Ferguson will be hoping to right the ship this weekend, but if he doesn’t, he’ll join a lengthy list of UFC fighters who seem to aged suddenly.
And with that in mind, here are five of those fighters who got old overnight.
#1 Chuck Liddell – former UFC light-heavyweight champion
Once one of the world’s most feared fighters, Chuck Liddell shot to fame at just the right time – as the UFC’s TUF boom began – and quickly became the promotion’s most bankable star.
Liddell won the UFC light-heavyweight title from Randy Couture at UFC 52 and immediately became a dominant champion, defending his title successfully on four occasions over the next two years.
After 'The Iceman' dispatched old rival Tito Ortiz at UFC 66, many observers felt that he was invincible.
However, that wasn’t the case. Rampage Jackson knocked Liddell out at UFC 71 in what would’ve been his fifth title defense. From there, the former UFC champion and poster-boy seemingly fell off a cliff.
He suddenly looked every bit of his age – late thirties – and where he once had a jaw of granite, suddenly he could barely take a solid punch.
'The Iceman' went on to lose four of his last five UFC outings and finally retired in 2010 after a final knockout defeat at the hands of Rich Franklin.
#2 Chris Weidman – former UFC middleweight champion
After becoming the first man in the UFC to defeat Anderson Silva and become the middleweight champion, Chris Weidman was expected to have a dominant run at the top.
Unfortunately, his run didn’t last anywhere near as long as the man he dethroned. Weidman appeared to age overnight following the loss of his title.
Weidman defended the UFC middleweight crown on three occasions but then lost it to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 in a grueling and brutal match.
The All-American ended up missing a year following his loss due to injuries. When he returned, he didn’t look like the same fighter that’d defeated Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Vitor Belfort.
Weidman looked smaller, slower, and far less explosive than he had before facing Rockhold.
He fell to defeats at the hands of Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi and has since won just two of his last four fights.
And after suffering a horrific leg injury in his most recent fight at UFC 261, it seems likely that he’ll retire in the imminent future.
#3 Robbie Lawler – former UFC welterweight champion
Robbie Lawler took the long route to UFC success after initially exploding onto the scene in the early 2000s.
'Ruthless' Robbie was initially seen as a major knockout artist, but a string of losses revealed his limitations, and the UFC let him go in 2004. Undeterred, Lawler continued to hone his craft outside the UFC, and when he returned in 2013, he was an entirely different animal.
'Ruthless' ripped off five wins in six fights before dethroning Johny Hendricks for the UFC welterweight title at UFC 181. From there, he defended his title twice in two of the greatest fights in UFC history against Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit.
However, Lawler was knocked out by Tyron Woodley in his third title defense, and since then, it looks like those crazy wars he was involved in caught up with him.
Since losing to Woodley, Lawler has won just one fight and has now lost four in a row. 'Ruthless' now looks painfully gunshy – nothing like he did in his prime – and few fighters have ever declined quite so quickly in the UFC.
#4 Johny Hendricks – former UFC welterweight champion
Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre ruled the 170lbs division for the best part of a decade. Nobody came as close to defeating him as Johny Hendricks did at UFC 167 in late 2013.
So when GSP stepped away from the UFC, Hendricks promptly won the belt in a fight with Robbie Lawler and looked set for his own dominant run as champion. But things didn’t quite work out for 'Bigg Rigg'.
He suffered a torn bicep that kept him on the shelf for the best part of a year, and when he returned, he lost his title to Lawler in a rematch at UFC 181. Hendricks managed to outpoint Matt Brown in his next fight but was then forced out of a planned fight with Tyron Woodley after a bad weight cut.
When he re-emerged in early 2016 to fight Stephen Thompson, it was clear that physically, he didn’t look like the same man. Hendricks looked completely deflated, suffered a knockout loss, and then went on to drop four of his next five UFC bouts.
He was released by the UFC in 2018, with plenty of question marks remaining over exactly what caused such a sudden demise of ability.
#5 Jacare Souza
Tony Ferguson isn’t the only fighter set to compete at UFC 262 who’ll be hoping to stem a rapid slide. Middleweight contender Jacare Souza will face Andre Muniz on the undercard, and if the veteran loses, there’s every chance he’ll find himself out of the UFC.
It’s been a pretty crazy and rapid slide for the grappling ace, who was once considered one of the best 185lbers on the planet.
From his UFC debut in 2013 through to 2019, Jacare won eight of his eleven UFC bouts, losing only to Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, and Kelvin Gastelum – three of the best fighters of their generation. Even then, only Whittaker was able to stop him.
However, when Jacare returned in early 2019 to fight Jack Hermansson, he appeared to have aged overnight. He didn’t look close to his best physical shape and was easily outworked by the Swede, losing a unanimous decision.
A move to 205lbs didn’t help him either, as he lost to Jan Blachowicz in a dull fight, and his return to 185lbs in 2020 was equally bad as he fell to Kevin Holland by knockout.
At the age of 41, it’s probably understandable that Father Time has caught up with Jacare, but that hasn’t made his sudden demise any less shocking.