Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Tony Ferguson and Abel Trujillo will collide this Saturday (Dec. 6, 2014) at UFC 181 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After faltering for the first time inside the Octagon against Michael Johnson, Ferguson took some time off to recover from injuries. Since then, he's done quite well, earning two quick finishes as well as a debatable decision victory over Danny Castillo.
Trujillo has experienced no such issues with decisions. In his three UFC victories, "Killa" has obliterated his opponents with heavy strikes and will look to replicate those performances against Ferguson.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Key Wins: Danny Castillo (UFC 177), Yves Edwards (TUF 14 Finale), Ramsey Nijem (TUF 13 Finale)
Key Losses: Michael Johnson (UFC on FOX 3)
Keys to Victory: Ferguson is primarily a strong boxer, which has resulted nine knockout victories. In addition, he possesses a solid high school wrestling background and dangerous submission skills, which are aided by his lengthy frame.
Unlike many mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, Ferguson uses his length pretty well. With his long jab and leg kicks, Ferguson makes it difficult for his opponents to stand at his range, often forcing them to wrestle.
Though Trujillo probably won't look for the takedown, Ferguson still needs to stifle him at range. Then, Trujillo will more than likely throw caution to the wind and attack with haymakers, which is perhaps his favorite style of fighting.
While Trujillo is swinging for the knockout, Ferguson will have plenty of opportunities to make him pay. Ferguson is so long that he'll easily be able to land shots just after Trujillo's punches come up short, even without any complicated head movement. So long as he manages his distance correctly and stays off the fence, Ferguson shouldn't have much of a problem avoiding his opponent's power punches.
If he plays his cards right, a counter-punch knockout is not an impossibility.
It's very important that "El Cucuy" does not make any foolish decisions in this fight. For example, he repeatedly jumped on submissions and gave up top position against Danny Castillo, despite the fact that "Last Call" was escaping without much issue.
If he makes a similarly boneheaded decision against Trujillo, the volatile finisher may not let him get way with it.
Record: 12-5 (1)
Key Wins: Jamie Varner (UFC 169), Roger Bowling (UFC on FOX 9), Marcus LeVesseur (UFC on FOX 5)
Key Losses: Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: One of the most powerful punchers at lightweight, Trujillo uses his collegiate (NAIA) wrestling background in reverse in order to stay standing. Then, his blistering punches do the rest, which has resulted in five knockout victories.
In addition, his overall kickboxing technique is improving at a solid pace, in large part thanks to his work with the Blackzilians fight team. Plus, the last man to defeat Ferguson -- Michael "The Menace" Johnson -- happens to be a member of that camp, which has to be a valuable tool.
Though Trujillo is always capable of landing a bomb in any exchange, he can do a couple things to increase his chances.
First off, Trujillo should at least threaten with his wrestling. Even if it doesn't accomplish anything in terms of getting the fight to the mat, it will allow him to utilize level changes feints effectively. Plus, if he looks to catch kicks and turn them into takedowns -- failed or not -- he could deter Ferguson from utilizing one of his best range weapons.
In addition, cutting off the cage will be quite important for Trujillo. If he allows Ferguson to freely circle the cage, it will be very hard for him to land punches without overextending himself. Additionally, there's always a chance that Ferguson's reaction to having his back against the wall is to swing hard, which would make Trujillo's goal of landing power punches much easier.
Bottom Line: Both men are considered prospects in the lightweight division, and the winner of this bout will likely earn a bout with a ranked opponent. Due to their exciting styles and youth, a top-15 ranking would likely result in a fair amount of exposure, cash, and potential for rising through the ranks.
Clearly, there's quite a lot on the line for both fighters.
On the other hand, a loss would definitely steal away a chunk of their momentum. In a division as talent-rich as lightweight, it's difficult to build up win streaks, meaning that either fighter would be sent far back to the end of the line with a loss.
At UFC 181, Tony Ferguson and Abel Trujillo will battle it out in order to take another step forward in the lightweight division. Which fighter will claim victory?