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Why Conor McGregor vs Tony Ferguson could be the 2021 UFC Fight of the Year

Tony Ferguson (left); Conor McGregor (right)
Tony Ferguson (left); Conor McGregor (right)
Johny Payne
ANALYST
Modified 26 Feb 2021
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Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson have been at loggerheads for the past several years. However, a fight between the two enigmatic fighters hasn’t come to fruition as of yet.

This could change in 2021, as both McGregor and Ferguson have hit somewhat of a rough patch in their respective MMA careers as of late.

Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s last fight was a second-round TKO loss at the hands of Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 (January 23rd, 2021). On the other hand, former interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson’s last fight was a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 (December 12th, 2020).

The two MMA icons have jibed at each other on social media for years. Conor McGregor had recently expressed interest in fighting Tony Ferguson. Besides, El Cucuy too released his ‘Improper’ line of merchandise, mocking The Notorious One’s ‘Proper 12’ whiskey brand.

McGregor and Ferguson are ready to face off inside the octagon. And considering where they’re at in their careers right now, this is a fight that’d be ideal for their next octagon outing. Today, we briefly examine Conor McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson – a fight that could be the 2021 UFC Fight of the Year…


Striking

Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson are both equally enigmatic, yet vastly different in the striking realm. McGregor is the more precise striker of the two and possesses better defensive striking.

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Meanwhile, Ferguson is the more diverse striker of the two – as in, his punches, elbows, knees, and kicks are all equally vicious, while McGregor largely relies on his punches. Additionally, Ferguson’s striking defense isn’t as strong as that of McGregor’s. El Cucuy absorbs way more clean strikes to the head and the rest of his body than McGregor does.

Like every MMA fight, this one too would start on the feet. And Conor McGregor – notorious for his explosiveness and KO power, especially early in the fight – could knock Ferguson out and end this fight in round one. Ferguson would have to steer clear of boxing range, use kicks, and attempt takedowns to grind out round one and drain McGregor’s explosiveness away.

Ferguson would surely have the advantage if the fight goes into the third, fourth, and fifth rounds, as Conor McGregor is known to slow down drastically in the later rounds of a fight. A noticeable issue McGregor faces is that he tends to fight flat-footed in rounds three, four, and five.

For instance, McGregor’s UFC 202 five-round war against Nate Diaz witnessed him absorb a lot of strikes in the later rounds due to fighting flat-footed against the cardio machine that is Diaz.

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On that note, Ferguson too is widely revered for his excellent cardio. Ferguson would have the edge if his fight against Conor McGregor goes past round two. Furthermore, Ferguson’s leg kicks at kickboxing range, elbows at close range, and high-volume overall striking could turn into a nightmare in the later rounds for any opponent, even for The Notorious One.


Grappling

Conor McGregor’s grappling skills are criminally underrated. Although McGregor doesn’t really use his offensive wrestling skills, his takedown defense is top-notch. Similarly, his BJJ skills too are largely used only from a defensive standpoint, as he doesn’t really execute a lot of submission attempts.

Be that as it may, Conor McGregor is more than capable of hanging with the greatest fighters in the world in the submission aspect of combat. That’s truly praiseworthy, isn’t it? Of course, but what’s even more praiseworthy is Tony Ferguson’s outstanding grappling skills.

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Ferguson has an advantage over many elite lightweights in the grappling department, including over McGregor. Ferguson is one of the most creative grapplers of all time, brilliant at submitting his foes, and also possesses outstanding grappling defense. Speaking of this, Ferguson’s UFC 256 fight against BJJ wizard Charles Oliveira comes to mind.

Despite having been trapped in a painful arm-bar by Oliveira, Ferguson’s heart and understanding of how to ride out a dangerous submission spot helped him survive till the end of the round.

Should Ferguson manage to get Conor McGregor to the ground at any point in their fight, McGregor ought to exercise an abundance of caution because Ferguson’s unorthodox grappling helps him cleverly veil his submissions. Before his opponent realizes what submission Ferguson is aiming for, it’s usually too late.

This is where Conor McGregor’s work alongside BJJ world champion and training partner Dillon Danis would come in handy. McGregor would have to ride out the grappling exchanges by stalling Ferguson’s activity.

Moreover, grappling in the later rounds is hard, when both fighters would have sweat and likely blood too on their bodies, making them slippery to hold on to. McGregor would be smart to disengage and get the fight back to the feet.

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Miscellaneous – Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson are true martial arts warriors

One of the biggest misconceptions many of Conor McGregor’s critics seem to have fallen for is that of his alleged lack of heart. McGregor’s detractors claim that he lacks the heart of a warrior. Nevertheless, that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Conor McGregor is a true warrior. McGregor, like most other fast-twitch explosive fighters, has dealt with stamina issues in MMA competition. But he’s time and again overcome this, courtesy of his indomitable spirit.

As for his opponent, well, Tony Ferguson too is no slouch in this mental and spiritual realm of combat. Ferguson is a warrior through and through. While Conor McGregor’s warrior spirit shined in his UFC 202 majority decision win against Nate Diaz, Ferguson’s spirit impressed one and all in his UFC 256 unanimous decision loss to Charles Oliveira.

And that’s not even counting the myriad of other occasions when these two warriors have faced adversity head-on – Conor McGregor’s submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson’s TKO loss to Justin Gaethje, and many more examples are littered across their admirable resumes.

In a nutshell, neither Conor McGregor nor Tony Ferguson lacks the heart to fight this war to the very end. Ergo, with fighters who are so evenly matched, who’d emerge victorious?

Anything is possible in a fight!

Conor McGregor securing a KO/TKO win within the first couple of rounds is definitely within the realm of possibility. Alternatively, Tony Ferguson scoring a late submission or TKO stoppage, or dominating McGregor from rounds three to five to bag a decision win is also likely.

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Irrespective of its outcome, one thing’s for sure – Conor McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson would be a war for the ages, and should this fight come to be this year, it’ll be a frontrunner for the 2021 UFC Fight of the Year.

Which fighter do you feel has the edge in Conor McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson? Sound off in the comments.

Published 01 Feb 2021, 12:55 IST
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