fans. Something very rare and unconventional in modern times of MMA where being one-dimensional is part of the past.
I think it is almost impossible that from the beginning of this fight there were no exchanges and pressure from both to dominate the offense. Ferguson will remain faithful to what he has done so far and will try to dismantle Gaethje from the start, while Gaethje will respond with the same dose. It will be crucial in these exchanges, how far Gathje is going, and how long he can endure Ferguson without falling into that chaos that should already be part of the past for “The Highlight”. By this I mean that if Gaethje starts going towards Ferguson wanting to knock him out immediately, he is going to wait for him with front or swivel elbows, which can be fatal for Justin. I think it will be very important for Ferguson to use the front kicks to the body to keep Gathje away from his offenses and also to decrease his air. Just remember how Alvarez and Porier did a good job cutting Gaethje’s air by hitting him in the body.
For Gaehtje it must be essential to enter and exit accurately from that “madness zone” of Ferguson, which springs up when they try to catch him to hit him. It is in that area where two things happen: The first is that there are elbows with twists, ascents and knees; and second there also occurs when El Cucuy is exposed and vulnerable. It must be this second thing that Justin must hang onto to knock him out for sure.
If he does not knock him out with a single blow and Gaethje tries to get the TKO, two other situations can happen: The first is that if Gaethje does not manage to finish it by TKO, he will suffer the same martyrdom that all those who did not take advantage of the moment to finish Ferguson suffered. ; or it may happen that Ferguson runs into a wall to which he will not be able to exercise the same torture that caused the previous twelve opponents.
If for any special reason this gets to be measured by ground skills, I think Ferguson has the upper hand because of his grappling level, and because the only time I saw Gaethje suffer on the ground was against Brian Foster in WSOF; a much less lethal opponent on the ground than Ferguson.
It is very difficult to anticipate a fight that for almost everyone is 50/50. The lines that follow are both similar. Both seek pressure, damage, and gradually destroy rivals. Although Justin has changed his way of fighting to a more accurate one, there will always be the resource of chaos and that would collide with the same melody that Ferguson plays.
I think that in this fight the only thing that can guide me to predict who can win is who has the most resources, and the way in which that fighter has finished his last fights. While Gaethje is perhaps the most knockout fighter Ferguson has ever faced; Ferguson is the most dangerous fighter Gaethje has ever faced. Let me explain: Gaethje has only one key resource to end “El Cucuy” and that is the knockout, while Ferguson has more resources to finish Gaethje. It is only a matter of Ferguson cutting Gaehtje deeply so that the fight ends or he goes “black” to “Highlight”. It is only a matter of Ferguson taking Gaethje’s back or fitting a D’arce well and submitting it. And it’s just a matter of Gaethje exposing himself on Ferguson’s guard for Ferguson to cut and finish.
Luck is a factor in every fight and here I stress that Ferguson enjoys this thing of fate. There have been several fights in which Ferguson has gone from almost being knocked out or losing to winning; either by falling into a good position or fitting something at the right time.
These are the reasons why I believe that the interim title will be taken by Ferguson and that it will prohibit us from seeing an eventual combat between Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov.