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UFC 229 card: Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis full fight preview

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MMA: UFC 216-Ferguson vs Lee Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight stars Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis will collide this Saturday (Oct. 6, 2018) at UFC 229 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tony Ferguson may be a weird dude, but he’s the best damn Lightweight in the world. “El Cucuy” never should’ve been stripped of his title, which only happened because he’s not as much of a draw as our two main event fighters. Nevertheless, Ferguson has a chance to right that wrong and recapture gold, though first he’ll need to deal with Anthony Pettis. “Showtime” has been hot-and-cold for a few years, and if we’re being honest, more cold than hot. However, Pettis did show last time out that when he’s on his game, he’s still one of the world’s best.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Tony Ferguson
Record: 23-3
Key Wins: Kevin Lee (UFC 216), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 98), Edson Barboza (TUF 22 Finale), Josh Thomson (UFC Fight Night 71), Gleison Tibau (UFC 184)
Key Losses: Michael Johnson (UFC on FOX 3)
Keys to Victory: Ferguson is an offensive monster who does not remotely care what is thrown back at him. “El Cucuy” has heavy hands, crushing low kicks, sharp elbows, and a stand up style that grinds opponents into dust. Oh, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is among the best in the business, particularly his nasty d’arce choke.

If Pettis shows up, this is a fascinating match up and difficult fight for Ferguson. Even so, Ferguson definitely has a clear path to victory. Historically, two things have troubled Pettis: Unrelenting takedowns and constant pressure. Grinding for takedowns isn’t really Ferguson’s style — he’s more of an opportunistic wrestler — but pressure definitely is.

The last time Ferguson faced a man known for his deadly kicking game, he ran straight at Edson Barboza and made it a ridiculous war. He walked straight to the Muay Thai champion, ignoring Barboza’s punches and kicks to land his own. Before long, Barboza couldn’t keep up with the onslaught, and Ferguson found an opening for his d’arce choke.

Pettis is a different fighter than Barboza, but the main idea is the same. If Ferguson walks him down from the first bell and gets in Pettis’ face, “Showtime” is in for a rough night.

Anthony Pettis
Record: 21-7
Key Wins: Benson Henderson (UFC 164, WEC 53), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 181), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 6), Michael Chiesa (UFC 223), Charles Oliveira (UFC on FOX 21)
Key Losses: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 185), Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 81), Edson Barboza (UFC 197), Max Holloway (UFC 206), Dustin Poirier (UFC Fight Night 120)
Keys to Victory: Pettis is one of the premiere kicks-and-submissions fighters in the sport. When given space to work, Pettis likes to stalk opponents, hammer them with brutal round kicks, and often lock in a submission when they desperately move to wrestle.

Pettis’ ability to keep this fight at the kickboxing range will decide whether or not he has a real chance here. Any closer than that, Ferguson’s toughness and pace will wear down Pettis and win exchanges. Plus, once Ferguson gains a lead, he does not relinquish it.

Footwork will be key.

At distance, however, Pettis kicks absurdly hard. Ferguson may be inhumanly tough, but at a certain point, an accurate body or head kick will shut him down regardless. If Pettis is off the fence and fighting where he wants, the fight-changing kick is always at risk of landing.

Bottom Line: It’s going to be an awesome scrap.

This is a definite No. 1 contender title eliminator bout for Ferguson. Supposedly, it’s even guaranteed in his contract that he’ll be awarded a title shot with a win. Ferguson never deserved to lose his interim title in the first place, but at least he can jump right back in for another shot at gold with a victory here.

Of course, this is still a risk, and a loss would be devastating.

As for Pettis, this is a truly major opportunity. He hasn’t defeated a top contender since his run to the title years ago, which means he’s largely out of the title picture. The win over Chiesa helped, but defeating a recent champion in Ferguson would absolutely push Pettis into contention talks. He wouldn’t be next in line, but he wouldn’t be too far off, either.

At UFC 229, Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis will go to war in the co-main event. Which man will take another step closer to the title?