A fight that is more likely than any other I’ve covered so far in this series, is still super unlikely to ever been seen live in the flesh.
Two of the most enigmatic characters in MMA history. One is by far and away the biggest star the sport has ever seen, while the other is the wild man of his generation. Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson have crossed paths several times in the UFC Lightweight division, but it seems now likely that they’ll never actually meet in the Octagon.
McGregor is one of the most captivating stars in combat sports history. Boasting a record of 22-4, ‘Notorious’ is the first ever double champ in UFC history and is the only fighter to hold knockout victories across three different weight divisions (featherweight, lightweight and welterweight).
Ferguson though is as erratic as they come. ‘El Cucuy’ is a fascinating lightweight, having held the interim belt but never actually competed for the undisputed lightweight title in the UFC. With a record of 25-4, Ferguson went on a streak of 12 straight wins wins over guys like Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee, Rafael Dos Anjos and Edson Barboza.
While McGregor was champion at 155lbs, Ferguson and he seemed to be on a crash course to a title fight, with Ferguson famously calling out ‘McNuggets’ in post-fight interview in the Octagon. When Conor disappeared from the sport and vacated the title, it put ‘El Cucuy’ into a rivalry with Khabib Nurmagomedov for the strap. We all know how that went in the end and Ferguson is still without a genuine title shot.
Stylistically, it’s a bad match-up for Conor. Ferguson is an erratic striker with heavy hands, who has absolutely no problem taking the fight to the ground if needs be. With 8 wins by submission on his resumé, he’d probably look to get the fight down quickly where he can dominate.
McGregor is no slouch though. His takedown defence is impeccable as we’ve seen in the past and his striking is so technically brilliant that he seems to hurt everyone he fights. Both fighters are southpaw which would make it a bit harder for McGregor to land his patented power punch, but Tony has a tendency to walk forward with hands low.
Another issue for McGregor is his conditioning. We’ve seen it several times that he tends to punch himself out inside the first two rounds and struggles for stamina in the third and fourth. He usually finds a second win towards the end of the fight but someone like Ferguson, who never tires, could finish a fight before he got to that point.
Despite these advantages, Justin Gaethje showed the world that Tony Ferguson is human. More importantly, he is beatable. Gaethje’s boxing was too good for Ferguson and he hit too hard, eventually TKO’ing a bloody Ferguson. You could argue that Conor hits harder than Gaethje does and could potentially put Ferguson’s lights out. While he doesn’t have the wrestling background of Gaethje to put Ferguson off shooting for takedowns, ‘The Notorious’ is good enough defensively to hold off on being taken down and land his power shots early in the fight.
McGregor himself has shown that he has a decent chin too. He’s never been knocked out in his career and despite the famous knockdown he suffered in his grudge match with Khabib, he recovered quickly and even landed some nice shots of his own after it. Ferguson will definitely hit Conor and it’s how close he can get to him with his footwork that will be key in this fight.
If Ferguson can get close enough to initiate a clinch or takedown, then he has the skills to end this whenever he wants on the ground. He also has one of the most vicious ground-and-pound games in MMA if he wanted to inflict big damage on his opponent with elbows and punches. If he can’t though, McGregor most definitely has the power to knock Ferguson out with his legendary left hand.
I’m giving ‘El Cucuy’ the victory in this fantasy fight, via a 3rd round submission. I think the conditioning of the fighters will be huge here and when McGregor inevitably tires out as he always does, Ferguson will take advantage and secure a rear-naked choke victory.