Tony Ferguson will try to bounce back from a two-fight skid against Beneil Dariush in the co-main event of UFC 262.
Not too long ago, Tony Ferguson seemed destined to become the next big star in the UFC lightweight division. It's undeniable that Tony Ferguson has the traits that separate a good fighter from an icon in the UFC. He's very talented, he's exciting to watch and he's very charismatic.
Tony Ferguson's last two performances, however, indicate that his best days are behind him. If he continues to spiral down, it won't be long before his career turns into a tragic tale of the beaten veteran who stuck around for too long.
But Tony Ferguson will have one final chance to change his destiny when he squares off with surging star Beneil Dariush at UFC 262. 'El Cucuy' may be past his physical prime, but his intangible attributes could help him find his second wind.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five reasons why Tony Ferguson will defeat Beneil Dariush at UFC 262.
#5 Tony Ferguson has made some major adjustments
Prior to his last two fights, Tony Ferguson has run roughshod through the UFC lightweight division. He impressively collected 12 straight victories in the promotion's most talent-rich weight class.
But Ferguson ran into a wall when Justin Gaethje decimated him on the feet for almost five rounds at UFC 249. Ferguson had the opportunity to redeem himself at UFC 256 but ended up losing to Charles Oliveira in a lopsided unanimous decision.
Since then, Ferguson has made some significant changes. The TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) winner moved to Hall-of-Fame coach Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, California. At his new gym, Ferguson also trained with one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time in Georges St-Pierre.
But Tony Ferguson's adjustments were more than superficial. He also revealed that he's upgrading his mindset. In an interview with Submission Radio, Ferguson said:
“Instead of a varsity mentality I went back to an Olympic mentality and I started surrounding myself around people that are hungry, how I am and how they’ve been for a long time. And I started to find myself over at Wild Card a lot easier, because that’s where I knew that I could find that kind of grind.”
#4 Beneil Dariush hasn't faced anyone as good as Tony Ferguson
History suggests that the up-and-coming star gets the better of the aging veteran. UFC 262 is no different as Beneil Dariush is expected to use Ferguson as a stepping stone to move on to greater things.
Of late, Beneil Dariush has amassed six wins in a row, four of which came by way of a stoppage. However, the Assyrian-American hasn't faced anyone on the level of Ferguson.
Ferguson has been one of the toughest and most talented cage fighters in the UFC. During his 13-year career, Ferguson has only been KO'd once. And until recently, he hadn't had long stretches of failure in the octagon.
If 'El Cucuy' shows up as the fighter that fans had known for years, he would derail Beneil Dariush's ascent as a contender in the 155-pound division.
#3 Beneil Dariush will be playing with fire
Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush has the potential to steal the show at UFC 262. Adding to the intrigue, Beneil Dariush revealed his game plan to beat Ferguson at his own game during a recent interview with South China Morning Post:
"I’ve been joking about this. But I’ll tell you the same thing I told everybody else. The goal is to out-crazy Tony, so let’s see how that goes.”
If Beneil Dariush succeeds in his plan to 'out-crazy' Ferguson, he could very well earn a title shot against either Charles Oliveira or Michael Chandler. However, allowing Ferguson to fight in a style that he'd be comfortable with is like inviting disaster to strike.
#2 It could be do-or-die for Tony Ferguson
Not only will Tony Ferguson be highly motivated come fight night, but he'll be very desperate to score a much-needed win at UFC 262. 'El Cucuy' recently told Lowkick MMA that he's "hungry as f*ck" after his recent woes in the octagon.
Beneil Dariush is aware of the dangers of facing a desperate man like Ferguson. He even told MMA Junkie that he's prepared to go toe-to-toe with the best version of his opponent:
“I try to look at the best Tony I’ve ever seen. The Tony who fought Rafael [dos Anjos], he looked really good. The Tony who fought Kevin Lee looked very good. You had the Donald Cerrone fight. I try to watch those fights and look at the best Tony. I don’t try to look at the fights he lost too much, because you don’t get the best version, and I’m trying to look at the best version, because I think he’s going to come out with his best version, because it’s a do-or-die kind of situation for him.”
UFC 262 will indeed be a do-or-die situation for Ferguson. If he loses for a third straight time against Beneil Dariush, he might not ever come close to sniffing UFC lightweight gold again.
#1 The lightweight title is within reach of Tony Ferguson
With the departure of dominant champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, the path to capturing UFC lightweight gold should be less difficult for the 155-pound contenders.
At 37, Tony Ferguson will have one final shot to string together a successful run en route to a championship opportunity. If Ferguson defeats Beneil Dariush, he only needs one or two more wins to get back into title contention.
On the flipside, losing to Beneil Dariush will be the final nail in the coffin of Ferguson's dream of becoming a UFC champion. That should be enough motivation to fuel Ferguson into giving the performance of a lifetime.