Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight talents Beneil Dariush and Tony Ferguson will collide this weekend (Sat., May 15, 2021) at UFC 262 inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Dariush was closing in on a title shot back in 2016 before a winless run (0-2-1) saw his chin and conditioning called into question. He’s since proven any who have written him off very wrong, returning to the ranks and demonstrating noticeable improvement in just about every area. Little more than one year ago, Ferguson was riding a record-setting win streak, viewed as perhaps the only man who could dethrone Khabib Nurmagomedov. The game catches up to everyone eventually, however, as the 37-year-old scrapper instead took a pair of dominant losses that have thrown his future and place in the division into chaos.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Carlos Diego Ferreira (UFC Vegas 18), Drakkar Klose (UFC 248), Rashid Magomedov (UFC Fight Night 98), Drew Dober (UFC Fight Night 146), James Vick (UFC 199)
Key Losses: Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 106), Alexander Hernandez (UFC 222), Michael Chiesa (UFC on FOX 19)
Keys to Victory: Dariush can really do it all. He’s something of a jiu-jitsu prodigy, but Dariush has never struggled to implement his takedowns like many others without a wrestling background. In addition, the Southpaw is a brutal offensive force, able to do major damage with all of his left-side weapons.
Ferguson was able to get away with doing lots of weird techniques over the years on the strength of his athleticism, pace, and scrambling. Against Charles Oliveira, however, Ferguson looked far more ordinary from his back, failing to offer the jiu-jitsu black belt all that much resistance on the mat.
Dariush has the same skills to drag Ferguson down to the mat and contain him. Like Oliveira, Dariush would be best-advised to go on the offensive early, rather than allow “El Cucuy” to find his rhythm. If Dariush’s left hand/left kick are landing, he’ll likely be able to follow those strikes with takedowns.
Once on the mat, Dariush should look to pass when Ferguson climbs his guard high. Sneaky rolling d’arce aside, no one is that dangerous on the bottom in side control.
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), Charles Oliveira (UFC 256), Michael Johnson (UFC on FOX 3)
Keys to Victory: Ferguson definitely appears to have fallen off, but that doesn’t mean “El Cucuy” is incompetent. He’s still a whirlwind of violence with lots of tricks up his sleeves, and hopefully a revamped training camp will help Ferguson turn back the clock.
First and foremost, Ferguson has to make a really committed effort to stop the takedown. Against Oliveira, he barely sprawled, trusting his scrambling and jiu-jitsu to win him the fight ... until it didn’t. Any time Dariush changes levels or attacks the body lock, Ferguson has to revert back to his high school wrestling days in a full-out effort to deny his foe the takedown.
Jiu-jitsu is the back up plan, not the first layer of defense.
This would also be a great match up for the return of Ferguson’s front kick. Again, he wants to stop the takedown, and a stiff strike up the middle is an ideal deterrent. Pace and volume are already advantages for Ferguson, and those edges only grow if he’s consistently stabbing the ball of his foot into Dariush’s mid-section.
The stakes are incredibly high.
Dariush may be cognizant of the fact that the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor is ahead of him for a title shot, but he’s still likely closer to the belt than ever before. If the 32 year old is victorious here, it sets him up for a likely title eliminator bout next, perhaps against someone along the lines of Justin Gaethje?
As for Ferguson, it’s very clear that his back is against the wall. If there’s even the slightest chance that Ferguson can return to the title mix, he absolutely has to win this fight and end the bleeding. If not, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if Ferguson were released, given the talent-rich nature of the Lightweight division and UFC’s increased willingness to to cut expensive older fighters.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 262 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/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 262, Beneil Dariush and Tony Ferguson will square off in the co-main event. Which man earns the victory?