Lost in what will go down as one of the most exciting and significant months in UFC history is Tony Ferguson and his ascension atop the lightweight division.
TUF alumnus are usually viewed as more miss than hit, however the same cannot be expressed when evaluating Ferguson’s development from striker friendly 170 pounder to unconventional flashy high output jiu jitsu kick boxer. At 32-years of age, Ferguson’s last performance was his best yet against former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, who spent most of the 25 minutes on the end of El Cucuy’s punches. The size advantage and unpredictable nature of Ferguson’s counter striking left dos Anjos’ puzzled and in search for answers.
Coming off a recent TKO loss against Eddie Alvarez, dos Anjos’ signature forward pressure was missing in action, instead Ferguson led the dance and produced an output that aside from round one, outnumbered dos Anjos’.
Absent in dos Anjos’ game were his leg kicks and take downs due in large part to Ferguson’s understanding of range and long limbs. While dos Anjos’ held the advantage in speed and octagon experience, it was Ferguson who comfortably ate the former champion’s best shots on the chin while appearing as fresh as a daisy from start to finish.
There was some controversy around the three minute mark of round two in the form of an unintentional eye poke to dos Anjos’ left eye, which was originally ignored by referee Herb Dean. From that point, the tide appeared to turn in the favor of “El Cucuy” as his left hand jab peppered dos Anjos’ right eye repeatedly drawing blood. The consistent straight punch attack began connecting to the nose and even hurt dos Anjos at one point who appeared content with remaining in the center line.
Ferguson’s performance while impressive did reveal flaws, most notably keeping his chin up high, content with rolling with punches and eating some in occasion. His lack of noise in his post fight speech was also followed by criticism, but make no mistake about it actions speak louder than words especially when you possess a fan favorite style and possess a nine fight winning streak. Ferguson’s lofty goals of earning championships in the featherweight, lightweight and even welterweight division shows spectators of where his head is at, but his firm stance on remaining active over winning a title can be his own undoing.
Following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s dominant performance over Michael Johnson at UFC 205, it’s difficult to tell which of the two is deserving of the next title just as it’s difficult to tell if either man will be granted the shot. Whatever the case is won’t seem to effect Ferguson too much as he remains hell bent on putting the lightweight division on notice by cementing his arrival as one of the best to do battle.