Tony Ferguson is looking to keep his place amongst the best in the lightweight division while Beneil Dariush seeks a career breakthrough at UFC 262.
— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2020
Almost a year ago to the day, Tony Ferguson was the 1B to the lightweight division’s 1A: Khabib Nurmagomedov. Riding a 12 fight win-streak, his unorthodox attack and unbelievable durability had many wondering if he possessed the magic recipe necessary to finally break the streak of “The Eagle.”
The turn of events since then has been brutal to say the least. After the fight with Nurmagomedov disintegrated for the fifth time, Ferguson took on the challenge of surging contender Justin Gaethje last May and was battered for the majority of 25 minutes before the bout was stopped. His win-streak snapped, Ferguson regrouped in December to take on current title challenger Charles Oliveira. Though not as damage inducing, “El Cucuy” was shut out once again for 15 minutes in a performance that brought the momentum he had built over the past seven years to a complete halt. Previously considered by many to be an uncrowned king after never having lost the interim title, he was now firmly on the outside looking in at the title picture.
If last December’s bout was critical for Ferguson, then this Saturday’s bout is a must-win. At 37 years old, he remains one of the UFC’s most popular and recognizable fighters who could bring plenty to the table promotion-wise against the division’s best. In a weight class known for frequent turnover, a last chance at gold is not out of the question. But at his current age, another loss could mark the end of his time amongst the elite after one of the most impressive streaks of the past decade.
Put him out! 😴
Will @BeneilDariush notch his 7️⃣th-straight victory this Saturday?
— UFC (@ufc) May 11, 2021
A veteran of the UFC since 2014, Beneil Dariush has never been in the conversations that involve names like Conor McGregor, Khabib, Dustin Poirier, and most of the other stars that have rotated near the top. It is somewhat surprising when you take into account that he has had both a five and six fight win-streak and has scored a finish in eight of his fourteen UFC victories. He has entered the cage with veterans such as Michael Chiesa, Michael Johnson, Diego Ferreira, and Drew Dober. Currently, his six fight win-streak is amongst the longest in the division and is his best since being a part of the UFC.
How has Dariush flown under the radar? He is not known for taking the microphone with bravado for one. His 2-3-1 skid in 2016 hurt his stock at a time when stars like McGregor, Khabib, and Ferguson were approaching the peak of their popularity. That said, he may well be surging at at the perfect time. Should everything hold as expected, the lightweight title picture will be sorted out by year’s end. With a victory, he will be on a seven fight win-streak and knocking on the door of a title shot if he can get booked against another high profile opponent.
The key to a Ferguson victory will be to use forward pressure to keep Dariush on his heels. Ferguson should use his physicality to stay in the face of Dariush and work the body over the course of the fight. By comparison, Dariush should be patient and pick his spots against wild attack of Ferguson. If there is one issue Ferguson has had, it is that his attack frequently leaves openings. Dariush should take advantage trying to meet him with more volume and by varying his attack with takedowns in order to disrupt Ferguson’s rhythm.
We're ready for this co-main 🔥
— UFC (@ufc) May 14, 2021
A victory for Dariush could set up a collision with former interim champion Justin Gaethje who is likely to be shut out of the title picture in 2021 with all of the match-ups that are expected to take place. A victory for Ferguson could see him take on rising contender Islam Makhachev, a longtime teammate of Ferguson’s rival Khabib Nurmagomedov and an opponent whom could push Ferguson back towards the title picture.