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5 keys to victory for Tony Ferguson at UFC 274

Tony Ferguson at the UFC 229 Khabib v McGregor: Weigh-Ins
Tony Ferguson at the UFC 229 Khabib v McGregor: Weigh-Ins
Erik Sloan

Tony Ferguson is as close to a mythical fighter as the MMA community can speculate. 'El Cucuy' is undeniably an anomaly. Fascinating interviews, wild training methods, a broad uniqueness in his fights - Ferguson is the only one of his kind.

His fan base began to increase as he compiled a twelve-fight winning streak that saw many wars. Though he's riding a three-fight slump, his loyal fanbase has stuck around. Ferguson is one half of the most anticipated match that has never happened: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. Although the fight never came to fruition, the media tours did, and Ferguson won over many fans with this publicity.

The 38-year-old will have to go through former lightweight title challenger Michael Chandler to snap a three-fight losing streak. This will not be an easy task, but if Ferguson has proved anything in his career, it's that adversity is something he's repeatedly able to overcome.

Here are five keys to victory for Tony Ferguson:


#5. Avoid an early brawl

UFC 262: Michael Chandler kicking Charles Oliveira
UFC 262: Michael Chandler kicking Charles Oliveira

As seen time and time again, Michael Chandler hits very hard. With ten of his twenty-two victories coming by way of knockout, it's safe to say that he has a pension to deliver devastating blows.

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Ferguson is quite the finisher in his own right. He's stopped 80% of his victories before the final horn. However, many of these stoppages were in the second or third round.

As the fight progresses, the odds should sway in favor of 'El Cucuy' getting the finish. He's as durable as can be and seems to thrive in the violence. If Ferguson can hold off on returning fire when Chandler is fresh and at his most dangerous, he'll find the fight will favor him more and more with the passing minutes.


#4. Drag the fight out

UFC 229: Ferguson(right) v Pettis
UFC 229: Ferguson(right) v Pettis

After avoiding an early brawl, Ferguson will need to have a crescendo of output. Though Chandler has experience in championship rounds, he was noticeably gassed out entering the third round of his war against Justin Gaethje.

Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis was a violent masterpiece https://t.co/2tg40Ixt3N

Should 'El Cucuy' begin to wear on Chandler, then fans may see a vintage Tony Ferguson performance. One where his pace, pressure, and output drag the opposition into deep waters. These are the types of fights where the fighter from Oxnard, California, performs at his best.

Michael Chandler is well conditioned and a great fighter, but if he plays into pleasing the crowd too much, he may find himself worn out by the third round. This will be the worst-case scenario for the former Bellator champion. What's bad for him is great for the former UFC interim lightweight champion. Tony Ferguson may have been beaten in the past, but he doesn't slow down one bit, even when the fight isn't going his way.


#3. Use his range

UFC 249 Ferguson v Gaethje
UFC 249 Ferguson v Gaethje

Tony Ferguson will be sporting a five-inch reach advantage, and he'd be wise to use every bit of it. The Sanford MMA fighter could find himself in a lot of trouble when attempting to breach the lengthy offense coming his way.

💨 Jab, esquive + spinning elbow mesdames et messieurs Tony Ferguson. https://t.co/tHLPx0PlsD

As seen in his title opportunity fight against Charles Oliveira, Chandler looks to lunge in and out to either be in his preferred striking range or at a distance - getting clipped with a hook on his way out is what cost him the fight. 'El Cucuy' is very capable of catching him in a similar fashion.

Tony Ferguson was able to drop Edson Barboza with a jab, knockout Ramsey Nijem with a rangy hook, and keep Lando Vannata at bay with long strikes - he's great at utilizing his reach advantage, a factor that could mitigate Chandler's chances of landing powerful strikes.


#2. Force desperation shots

UFC 262: Tony Ferguson(bottom) v Beneil Dariush
UFC 262: Tony Ferguson(bottom) v Beneil Dariush

Tony Ferguson is a threat in any position the fight may place him. Of his twenty finishes, eight of these are by way of submission.

On this day in 2013...Tony Ferguson got the win that started his record-setting 11 win streak in the lightweight division with a darce choke submission over Mike Rio at UFC 166 🙌'El Cucuy' has never looked back 😎 https://t.co/CJ8OQUVA2N

On full display as he defeated a short-notice Lando Vannata, the 38-year-old can wear fighters out thanks to his incredible cardio and gas tank. If his opponents make even one mistake, 'El Cucuy' can end the fight. If this UFC 274 bout wages on and Ferguson's pressure begins to weigh on Chandler, that's when the 36-year-old may decide to lean on his wrestling chops.

However, it only takes one lackluster takedown attempt to spell the beginning of the end. Tony Ferguson is very adept at sneaking his arms in to capture chokes. With multiple victories in the UFC via D'Arce choke, it's very realistic speculation to think that this bout against Chandler could end in the same manner.

This won't be an easy task, though. If Ferguson's hand is raised owing to a submission, it'll need to come from a slip-up on Chandler's part, as he's usually very aware in grappling situations. The submission attempt could be there if 'El Cucuy' can force wrestling out of panic.


#1. Tony Ferguson needs to be unorthodox

UFC 181 - Ferguson v Trujillo
UFC 181 - Ferguson v Trujillo

'El Cucuy' is many things, but "unique" is at the very top of that list. This adjective describes him both as a person and as a fighter. Whether in his media obligations or the action inside the octagon, fans never know what to expect as Ferguson arrives.

One of my favourite Tony Ferguson moments😂 “Give me sand” @TonyFergusonXT https://t.co/7xmCWBOBuF

Being diverse in his attack has served him well in the past and will continue to do so moving forward - a fighter who's difficult to emulate makes for a tough night at the office for the opposition. Chandler will enter this bout semi-prepared, but anyone taking on Ferguson is somewhat diving into the unknown.

Mixing it up, blending his offense, being hard to read - having fun is what Tony Ferguson needs to do to win this fight. Being his unique self will be his number one path to victory come UFC 274.

Edited by Avinash Tewari

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