Justin Gaethje had the performance of a lifetime at UFC 249, blasting Tony Ferguson with heavy shots for five rounds until the fight was stopped.
It’s hard to fathom how we got to this point. UFC 249, a month late, and minus Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The cursed fight, like something out of a Harry Potter novel, that just cannot happen. The looming shadow of a pandemic complicating matters.
Yet at the same time, Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje promised, on paper, to be a Fight of the Year candidate. The kind of match-making fans dream of. If Gaethje vs. Eddie Alvarez was for the All-Violence title, than surely this is the sequel.
So how did it all go down Saturday night? In the opening moments of round one Ferguson wasted little time to engage with Gaethje. It didn’t take long for Ferguson to begin his awkward movement. In under two minutes, Gaethje had already landed a few clean hooks on Ferguson. Gaethje landed two beautiful left hooks in the middle of the round, finding Ferguson but with little reaction from “El Cucuy.” Without the crowd, every punch landed in this round sounded like it would have ended a lesser man. Although Ferguson finished the round looking unscathed, Gaethje looked as clean as we have ever seen him as the round came to a close.
In round two, Ferguson landed a superman-like punch, while at the same time Gaethje also landed as both wobbled a bit. Gaethje, as he did in the first, landed his left hook at will on Ferguson. As pointed out by Cormier in the booth, Ferguson had looked unusually calm and not as active during the middle of the round. As the round ended it seemed as though all the punishment Gaethje threw was working in Ferguson’s favor. It caused a mental fight in Gaethje’s head: “how is he taking this punishment?” As the second round closed, Gaethje was wobbled by Ferguson who finished the round extremely strong.
Only minutes after Gaethje was caught with a huge uppercut by Ferguson, the battle continued. Ferguson had begun to find openings and land on Gaethje, stalking him. Gaethje had opened some cuts on the eyes of Ferguson from the vicious punishment received throughout the rounds. An absolute killer right hook stumbled Ferguson but he continued to stand with Gaethje. “The Highlight” landed a few more straight hooks. Ferguson used his unconventional leg sweep to play tricks on Gaethje and his footwork. An absolutely masterful round from Justin Gaethje, but both men saw a fourth round.
The championship rounds opened with a missed Ferguson wheel-kick attempt. Gaethje continued to throw bombs for left hooks as Ferguson continued to work through the punishment making it look like nothing. In the middle of the Monster Energy logo, Gaethje landed as clean a right hand as he had all night, and Ferguson was forced to wobble and jog away from the pressure of Gaethje, something we rarely see from Ferguson. 20 minutes down, five to go.
We reached the fifth and final round. As we had seen all night, Gaethje did more of the same in the start with some clean shots landed. A one-two combination again wobbled Ferguson with only three minutes remaining in the round. With less than two minutes to go in the round, a clean left jab landed and Ferguson was not in the right mindset. Herb Dean did his job perfectly and ended the fight in the fifth round.
It was the cleanest performance we have ever seen from Justin Gaethje in his career. A man that took down the boogeyman, stopped a 12-fight win streak, broke down the man one no one wanted in the lightweight division. Gaethje is ready for Khabib Nurmagomedov. He proved that tonight. Interim lightweight champion, much deserved.
Justin Gaethje def. Tony Ferguson by TKO (Punches) in Round 5 (3:39)