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Tony Ferguson faces pivotal matchup at UFC 256, results could determine future in the sport

Photo: USA today

UFC veteran Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson will enter the Octagon against Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 on Saturday, Dec. 12.

After coming off a heartbreaking loss against Justin Gaethje for the UFC Lightweight Interim belt back in May, Ferguson is hoping to add to the win column for the first time since June of last year. Despite going 18 months without a victory, his loss to Gaethje was his first since 2012 and ended a long reign as a Lightweight giant.

Ferguson is known for crazy takedown attempts, an unconventional style, and uncanny ability to take damage. However, some are starting to question if and when that damage is going to catch up with El Cucuy.

At UFC 249, Gaethje landed 143 significant strikes and 100 of them contacted Ferguson’s head. As someone who is known for their explosive power, boxing with Gaethje is a gamble. It proved to be a gamble that Ferguson was willing to take and it worked out in Gaethje’s favor.

Ferguson’s innovative takedown strategies came far too late as he was already beaten down by the time they were attempted. If Ferguson were to drop this next bout, there would be serious questions as to how much longer Ferguson can stay in the Octagon.

As for Oliveira, he is harboring a 7-fight win streak with his last loss coming in 2017. His last win came in the promotions’ final event before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sports in the middle of March. A third round submission pushed him into the top 10 of all the Lightweights. He had a stint at No. 6 and will enter Saturday as No. 7.

A win against Ferguson would surely throw his name into the ring for who should take over champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s belt if he follows through with his retirement.

“It’s very clear,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “Whoever wins this fight is the next title contender. He was coming off 12 wins in a row, and I think he made a mistake against Justin Gaethje, so we can’t make mistakes in there.”

Despite being a slight +138 underdog as of Dec. 7, Oliveira is confident in his ability to wreak havoc on the former Interim Lightweight champion.

“Winning this fight, I’ll be the next challenger,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “I don’t plan on leaving it in the judges’ hands. There’s no way I have to wait. I’m the next challenger.”

This will be no walk in the park for either of them as the weight of this bout alone will be a big factor. Both understand how high the stakes are, especially when the Lightweight strap may be on the table very soon.

You can catch the action this Saturday, Dec. 12, on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View at 9 P.M. EST.

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