The following article is an opinion piece.
This was the scorecard from all three judges as Charles Oliveira dominated Tony Ferguson in the co-main event of UFC 256. It was not only the final scorecard but also how the fight panned out that left many in shock. Tony Ferguson, "El Cucuy", the boogeyman of the lightweight division, was dominated for 15 minutes.
Tony Ferguson doesn't get dominated, you might say. He dominates fights, he leaves his opponents in a bloody mess after they've fought him. Certainly, that's the Tony Ferguson everyone knew. But at UFC 256, Charles Oliveira did something that no other fighter has ever done. He dominated one of the greatest lightweights ever, and completely shut him down.
Without taking credit away from Oliveira, there was something missing from Tony. He got taken down with ease in all three rounds - something that had never happened before - raising the question of whether Father Time has finally caught up with Tony Ferguson. Whether, at 37, and after suffering two successive losses in the most competitive division in the UFC, it's time for Tony Ferguson to hang up his gloves once and for all?
Tony didn't look like his usual self
It's not so much the result, but the way it all panned out that made it more worrisome. Tony Ferguson comes from a great wrestling background but the ease with which he was taken down was slightly shocking. Sure Oliveira's pedigree on the ground is unmatched but Tony found it hard to handle Charles on his feet.
His movements were not as sharp as we're accustomed to and something seemed off throughout the fight. He was in phenomenal physical shape, but the reactions weren't there as they usually are. Was this the same Tony Ferguson that had put together a 12-fight win streak? It didn't seem like it.
The damage from the Justin Gaethje fight was severe
Many experts and sporting pundits had raised alarms after Tony Ferguson's last fight against Justin Gaethje. The damage that Tony took was extensive and in the eyes of many, the fight could have been stopped much earlier. Even Khabib Nurmagomedov had come out to say that Tony will not be the same after that fight, and no-one can take that much damage without suffering lasting effects. With this in mind, there were question marks around Tony's return. As it turns out, the damage from the Justin Gaethje fight did have an impact.
Is Ferguson too old for the lightweight division?
Tony's age is something that used to catch everyone by surprise. For someone that moved as well as he did and fought as well as he did and the kind of endurance levels he maintained, it was always hard to believe that Tony was actually one of the older fighters in the division.
Khabib was the first fighter to really point out Tony's age during the press conference for UFC 249. 36 is not young by any means for the lightweight division and none of the elites of the division are that old. For a long time, age was just a number for Tony as his work ethic and mental strength would drive him from one win to the other but that can't go on forever. If we talk about the elites of the division in Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, or Justin Gaethje then all of them fall in the age bracket of 29-32, which is supposed to be an athlete's prime.
At 36, and with two successive losses, it looks highly unlikely that Tony can climb his way back to the top of the division, especially after a performance where he looked like a shell of his former self.
Tony Ferguson has given his utmost every time he stepped inside the cage. His record, his winning streak, his resilience, and his mental toughness will ensure his legacy in the UFC. Yet, after two devastating losses, it might be the right time for Tony Ferguson to end his journey inside the octagon.
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below.