UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje (TV: ESPN, ESPN + PPV)
Saturday, May 9th, Prelims 6:00 PM ET ESPN, Main Card 10:00 PM ET ESPN + PPV, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena (Jacksonville, Florida)
Heavyweight Fight: Francis Ngannou (14-3) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0)
Fight odds: Francis Ngannou -280 Jairzinho Rozenstruik +230
Bantamweight Title Fight: Henry Cejudo (15-2) vs. Dominick Cruz (22-2)
Fight odds: Henry Cejudo -240 Dominick Cruz +190
Interim Lightweight Title Fight: Tony Ferguson (26-3) vs. Justin Gaethje (21-2)
Fight odds: Tony Ferguson -175 Justin Gaethje +145
The UFC will take the lead in the sports world as it will hold the first major sporting event (UFC 249) since sports went on hiatus in March because of the novel coronavirus. The UFC has been steadfast in its goal of continuing to put on events even in the midst of this pandemic. UFC 249 was originally scheduled for April, but ultimately got cancelled. Of course there are risks involved in putting on fights during this uncertain time, but if the proper safety measures are put in place then UFC 249 would be an example of how sports can come back successfully.
Fight fans will no longer only have old fights to watch, there will finally be live fights on ESPN and ESPN + PPV on May 9th from Jacksonville, Florida. If everything goes well, then expect the UFC to continue putting on events. UFC 249 is a stacked card featuring some of the most exciting fighters in the sport. Training for this fight must be challenging for the fighters because of social distancing and not being able to get the proper sparring. Nonetheless, expect some great fights and some knockouts.
The third fight on the card features two heavyweight destroyers in Francis Ngannou against Jairzinho Rozenstruik. This fight was originally scheduled to headline a card on March 28th, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus. Both these fighters have the potential to become the UFC heavyweight champion and this will be a good test to see who is truly the superior knockout artist. Ngannou has more experience than his opponent with a 14-3 record and 10 of those wins coming by knockout. Ngannou is coming off a 1st Round TKO win over Junior Dos Santos in June of 2019. After back to back unanimous decision losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis in 2018, Ngannou rebounded well having won his last three fights by 1st Round knockout. This fight could end quickly as well because Ngannou has absolute dynamite in his fists.
Ngannou is 33 and a behemoth of a man standing at 6’4, 258 lbs with an 83 inch reach. An intimidating force inside the octagon, Ngannou only needs one punch to end the fight. Ngannou isn’t much of a wrestler, but usually doesn’t need it because of his accurate punching. Opponents of Ngannou have to be wary of his fast hands because he is one of the most lethal punchers in the sport. Ngannou doesn’t have the best fundamentals and can struggle with stamina if the fight does go the full distance. But, his strengths usually outweigh his weaknesses as he continues to improve in each fight.
His opponent, Rozenstruik comes from a kickboxing background and has proven to be an even more accurate striker than Ngannou early on in his career. Rozenstruik is undefeated at 10-0, with 9 wins coming by knockout. Rozenstruik is an adept striker that can knock out opponents while coming forward or retreating backwards. An example of him retreating to get a knockout was against Andrei Arlovski. Rosenstruik backed up as Arlovski came forward and with expert precision and timing, Rozenstruik landed a beautiful left hook that quickly ended the fight after only 29 seconds. This shows Rozenstruik has unbelievable spatial awareness and moves exceptionally well for an athlete of his size.
Rozenstruik is already one of the most feared heavyweights after only 4 fights in the UFC. Rozenstruik should have the foot speed advantage against Ngannou, but will have to overcome Ngannou’s his height and reach advantages. Rozenstruik is 32, 6’2 and 242 lbs. with a 78 inch reach. This fight will come down to which fighter can make less mistakes, because both these athletes are able to take full advantage of their opponents’ mistakes and quickly end the fight. It should be a great fight with the edge going to Ngannou because of experience and size advantages.
The Co-Main Event will feature a Bantamweight Title fight between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz. Cruz is widely considered one of the best bantamweights of all time, if not the best and a win against the current champion, Cejudo would do a lot for his legacy. Cruz hasn’t fought since December of 2016 because of injuries and is not taking a tune up fight in his return to the octagon. Cruz is a very difficult fighter to prepare for because of his unorthodox lateral movement that keeps his opponents guessing and often gives him an edge in the fight. Not only is Cruz a unique striker, he is also an expert wrestler that can get the job done on the feet or on the ground. Cruz has a 22-2 record, with 13 wins coming by decision.
Cruz is coming off a long layoff and lost his most recent fight to Cody Garbrandt by unanimous decision. Garbrandt put on an impressive performance as he out-landed Cruz and looked to have the speed and size advantages. There is the question of how Cruz will look after being out of the octagon for so long, but if he is truly fit and ready to go there shouldn’t be too much ring rust. Cejudo didn’t become the double champion (125 and 135 lbs.) by luck, he’s done it with fierce determination, relentless wrestling and explosive striking. Since losing to Joseph Benavidez by split decision in 2016, Cejudo has been undefeated. In his last three fights he beat two former champions in the great Demetrious Johnson by split decision and then went on to get a 1st Round TKO over T.J. Dillashaw and most recently beat Marlon Moraes by 3rd Round TKO in June of 2019.
Cejudo has vacated his Flyweight Title (125 lbs.) and is now fully focused on defending his Bantamweight Title (135 lbs.) against the legendary Dominick Cruz. Cejudo has never fought anyone who moves like Cruz and will need to study his footwork in order to better prepare for the fight. Cruz may look like a shell of his former self, but if he is up to the task there is a decent chance he pulls off the upset and gets a decision win against Cejudo. The key for Cruz will be to stay away from Cejudo’s powerful striking attacks and keep him off balance with his lateral movement and feints. Beating Cejudo after not fighting since 2016 would be quite the accomplishment for the older Cruz who is 35, 5’8 and 135 lbs. with a 68 inch reach. Cejudo is 33, 5’4 and 135 lbs. with a 64 inch reach. The fighter that can control the pace and the distance for a majority of the fight should win and it seems like Cruz has the edge in that facet of the fight game.
The Main Event will feature two absolute savages in Tony Ferguson against Justin Gaethje for the Interim Lightweight Title. These are two of the most violent and exciting fighters in the sport. Gaethje is not afraid to take a little punishment to dish out his own knockout power. Ferguson uses relentless pressure and pace to overwhelm his opponents until the fight is stopped. Ferguson never stops moving and has great stamina seemingly never getting tired. It is unlikely that Gaethje can keep up with Ferguson’s pace and unless he lands a big knockout shot, it’ll be a long night for the aggressive Gaethje.
Ferguson is undefeated since 2012 and is coming off a 2nd Round TKO win over Donald Cerrone in June of 2019. Ferguson is 26-3 with 12 wins by knockout and 9 by submission. It’s unlikely that Ferguson takes this fight to the ground, but if he does he should have the advantage there as well being a skilled submission grappler. Ferguson is one the best boxers in the sport and uses his fast hands to keep opponents on the defensive. Both these fighters like to come forward, so expect a lot of action and mostly likely a stoppage victory for Ferguson.
Gaethje is 21-2, with 18 wins coming by knockout. After losing to Dustin Poirier in 2018, Gaethje has won 3 straight fights and all by 1st Round KO. Gaethje is coming off a 1st Round TKO victory over Donald Cerrone in September of 2019. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the current Lightweight Champion (155 lbs.) awaits the winner of this fight. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were scheduled to fight in April, but it looks like it’ll be one more tune up fight for Ferguson before he gets to challenge for the Lightweight Title against the greatest grappler that the UFC has ever seen in Nurmagomedov. Ferguson is 36, 5’11 and 155 lbs. with a 76.5 inch reach. Gaethje is 31, 5’11 and 155 lbs. with a 70 inch reach. The reach and stamina advantages for Ferguson should allow him to dictate the distance and overwhelm Gaethje until a stoppage is reached. This is a strong fight card with some interesting prelim bouts so make sure to tune in for a great night of fights. The UFC is back and hopefully more sports will follow their lead.