Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight finishers Tony Ferguson and Charles Oliveira will go to war this weekend (Sat., Dec. 12, 2020) at UFC 256 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
What’s the next step for “El Cucuy?” His historic win streak came to a vicious close, and though he captured the interim title, the undisputed crown eluded him. At 36 years old, Ferguson is attempting to rebuild in one of the toughest divisions in the sport with an unclear title picture ahead of him. Oliveira is no easy task, either. The Brazilian is no longer the semi-fragile youngster who still dominated some tough opponents. He’s battle-hardened and hitting his prime, in the midst of his own massive win streak and would-be title run.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Kevin Lee (UFC 216), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 98), Anthony Pettis (UFC 229), Edson Barboza (TUF 22 Finale), Josh Thomson (UFC Fight Night 71), Donald Cerrone (UFC 238)
Key Losses: Justin Gaethje (UFC 249), Michael Johnson (UFC on FOX 3)
Keys to Victory: For any number of reasons, there may never be another quite like Tony Ferguson. He’s a wonderfully strange mix of aggressive, pressure kickboxing and unorthodox submissions, but perhaps more important, Ferguson excels at breaking his opponents via damage.
Oliveira is tougher and better than he used to be by a large margin, but still, this is a fighter with a history of crumbling in fights against a man who commonly forces opponents to do just that. From a big picture standpoint, the gameplan is obvious: overwhelm Oliveira.
It’s time for Ferguson to really return to two weapons that were seldom present in his last bout. “El Cucuy” has one of the nastiest snap kicks in the business, a gut-buster that fatigues foes quickly. Oliveira has never liked body shots and wants the takedown — time to throw that kick repeatedly.
In addition, Ferguson’s elbows should be effective. Oliveira advances confidently behind his power punches, which could prove an opportunity for Ferguson to hand trap and elbow.
Finally, as this is a three-round fight, there should be some concern regarding Oliveira’s takedowns. Ferguson cannot afford to spend too much time on his back, not with a skilled black belt. He has to make it a point to deny takedowns, rather than willingly scramble and play jiu-jitsu.
Record: 29-8 (1)
Key Wins: Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 170), David Teymur (UFC Fight Night 144), Nik Lentz (UFC Fight Night 152, UFC Fight Night 67), Jeremy Stephens (TUF 20 Finale), Myles Jury (UFC on FOX 17), Hatsu Hioki (UFC Fight Night 43), Will Brooks (UFC 210)
Key Losses: Paul Felder (UFC 218), Anthony Pettis (UFC on FOX 21), Frankie Edgar (UFC 162), Cub Swanson (UFC 152), Ricardo Lamas (UFC Fight Night 98)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira is an offensive force. He’s developed his Muay Thai quite a bit in the last few years, adding crushing low kicks, heavy hooks, and sneaky elbows and knees to his arsenal. Oh, and this is the grappler who holds the UFC record for submission wins!
Like Ferguson, Oliveira (recently) likes to apply pressure and break foes down. In this match, however, more strategizing than usual may be necessary. As the Gaethje bout showed, Ferguson may be hittable, but the man is made of iron, so caution is still necessary.
Oliveira would be wise to replicate Gaethje’s counter punching strategy, though with his own Muay Thai flair. Move laterally and force Ferguson to come to him, at which point it should be easier to land power shots. Low kicks should be a focus as well, as Ferguson can be flat-footed while advancing.
In addition, Oliveira absolutely should wrestle in this fight. He’s a strong takedown artist from both the clinch and waist, skilled enough to put Ferguson on his back. Even if he’s unable to dominate from there, top control could be the deciding factor.
This should be amazing.
Back when Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov seemed destined to collide, I was a believer in Ferguson’s chances of dethroning the great “Eagle.” Even given my fandom and belief in his skill set, it’s hard to enter this fight confidently after the Gaethje mauling. Plenty of fight fans have already completely written off Ferguson, which is a great example of how MMA is a “what have you done for me lately” sport.
Fair or not, Ferguson has something to prove in this bout. A win puts him right back in the title mix, while a loss likely ends those aspirations. It’s all on the line!
As for Oliveira, this is undoubtedly a huge opportunity, a chance to finally live up to his tremendous potential. That’s not to say Oliveira has performed poorly in UFC previously — far from it — but he’s the type of prospect many expected to emerge as champion. Instead, he’s run into several obstacles over the years, which ultimately has helped him develop further.
Oliveira is riding the best win streak of his career heading into his toughest challenge yet. This could be the moment he officially breaks into the title mix and secures his shot.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 256 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 256, Tony Ferguson and Charles Oliveira will collide in a Lightweight war with legendary potential. Which man will earn the victory?