Tony Ferguson suffered yet another heartbreaking loss inside the octagon last weekend. Beneil Dariush dominated the former interim UFC lightweight champion in the co-main event of UFC 262. The loss marked Ferguson's third straight defeat in the UFC, and it is safe to say that his downfall has been disappointing for MMA fans to witness.
Tony Ferguson, a former titleholder at 155 lbs, rose through the UFC's lightweight division by putting together some of the most brutal and gory fights in the promotion's history. Ferguson's showdowns against elite lightweights such as Edson Barboza, Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, and Anthony Pettis are examples of his brute strength and technique.
Courtesy of his brutal fights in the UFC, Tony Ferguson established his place as one of the biggest fan favorites. However, in 2020, Ferguson's iconic 12-fight winning streak ended at the hands of Justin Gaethje. 'The Highlight' was the dominant fighter against Ferguson and eventually won the interim UFC lightweight title via TKO.
Ferguson suffered yet another loss in his next fight against Charles Oliveira. He then lost to Dariush in a similar fashion during his latest outing in the octagon. But despite having three consecutive losses on his record, there could still be time for the UFC to help 'El Cucuy' turn things around inside the cage.
Here are three ways the UFC could help salvage Tony Ferguson's career.
#3. UFC match Tony Ferguson against strikers
Tony Ferguson is not a bad grappler by any standard. His fight against Kevin Lee served as a prime example of Ferguson's prowess on the mat. 'El Cucuy' survived a massive ground onslaught by Lee to capture the interim UFC lightweight title a few years ago.
However, the game has certainly evolved. With Ferguson now in his late 30s, there are grapplers beyond his current level. The likes of Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush dominated Ferguson on the mat.
If the UFC hopes to maintain Ferguson's current stock as a fan favorite, one of the best-case scenarios would be to avoid a grappler vs. striker matchup involving Tony Ferguson.
Tony Ferguson has proven to be an elite striker, and maybe a return to his roots could revive his UFC career.
#2. Tony Ferguson starts fighting non-ranked fighters
After three straight losses, this might be the best time for Tony Ferguson to take a step back in the level of competition he faces. While still in the Top-10 of the division, the best decision for 'El Cucuy' would be to fight an unranked fighter to build his confidence.
The UFC's lightweight division is stacked at the moment and it shouldn't be a problem for the UFC to pick an unranked opponent to match against Ferguson. However, there are some potentially dangerous matchups for 'El Cucuy' in the division.
The UFC will have to be careful with matchmaking in this scenario. In recent months, the strategy of pitting superstars against unranked fighters has helped the likes of Anthony Smith and Dominick Cruz. It could work out nicely for 'El Cucuy' as well.
#1. Tony Ferguson moves up to his original weight class
Tony Ferguson first broke into the mainstream scene as a welterweight. Fighting under Brock Lesnar's team in The Ultimate Fighter, 'El Cucuy' established himself as a force to be reckoned with as a 170-pounder.
After suffering three straight losses at lightweight, it might be time for Tony Ferguson to move up to the welterweight division once again. At 170, the likes of Robbie Lawler, Matt Brown and Mike Perry would be some incredible match-ups against Ferguson.
The UFC could also throw in the likes of Jorge Masvidal and the returning Nick Diaz into the mix. Tony Ferguson against any of the aforementioned names could provide a Fight of the Year contender in the UFC.
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