Tony Ferguson’s glittering career was hitting its apex early 2013, as the unorthodox fighter had left a trail of opponents in his rear mirror. The Californian native was tipped to dethrone the very best in the sport and his reign seemed untouchable.
Fans believed that Tony Ferguson was the man to tear down Khabib Nurmagomedov’s 29-0 record, the fighter who would pick apart the indestructible Dagestani warhorse. But the fight was shelved last April due to the worldwide pandemic and Ferguson looked towards his next challenge.
Tony Ferguson’s Unbeaten Run
Tony Ferguson was regarded as one of the best MMA fighters in the world for several years, dispatching a plethora of top opponents from 2012 to 2020. Some of the names include Edson Barboza, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Lando Vannata and many others.
Ferguson’s unconventional and radical fight style has catapulted the American to the upper echelons of the sport and the MMA fighter is in possession of a lucrative weapon to nullify opponents in the octagon. One of the main reasons Ferguson took the Khabib fight was because of the fan’s belief that this was the man to topple the giant in Khabib.
It was evident that “El Cucuy” was a man on a mission to eradicate every fighter at 155 pounds, and the man did just that, stringing together perhaps the most impressive win streak in the UFC.
El Cucuy is Born
Ferguson made his way into the UFC off the back of the Ultimate Fighter Season 13 where he was under the coaching of Brock Lesnar. The American finished off all his opponents in the tournament even putting Ramsey Nijem to the sword in the final, who he flattened and finished in the first round.
Ferguson’s only hurdle in his career was when he lost to a resilient Michael Johnson on May 5th, 2012. He lost by unanimous decision and went on to secure his impressive 12-win streak thereafter.
To highlight a few of Tony’s best performances, the best place to start is when he brushed Josh Thompson aside at UFC Fight Night, later that year dismantling a battle-hardened Edson Barboza.
Gaethje Extinguishes Ferguson’s Fire
Ferguson waded into UFC 249 as a heavy favorite but it seemed that Justin Gaethje had other ideas. Gaethje produced a masterclass to score an impressive knockout over UFC veteran Ferguson.
“El Cucuy’s” 12-win streak was swiftly put to an end as Gaethje peppered the striker with a myriad of punches and landed thunderous hooks before referee Herb Dean ended the fight late in the fifth round. Gaethje constructed a fight showcase and had Ferguson shell-shocked from the third round onwards. Ferguson clearly struggled throughout the fight and Gaethje exercised his superior boxing skills leaving Ferguson in a world of trouble before the fight was called.
Gaethje secured the interim lightweight belt that evening and was then next in line to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight crown stating “I’ll wait for the real one” as he tossed aside the belt.
Oliveira Shows Ferguson the Door
Tony Ferguson’s real shot at redemption was to brush aside Charles Oliveira at UFC 256. Tony Ferguson was the clear favorite in the spread betting on UFC, but somehow fell short and suffered defeat to the Brazilian.
Oliveira demonstrated he had more in his locker than Ferguson and dominated the contest throughout. The Brazilian proved that he was far superior in the striking department, wrestling on the canvas and all-round fitness.
Ferguson was clearly outclassed in the grappling department and survived a brutal armbar attempt in the first round. The fight quickly became a battle of the fists as Oliveira worked to dominate the center of the eight walls of death. “Don Bronx” took it to the former interim champion from the opening bell, refusing Ferguson any breathing room.
Many felt that Ferguson would have stepped into this contest reenergized and be the “Cucuy” of old after getting battered by Justin Gaethje last May. Simply, Ferguson was not at the races and Dana White even touched on the possibility that Ferguson’s best days inside the Octagon were past him.
Tony Ferguson fell short to the Brazilian losing via unanimous decision but still showed some hunger and fight after the bout.
Ferguson’s Future Looms
While Ferguson tasted defeat, it was not that Ferguson did much wrong, it’s what Oliveira did right. Oliveira sent a message to the world after inflicting defeat on Ferguson, that he does belong to the best 155-pound fighters on the planet.
It seems the wheels have come off for Ferguson but still the opinion that the American has passed his prime is hard to swallow. Ferguson’s two losses have come against two of the very best, and losing to Gaethje and Oliveira is nothing to hang your head in shame over.
That being said, the fact still remains that “El Cucuy” will have a mountain of pressure riding on his next fight. The former champ will likely take White’s advice and take an extended break in order to try to get back to his former fitness and what brought him to the very top. The man is still a Top 5 Lightweight, so when he does return, he deserves to fight the very best in the weight division.