MMA is a sport with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and not many fighters embody this saying better than Tony Ferguson. Though his career-high point somehow did not include fighting for or winning an undisputed title, Ferguson made up for it with an incredible 12 fight winning streak over six years in arguably the UFC’s best division. Now just days before his next fight, Ferguson faces circumstances few could have predicted for him just two years ago—a possible four-fight losing streak.
Ferguson is set to face off with Michael Chandler at UFC 274 in Phoenix, Arizona in a matchup that has captured the attention of MMA fans with many citing it as their most anticipated bout on the pay-per-view card. Both Ferguson and Chandler are entering the fight on losing streaks, making this fight massive for the trajectory of both athletes; especially Tony. At 38 years old, Ferguson is far from a spring chicken in the UFC lightweight division, and having taken heavy damage throughout his career there are questions surrounding Ferguson’s durability and how much he has left for the sport at an elite level.
But with that being said, it is important to remember just how good Ferguson is, and has been. He made his UFC debut in June of 2011 when he won The Ultimate Fighter following a first-round TKO of Ramsey Nijem. From there he won two more fights before losing a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson in mid-2012.
It was then that Tony would put together his unprecedented streak of 12 wins including victories over names like Anthony Pettis, Edson Barboza, and Rafael Dos Anjos. Not only did Tony win but he made his eccentric style and personality known, collecting nine performance of the night awards as well as nine finishes before being placed in a last-minute matchup with Justin Gaethje in May of 2020. It was then that everything changed for Tony.
Entering UFC 249, 70% of the Verdict Community predicted Ferguson would defeat Gaethje. Unfortunately for Tony, after two competitive rounds, Gaethje began to pull away, landing massive shots with great efficiency. Ferguson was ultimately stopped in the fifth round after taking heavy punishment from Gaethje. Immediately fans were concerned with the damage Ferguson had taken and how it would affect him going forward, but the loss was looked at as a hiccup for Tony who had been unbeatable to that point.
Ferguson’s next fight would come against the current UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira. The Verdict community thought Ferguson would bounce back against Do Bronx, with 72% predicting he would get the win. Ultimately Oliveira dominated Ferguson, controlling him for over eleven minutes while coming as close as one could to capturing the submission. After winning 12 in a row, Ferguson had now lost dominantly in back-to-back fights in two very different ways.
Ferguson’s most recent bout came in May of last year when he faced Beneil Dariush. Once again Tony was controlled for upwards of eleven minutes while also choosing not to tap to a deep heel hook in round number two. All three judges scored the contest 30-27 in favour of Dariush, making it the 10th round in a row Ferguson had lost on the Global Scorecard.
With the ever-dangerous Michael Chandler waiting for him, Ferguson knows how massive this fight is for him. Chandler provides a massive threat to anyone with his power, wrestling, and physicality. A win at UFC 274 would in all likelihood preserve Ferguson’s top 10 rankings and prove that he can still compete with the best lightweights in the world. A loss however would be devastating for Tony. It would mark the end of his top 10 aspirations and at 38, Ferguson’s UFC tenure could come to a close sooner than we think.
If there’s anything MMA fans have learned from Tony Ferguson over his 11 years in the UFC, it’s to never doubt ‘El Cucuy’. Whether it was returning from an LCL tear to TKO Anthony Pettis without proper rehabilitation or submitting Kevin Lee from his back in a title fight, Ferguson had overcome all odds on numerous occasions.
Regardless of the result this weekend, Tony Ferguson is a MMA legend who will be remembered forever as one of the greatest lightweights to ever step foot in the Octagon.