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UFC 279 Co-Main Event Breakdown

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MMA‘s top promotion, the UFC, is back in action for the second of three straight weekends of action this Saturday night. This week, the famed Octagon arrives in its de facto home venue, Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena for UFC 279 on ESPN+ pay-per-view (main card Saturday at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT.)

Barring any late postponements between now and fight night, UFC 279 will feature a 13-fight card, highlighted by two showcase bouts at 170 lbs., beginning with the UFC 279 co-main event.

Li Jingliang Meets Tony Ferguson in UFC 279 Co-Main Event

The first half of your welterweight doubleheader sees No. 14 contender Li Jingliang (19-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC) step inside the cage against No. 11 contender Tony Ferguson (25-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC) in Saturday’s co-headlining bout.

Being a nontitle affair, the UFC 279 co-main event will be an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round on Saturday.

UFC 279 Co-Main Event Fighter Breakdown

Entering Saturday night’s co-headliner, Li Jingliang stands as the taller man at six feet even, compared to the 5-foot-11 frame of Tony Ferguson. Tony Ferguson gains some separation with his opponent in the reach advantage category, to the tune of five inches (76 1/2 inches to 71 1/2 inches) over Li Jingliang, while both men stand level in leg reach (40 1/2 inches apiece.)

Li Jingliang Respectful of Tony Ferguson as Opponent Choice for UFC 279 Co-Main Event

Li Jingliang comes into the UFC 279 co-main event this weekend having gone 3-2 in his last five MMA appearances, including a second-round knockout (right cross followed by ground and pound shots) less than two months ago in UFC on ABC 3 versus Muslim Salikhov (18-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) from Long Island.

However, the fact that he’s been booked to fight Tony Ferguson, a man who’s dropped four straight fights under the UFC banner after winning 12 in a row dating back to the fall of 2013, was a decision by the promotion’s matchmakers that left many puzzled.

At the same time, Jingliang had kind words to say about his adversary in the Octagon this weekend, as he told MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn in an Aug. 29 interview.

“For the people who say it like that- Tony Ferguson, four losses in a row, never fought at welterweight- you forget who he is,” Jingliang began. “He is Tony Ferguson. You forgot all those people whose face got cut by Tony Ferguson. Amazing fighters were choked by him. You should give credit to him. I believe if you fight against him, you would know how hard to deal with a guy like ‘El Cucuy’ is.”

A notable storyline heading into the UFC 279 co-main event is the fact that it’ll be a quick turnaround for the Jingliang camp, as this fight was officially agreed upon with three weeks’ notice (Jingliang himself was approached for the fight just a few hours before the official announcement) and their fighter just won back in the middle of July.

What kind of effect will the short camp have on Li Jingliang? Tune into the UFC 279 co-main event and find out.

Tony Ferguson Looks to Stop the Skid

In the other corner, Tony Ferguson enters the UFC 279 co-main event having gone 1-4 in his last five fights and is currently on a four-fight losing streak, which was extended on May 7 (first-round knockout due to a front kick to the face) against Michael Chandler (22-7 MMA, 2-2 UFC) at UFC 274.

For “El Cucuy”, this fight is noteworthy because it’s his first at 170 lbs. since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter live finale in June of 2011, having competed exclusively at lightweight ever since.

The UFC 279 co-main event is also crucial for him, given the fact that he’s been defeated four times in succession on the heels of a 12-fight winning streak between October of 2013 and June of 2019.

Ahead of the fight, Ferguson spoke to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, where he gave a rather blunt reasoning for the move to the welterweight division.

“Because I’m fat,” Ferguson said. “Just having fun, enjoying my time here at 170. Obviously, after the fight for Chandler, I had two months on vacation, so I went straight to the lifting room, took some weight-gaining and proteins, kept really up to it with that, changed in the protein, some supplements, and I put in the effort, man. We made it functional.”

He took on the animated, jovial approach to the interview while noting his 14-2 record at 170 lbs. and the fact that his relationship with the promotion hasn’t strained with his losing streak, but the time for serious business approaches.

Will Ferguson be able to end his losing streak?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the UFC 279 co-main event looks to favor Tony Ferguson, a wrestler with a black belt in 10th Planet jiu-jitsu, an offshoot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, with Li Jingliang countering with a black belt in BJJ.

Watch For Li Jingliang’s Punches

One aspect of Li Jingliang’s fight game that shows up on video is his ability to throw and land the big shot, as he did versus Salikhov in his last fight. Although Muslim Salikhov opened the second round by dropping Jingliang with a right-handed punch, he was able to get back up to his feet right away, peppering Salikhov with a leg kick for good measure. During the round, both fighters traded punches and briefly engaged in the clinch before Salikhov punched his way out, but his punches were few and far between.

At one point in the fight, Jon Anik mentioned that Muslim Salikhov only landed his punches at a 30 percent accuracy rate. Li Jingliang later scored a takedown and briefly established top control with ground and pound shots before he stood back up, taking advantage of a now-gassed Salikhov by landing punches, and with about a minute to go in the period, wobbled him with a right-handed punch, which he continued to land en route to the knockout.

If Li Jingliang can stun Tony Ferguson with right-handed shots, the UFC 279 co-main event will be his.

Tony Ferguson Can Be Vicious With Submissions

In the other corner, Tony Ferguson has been known to be intense with his grappling game, which he was in 2015 during his fight against Gleison Tibau. Even though this fight was slated for three rounds at five minutes per round to open the UFC 184 pay-per-view main card, Ferguson needed less than one to get the show started in a big way.

For as briefly as this fight lasted, he was able to overpower Tibau with punches thanks to his six-inch reach advantage, including a brilliant sequence less than two minutes into the bout.

Ferguson wobbled Tibau with a right-handed shot and then took him down, grappling him and landing ground and pound shots.

It was all over but the shouting from there, with Ferguson taking Tibau’s back, rolling over and securing the rear-naked choke, so if he can wobble Li Jingliang even once, it could be the opening he needs to get off the skid,

Final Thoughts

On paper, the UFC 279 co-main event looks to be an impressive contest, so make your fridge run before the fight starts.

You won’t want to miss anything.

Prediction: Tony Ferguson by Unanimous Decision.

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