It wasn’t the Lightweight title fight most fans wanted, but unprecedented global circumstances forced a switch, pitting the best Lightweight fighter to never compete for a unified title, Tony Ferguson, opposite human highlight reel, Justin Gaethje, in the ESPN+streamed UFC 249 pay-per-view (PPV) event, which took place tonight (May 9, 2020) inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a matchmaker’s dream match up: there was no way in hell that the five-round interim 155-pound title bout would disappoint.
And it definitely didn’t, going 4.5 action-packed rounds, with both fighters putting it all on the line in a bloody back-and-forth war of attrition that Gaethje ultimately won after beating the pulp out of Ferguson, who literally would have rather died in the cage than have the referee save him from himself.
Both fighters touched gloves to get the action going, then Ferguson went into immediate weird moves mode. Gaethje went for a low kick off the bat, perhaps signaling a strategy. Ferguson moonwalked a but, did some funky spins, switch stances … then threw a combination that missed its mark. Gaethje connected with a short shot, but Ferguson scored with a nice low kick. Gaethje started to open up with hard punches, but didn’t seem to faze Ferguson. Both fighters connected with opposite hooks at the same time, with Ferguson following up with a creative, hard jab. Gaethje went back to the leg kicks, then a righthand/left hook combination that landed flush. Gaethje landed a short left hook behind Ferguson’s ear — then a straight shot down the middle - that bounce off Ferguson’s forehead. As the round came to a close, Gaethje landed a hard hook before they went to their respective corners.
Gaethje got the action started with another hard left hook, which Ferguson countered with a Superman punch. Gaethje once again found a home for that hard left hand, but Ferguson walked right threw it … then again. Gaethje with two hard low kicks that appeared to bother Ferguson — Gaethje putting everything together very well early on. Ferguson countered with a nice combination, still looking fresh despite eating numerous hard shots already. Gaethje with another hard left hook that Ferguson walks through … then a right / left combination … but he continued to move forward. Ferguson started to work the legs of Gaethje, who appears to beginning to tire as he’s hitting Ferguson with everything but the kitchen sink and he’s still there.Right at the end of the second round, Ferguson connected with a huge uppercut that floored Gaethje. He popped right up, but had it happened sooner in the round, he could have been in trouble.
Perhaps sensing blood in the water, Ferguson upped his aggression level to start the third round. Gaethje, once again, connected with a clean left hook, which immediately triggered a big mouse to form under Ferguson’s right eye. Ferguson also was dealing with a cut above his left eye, nevertheless, he continued to press forward. In doing so, he walked into a hard, straight right that wobbled him momentarily. Gaethje landed it again, then followed it up with a hard left hook, but Ferguson literally just asked for more. Ferguson connected with a rare leg sweep with less than one minute remaining, which Gaethje countered with a glancing head kick and then, you guessed it, a hard left hook that didn’t appear to affect Ferguson.
Heading into the championship rounds, Ferguson appeared to be down at least two — possibly all three — and had sustained considerably more damage. But, he still appeared to be the fresher fighter, continuing to press forward and walk into hard shots. Gaethje connected with more left hooks, then a low kick, which spun Ferguson around. Ferguson landed a solid front kick, then a right-left combination. Gaethje countered with a hard combination, then finished with another hard leg kick, and Ferguson was visibly wobbled. Not sure if it was from the punches or the kick, but something wasn’t right. But, moments later, he was seemingly back to normal, eating a hard right hook. Ferguson ripped a hard left hook to the body moments after a brief stoppage for an inadvertent low blow. Gaethje landed a leg kick that nearly took Ferguson off his feet, then a high kick at the bell.
Before the final round began, Gaethje’s cornerman warned him to not blow his big lead. Ferguson needed a stoppage and all Gaethje had to do was play it a little safer for just five minutes. Gaethje, though, came out firing, landing combinations that once again wobbled Ferguson — then the legs — as he appeared to be well on his way to an interim Lightweight title. He continued his assault, hurting Ferguson with another combination but, wisely, not rushing in for a finish. Midway through the final round, Gaethje was just landing at will, while Ferguson stumbled around the cage trying to mount a comeback … any kind of comeback. Gaethje stung him with a hard straight left hand and Ferguson reacted bizarrely — shaking his head and doing a “drunk kung fu thing,” according to Joe Rogan. Herb Dean took one look at him and called a stop to the fight, much to the displeasure of Ferguson.
What an amazing performance from Gaethje — he was composed, prepared and accurate. And when he had Ferguson in trouble, he didn’t foolishly rush in and make a mistake. He’s evolving into a smarter, more technical fighter, which is bad news for Khabib Nurmagomedov and Co.
Final Result: Gaethje defeats Ferguson via technical knockout in round five
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