With the Lightweight division being as wide open as it’s been in years, two top contenders are set to go to war. While not only sharing an uncanny resemblance; the two men share a lot of similar skills and accolades. Heart? Both men are as tough as nails. Grappling? Both submission threats. Striking? Both extremely dangerous on the feet. Accolades? Tony Ferguson previously held an outstanding win streak of 12 before his last bout against Gaethje; and Charles Oliveira? “Du Bronx” is currently riding a phenomenal 7 fight win streak. What does all of this mean, though? It means we’re in for a wild ride this Saturday! So strap in, and let me tell you everything you need to know!
Tony Ferguson is the type of guy…
“El Cucuy”, the Boogey Man. For many casual fans, you could be wondering: “What makes this guy so special?” Well, I could answer that methodically; describing all of his fights, feats, and skills. Or, I could paint you a picture. Let’s just go with that.
Imagine fighting a guy, hitting them with the kitchen sink, and then some to the point where the guy’s head is literally changing shape due to all the damage, and the guy’s just smiling at you. Not even breathing hard. On top of that, he’s walking you down. Like it’s just another walk in the park. The time keeps ticking, but he never gets tired. Did he just stoop down and throw imaginary sand? Yes, cause that’s Tony Ferguson ladies and gentlemen. Time and time again, I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity to write about this man, and I’m tasked with the momentous job; of explaining the quirks of such an enigmatic character.
See, it’s not the technique that sets this guy apart. Nor, is it the fearsome punching power. He’s not an unstoppable grappling force like Khabib. He’s just… Tony Ferguson. “El Cucuy” is unorthodox, unpredictable, un-breakable. This is what sets “The Boogeyman” apart.
While not the best in the world at any skill, in particular, I’d say “El Cucuy” is top tier everywhere. Everybody knows his grappling is unique and skillful. Tony loves shooting for that Imanari Roll. His D’arce and rear naked chokes are fearsome and have ended many a fight. While fighters like Kevin Lee have proved that, yes, you can take him down; he is a submission threat off the back. So that’s risky business for anyone looking to take that approach.
In fact, out of his 25 wins, Tony Ferguson has finished 20 fights. However, on paper, it’s the knockouts (12) that occur most often. While most of those KO/TKO’s occurred early in his career, he did finish Pettis (corner stoppage) and Cerrone in this manner. Not to mention, he nearly knocked out Justin Gaethje with an uppercut, and probably could’ve swarmed him to get the finish; had the bell not sounded mere seconds later.
No matter the end result though, “El Cucuy” participates in exciting fights. Here’s a long list of stats to give my statement some validity; 6x Fight of the Night recipient, 1x KO and Sub of the night award, 3x Performance of the Night winner. Tony Ferguson doesn’t know how to have a boring fight.
Before we move on though, let’s touch on his stand-up game. Tony Ferguson is a versatile striker. What does that mean? It means he throws a lot of different strikes. For example; one of his favorite combos; the 1,2, into a calf kick. Simple, effective, and elegant. The problem with Ferguson is his technique is just not there all the way. When throwing his strikes, he fails to get his head off the centerline enough; resulting in taking a lot of shots and counters. I mean, a lot too. Alas, this man’s got a hell of a chin though; so he’s able to get away with that lack of fundamentals.
You probably already know about Tony Ferguson’s elbows, but in case you don’t; just know that they’re razor-sharp. He uses them as an instrument of destruction to annihilate his opponent’s faces. Basically, don’t be surprised if we see him cut Charles up a bit with ‘em.
Tony Ferguson from an alternate dimension; meet Charles Oliveira
While I’m having a lot of fun with this one, don’t get it confused. These two men are complete animals, and we’re in store for some fireworks. I’ll lay down some back story for “Du Bronx”, as he’s the lesser-known of the two.
At 31, we’re seeing this Brazilian prospect starting to come into his own. While always a submission threat, we’re starting to see his striking actually catch up, which is scary. If you know how dangerous his grappling is. Coming off a victory over Kevin Lee via guillotine, the two wins prior to that were KO/TKO’s. The young man also holds some records. Including most submissions in UFC history (14) and is tied for most finishes (16). In case none of that impresses you, did I mention he’s also the owner of 16 ends of the night bonuses? Including 10 performance bonuses, which is another UFC record.
Now, now, I know what you could be thinking. “Oh, he’s probably been fighting nobodies; so it’s easy to look impressive,” to that, I would respond with laughter. Here’s a long list of some notable wins, in order of occurrence from oldest to most recent; Darren Elkins via sub, Jeremy Stephens via decision, Nik Lentz via sub, Myles Jury via sub, Clay Guida via sub, Jim Miller via sub, Nik Lentz again this time via TKO, Jared Gordon via KO, and last but not least: Kevin Lee. Oh, in case you didn’t know, this was like Super-Saiyan level Lee as well. As he was just coming off arguably the best knockout of his career against Gregor Gillespie.
So, you should know by now that “Du Bronx” is a submission specialist, who’s really improved on that striking. Expect him to be more technical then Tony on the feet, and maybe start off the first round hot; landing volume. Charles is well-rounded on the feet, throwing some decent boxing combos, paired with some nice kicks. On paper, he’s the more accurate striker; however, I chalk this up to the wild strikes Tony throws and misses a lot; like his spinning attacks and wild off-the-cage punches.
Keys to Victory
For “El Cucuy”, this is a much-needed win right here. Not only is he coming off a loss for the first time in 8 years, but another loss here and it could send him deep down that ladder. The first key: controlling the fight. We need to see that awe-inspiring Tony Ferguson pressure right here. “El Cucuy” needs to control the middle of the octagon, and smother “Du Bronx”. This, I believe, will make it a contest of wills. Who will last longer? In my opinion, Tony Ferguson will have the better cardio and endurance in general; so wearing down Oliveira will do great at dulling the sharpness of this razor-edge prospect.
The second key: stay off the ground. While It almost pains me to say this, I’d like to see Ferguson keep this one standing. In fact, the only time I think he will find success grappling with Oliveira is when sprawling/scrambling out of a takedown. I could really see Tony Ferguson locking up a D’arce choke in the midst of a hectic scramble, but other than that; I just don’t see any reason to try and grapple with “Du Bronx”. Much safer to stand and strike with him, besides, Tony’s got experience on his side; and the fact that he’s extremely unpredictable.
Which leads me to my last key: Make Adjustments! This one really stems from that last fight against Gaethje! While taking Justin down is a prospect only Khabib has really achieved/done well, I would’ve loved to see “El Cucuy” attempt to get the fight there. Yes, he tried for the imanari roll, but it was horribly timed. What happened to Tony Ferguson who almost got knocked out by Pettis; so he started doing somersaults around the cage? That is Tony Ferguson we need to see. The guy that’s almost impossible to prepare for, because he’s so darn wild. Not the guy that comes forward like a zombie, throwing the same combos and eating the same punches.
For “Du Bronx”, this is his big chance. You beat Tony Ferguson, and you’re right there in line for the title, or at least a #1 contenders match. So, how could he beat Tony Ferguson? Here are some keys to helping achieve such a feat. #1: Setting a manageable pace. Why is this so important? Well, when fighting a cardio freak such as “El Cucuy”, the last thing Charles Oliveira wants to do is gas out. How can he do this? It goes back to the whole “controlling the fight” key I previously had for Tony Ferguson. If Charles can dictate the action and sets a pace he can keep for 3 rounds; then that cardio advantage is negated. As we saw in the Gaethje fight.
My next key: be prepared for the unexpected. I know, I’m really hitting it out of the ballpark with these. Anyway, this is serious though. When facing somebody like Ferguson, who’s essentially made a career off being this wild, un-predictable fighter; I would study the moves he tries to take his opponents by surprise. For example; his spinning attacks, imanari roll, and punches off the cage. If I was Oliveira’s coaches, I’d be searching for indications that Tony’s about to pull a move like this; and have Charles trained to be spot and be ready for these. It’s an obvious factor that comes with the territory of fighting “El Cucuy”, but very pivotal.
Last but not least, I believe a key to victory will be testing Tony Ferguson on the ground. What does this mean/look like? It can be something as simple as engaging in a clinch. Now now, you might be thinking: “What does that have to do with the ground?” Well, it actually has a good bit to do with that. If “Du Bronx” can clinch Tony and feel him out, he can discern whether or not he has a strength advantage. Which can actually prove pivotal on the ground; when both fighters are very closely skilled. I’d like to see Charles shoot for a takedown as well sometime in the first round, just to see if he can take the fight down there or not. It’s best to find these things out early, and adjust accordingly as the fight goes on.
So! The battle of twitter light and dark mode shall commence soon (If you get it, you get it… inside meme joke). Anyway, this match is really a gift from the matchmakers! It’s not Tony vs. Poirier, or Tony vs. Khabib, but this matchup is really just as special; in my opinion.
Both fighters look pretty even on paper, even if Oliveira looks to have a slight grappling advantage. The way these things go though, paper almost means nothing. So what do I think happens? I think this all really depends on “El Cucuy”. How does he take that loss? Has his chin become compromised from so much damage? Does he return to his former, un-predictable and elusive self? I’ve gotta say that he does. I believe Tony impresses Saturday night, in a big way. I could be wrong, but I simply can’t pick against him. Tony Ferguson via submission, first round!
Featured Image Credits To Embed from Getty Images
Featured Image Credits To Embed from Getty Images
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