Youth meets experience this Saturday night (December 3, 2011) as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 13 winner, Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson meets the original uncrowned UFC lightweight champ, Yves Edwards in a big-time 155 pound showdown on The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.
Ferguson has looked terrific thus far in his UFC career, scoring knockout or technical knockout (TKO) finishes against all five of his opponents on The Ultimate Fighter and in the UFC. He'll be looking to add a serious name to his career resume with a victory on Saturday night over Yves Edwards.
Yves Edwards' record speaks for itself. He's faced some of the best in the world time in and time out during his 14+ year career fighting professionally and has competed in 29 different promotions. He's been there, done that and he'll be looking to prove his experience counts for something against the much heralded prospect on Saturday night.
Will Ferguson keep his crazy knockout streak alive against the battle-tested veteran? Can Edwards utilize his "Thugjitsu" and put a halt to the TUF 13 winner's momentum? What's the best path to victory for each man on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 12-2 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Tony Ferguson began fighting professionally in 2008 and compiled a 10-2 professional record before becoming a season 13 cast member on TUF. His last three pro fights were all technical knockout (TKO) victories and he brought that power into the show.
The third pick for Team Lesnar, Ferguson scored an incredible up kick knockout in his first fight against Justin Edwards and he followed up his performance by blasting Ryan McGillivray in less than a minute to secure his second straight first round finish. He put away Chuck O'Neil via third round TKO to advance to the finals for a chance to become the next "Ultimate Fighter."
On the finale, Ferguson withstood some aggression from Ramsey Nijem and then again landed a big hook to knock his castmate out to be crowned The Ultimate Fighter. In his first fight outside of the show, "El Cucuy" broke veteran Aaron Riley's jaw in round one and his opponent was unable to answer the bell for the second frame.
He'll be looking to continue his momentum against another veteran in Yves Edwards on Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Ferguson has a strong wrestling background, being a Division II national champion but it is his striking that will likely carry him to victory against Edwards, as it has carried him in every fight he's had thus far either on The Ultimate Fighter or in the UFC.
Ferguson's technique isn't perfect yet, but his power is terrific. He's got impressive hand speed and he's capable of finishing fights with both his left and his right. Against Edwards, he shouldn't be afraid to take one to give one, as the veteran's chin has deteriorated over the years, as evidenced by his vicious knockout loss to Sam Stout this past summer.
Ferguson should primarily utilize his wrestling to keep the fight standing and then use his footwork to stay in the pocket or closer where he will have the range to land his big hooks. If he can find a home for that big left, it will likely be "night night" for Edwards.
Edwards was also nearly put away in his last fight against Rafaello Oliveira when the Brazilian swarmed him early and just went for it, throwing big bombs and getting in his face. This actually seems like a strategy that would fit perfectly in Ferguson's wheelhouse so don't be surprised if he tries something similar if he sees an opening.
Record: 41-17-1 overall, 9-5 in the UFC
How he got here: Yves Edwards was once considered perhaps the best lightweight fighter in the world. A veteran of professional fighting for over 14 years, the "Thugjitsu Master" had a terrific stretch from 2002-2005 where he went 11-1 defeating the likes of Hermes Franca twice, Josh Thomson and Rich Clementi.
Since that time, the veteran has been very up and down. His name attracts high profile fights and he suffered losses to the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Mike Brown, Mark Hominick and Joe Stevenson during a very rough one year stretch from 2006-2007.
Since then, he bounced back competing in EliteXC, Strikeforce, Bellator, MFC and was impressive enough to be granted another stint in the UFC at 34 years old. In his most recent stint with the promotion, he's gone 3-1, defeating John Gunderson, Cody McKenzie and Rafaello Oliveira although he was knocked out cold by Sam Stout earlier this summer at UFC 131.
If he can dispatch Tony Ferguson on Saturday, it will be his most high profile victory in about six years.
How he gets it done: Edwards can no longer afford to have even exchanges with his opponents, especially someone as young and dangerous as Ferguson. His key to victory likely lies with keeping his distance or trying to get the fight to the ground. Edwards has some dangerous submissions in his arsenal, but getting the fight to the ground will likely be a major problem for him due to Ferguson's wrestling credentials.
If Edwards has any major advantage, it is his kicks. He's scored some of the craziest knockouts in MMA history with his kicks and a head kick actually set up his most recent finish against Rafaello Oliveira at UFC on Versus 6. While his chin may not be what it used to be, Edwards is still incredibly dangerous and can still put up a highlight reel finish.
Edwards should primarily use his punches to keep his distance and leave an opening for his kicks. Don't be surprised to see him go to the legs and body first, potentially slowing Ferguson down and also creating the possibility that he can surprise his opponent when he goes high.
Fight "X-Factor:" I would have initially chosen Edward's experience as the biggest factor, but Ferguson recently took out Aaron Riley in his last fight, a man who's been competing exactly as long as Edwards and with almost exactly as many fights. In all honesty, the biggest X-Factor for this match-up will likely be chin strength.
Tony Ferguson hasn't had his chin tested much in his TUF and UFC career, but Edwards has. He was knocked out badly by Sam Stout earlier this year, a fighter who'd never scored a knockout in his UFC career despite having the nickname "Hands of Stone" and he was nearly put away by Rafaello Oliveira in his most recent fight, an opponent who'd never scored a knockout on any major stage before.
This is a bit of a troubling sign against an opponent of Ferguson's caliber who has the crazy type of power that can either put his opponents to sleep or break their jaws. Edwards can't afford to make a single mistake in his striking defense or there's a very real possibility he's going to be staring up at the ceiling at some point.
Bottom Line: This should be a terrific match-up, with a young and hungry TUF winner squaring off against the seasoned veteran who still feels like he has something to prove. Edwards has a terrific skill-set and he's likely going to be pushing Ferguson to his limits early on. Neither of these fighters are the type to sit back and let the fight come to them. They enjoy going forward and pressing the action. This should be a fun stand-up battle from start to finish and there's some serious potential that this ends in a big knockout.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!