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UFC 184 fight card: Tony Ferguson vs Gleison Tibau fight preview

Tony Ferguson and Gleison Tibau will look to break into the top 15 this Saturday (Feb. 28, 2015) at UFC 184 inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Between an up-and-comer and gatekeeper, what adjustments must be made for either man in order to claim victory? Find out below!

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Tony Ferguson and Gleison Tibau will go head-to-head this Saturday night (Feb. 28, 2015) at UFC 184 inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Ferguson is on an excellent streak at the moment. He's won his last four bouts and is 7-1 overall inside the Octagon. If he manages to get past Tibau, it's time for "El Cucuy" to get a second chance at a ranked opponent.

A potential lightweight contender is on the rise? Send in Tibau! This match up is nothing new for the Brazilian, who's been the litmus test for up-and-coming lightweights for quite some time.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters.

Tony Ferguson

Record: 17-3

Key Wins: Danny Castillo (UFC 177), Abel Trujillo (UFC 181), Ramsey Nijem (TUF 13 Finale)

Key Losses: Michael Johnson (UFC on FOX 3)

Keys to Victory: Ferguson is a well-rounded fighter with excellent physical tools. In addition to his wrestling background, "El Cucuy" makes use of his long limbs with both excellent boxing and dangerous submission skills.

Despite all that, Tibau is a tough match up for Ferguson, simply because Tibau is a tough match up for just about anyone outside the very best lightweights in the world.

In order to defeat Tibau, Ferguson has to fight intelligently. If he rolls for kneebars or drops down on guillotines like he did against Danny Castillo, he's almost certain to spend the rest of the round on his back.

Instead, Ferguson needs to make Tibau pay for his attempts to close the distance. Lately, Tibau has mostly been counter striking. If Tibau's opponent gets aggressive, the massive Brazilian will blast him off his feet with a double leg.

Luckily, Ferguson can avoid all that. Using his straight punches and heavy low kicks, Ferguson can hurt his opponent and give him incentive to push forward. When that happens, Ferguson can look to run him into punches and should be ready for any takedown attempts.

Even if he does not follow this exact game plan, Ferguson should be trying to make Tibau work at all times. The Brazilian slows down badly at some point in the second round in just about all of his fights, but a heavy work rate can make that moment come much sooner.

Gleison Tibau

Record: 30-10

Key Wins: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 139), Norman Parke (UFC Fight Night 59), Piotr Hallmann (UFC Fight Night 51)

Key Losses: Michael Johnson (UFC 168), Evan Dunham (UFC 156), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 148)

Keys to Victory: Tibau has been on the UFC's lightweight roster since 2007, and though he's never gotten close to contention, he has stepped into the cage with some of the best in the world. Utilizing a combination of strength, solid boxing, and a gorgeous double leg, Tibau has established his position as one of the UFC's most consistent gatekeepers.

If it feels like Tibau just fought, it's because he competed less than two months ago against Norman Parke. In yet another split-decision victory over a potential prospect, Tibau showed that despite his lengthy career, he's still got it.

Still, his usual "it" may not be enough here. If Tibau throws a low volume of punches and shoots for a few takedowns -- his usual M.O. -- it's not likely to work against Ferguson, who has the volume, conditioning, and skill to overcome that task.

Instead, Tibau needs to switch it up a bit in some way. If that means walking Ferguson into the cage and really committing to his punches, then that's a valid path for Tibau. It's certainly more likely to succeed than doing his standard offense.

Alternatively, Tibau could fully commit to a smothering wrestling attack, assuming he had time to really work on his conditioning. If Tibau came out and chain wrestled -- forcing his strength on Ferguson -- rather than a pair of well-timed double legs, he'd definitely take his opponent by surprise.

Bottom Line: Ferguson is facing his last challenge before he either earns a top-15 position or someone inside the rankings. Meanwhile, Tibau is doing his thing, and testing whether Ferguson is worthy of that step up.

At 31 years of age and with a 7-1 UFC record, Ferguson's window to be a top contender is open. If he doesn't capitalize with a victory here, it's back to the middle of the pack for the knockout puncher, and it could take a very long time to climb out.

If Ferguson does earn the victory, he can't be more than two or three wins from the title. Since his sole loss is to Michael Johnson -- a current top 10 fighter coming off an incredible win -- that's fairly excusable. Ferguson can make a run, he just needs to do it now.

For once, this bout could really affect Tibau's career. Ferguson is on a serious hot streak so if Tibau shuts that down, he'd be on a four-fight win streak with a high-profile victory to cap it off. That may be enough for a position inside the rankings or a fight against a top contender, rather than someone with potential.

Alternatively, a loss snaps Tibau's win streak and leaves him in the same position he's in now, and has been for quite some time.

At UFC 184, Gleison Tibau will test Tony Ferguson's mettle inside the Octagon. Which man will advance up the lightweight hierarchy?

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