Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 13 winner Tony Ferguson faced his toughest test thus far last night (December 3, 2011) when he took on motivated veteran Yves Edwards on The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale main card in a very entertaining lightweight tilt.
Ferguson had had his way with every opponent he'd faced thus far in the UFC, knocking out all three of his opponents during the filming of the show and then finishing both Ramsey Nijem and Aaron Riley in the first round in his first official bouts with the promotion.
There would be no easy victory last night, as Edwards, a veteran of 60 fights, gave him all that he could handle over the course of three rounds.
When it was all said and done, Ferguson was awarded a unanimous decision.
So what key factor may have swayed the judges in "El Cucuy's" favor? And what's next for both fighters?
Ferguson came out aggressively with kicks, but Edwards was wise to his game. By the time he threw his fourth leg kick, "The Thugjitsu Master" was already checking them expertly. Both men had some very entertaining exchanges but Edwards landed the first seriously significant blow.
Just as Ferguson wades in with a big right hook, Edwards catches him with a beautiful short counter punch of his own.
As "El Cucuy" backs up away from danger, Edwards steps forward and throws a nasty head kick that cracks Ferguson in the side of the head.
To make matters worse, he then follows it up with a swift right hand that completely catches Ferguson off guard as he's simply trying to regain his composure after absorbing some heavy strikes that he never saw coming.
Incredibly, though, Ferguson just kept pressing action. The kid has as iron of a chin as there is in the lightweight division. Despite taking some very big blows, I'm not sure he even was wobbled.
Ferguson would have his revenge two minutes later, when he caught Edwards with a very slick lead left uppercut.
As Edwards backs away, Ferguson cuts him off along the fence and catches him again with the same punch, this time following up with a right hand.
This time, Edwards was in trouble, losing his balance along the fence and he was forced to cover up as "El Cucuy" unloaded on him with some very heavy blows. Thankfully he was able to block most of them or he would have been put to sleep for sure.
After slightly regaining his wits, Edwards attempted a takedown at the end of the round to perhaps steal the round on the judges scorecards.
Not only was his takedown stuffed with easy by the TUF 13 winner, but from top position, Ferguson showcased some very solid grappling skills of his own, locking in an omaplata and rolling Edwards.
Watch how quickly he locks up Edwards' shoulder from top position. The set up is terrific and he completely caught the veteran off guard with it.
If he hadn't already sealed the round by hurting Edwards just seconds earlier, this display of grappling prowess put him over the top in the judges' eyes as Ferguson clearly won round one.
While Ferguson was able to take round one, both rounds two and three were incredibly close. Both men landed solid strikes, but Edwards did a great job of turning up the aggression and forcing Ferguson to move backwards, even bloodying up "El Cucuy's" nose a bit.
I think the key reason that the judges unanimously sided with Ferguson was how he responded to getting hit. Despite Edwards landing some very nice shots throughout the fight, Ferguson walked right through most of them. The guy has a ridiculous chin so he can make it look like punches and kicks weren't nearly as powerful as they actually are. When Edwards got hit hard, he would get wobbled a bit, showing signs of noticeably getting rocked.
I certainly thought the final result was closer than the (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) scores indicated for Ferguson.
For Yves Edwards, this was as good as he's looked since making his return to the UFC. He was crisp in his striking, his defense was tight and he did a great job of mixing in kicks to keep Ferguson guessing. He did just about everything correct to make it a close and entertaining fight. The only thing missing was the decision. While I don't think he got robbed or anything, he definitely deserved a closer scorecard than he got.
He definitely will be back after that strong showing. I'd like to see him against a tough veteran like Shane Roller or someone who will be willing to throw down with him like Rafael dos Anjos or Mac Danzig.
For Tony Ferguson, perhaps he's not quite the superstar that we thought he was. He's got some terrific awkward and unorthodox strikes but his defense still has a long ways to go. He can only rely on his ability to take a punch for so long before that starts to catch up to him. Hopefully he puts in some serious time on slipping and blocking strikes before his next fight because it's not going to get any easier for him from here on out.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did you think Ferguson won this fight? What did you think of Yves Edwards' performance over the course of three rounds?
For complete Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire pay-per-view (PPV) event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.