The world is gearing up for UFC 249 once more after a few false starts over the last month. However, now that a firm date has been set, punters are licking their lips at the prospect of the main event. Tony Ferguson will square up against Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title, in what should be a frantic bout that leaves the octagon floor soaked in blood.
Many will have Ferguson down as their pick - and with good reason to. The 36-year-old has the pedigree, know-how, and not to mention the raw animal instincts that make a UFC fighter feared throughout the industry. Ferguson’s relatively low odds of 4/7 to come out on top in Florida, adequately sums up the expectations of punters around the world, but are we missing a trick here in terms of value?
Ferguson’s opponent, Justin Gaethje, specialized in wrestling before joining the UFC. In fact, you can go back to when Gaethje was just four years old to find out how much wrestling has played a central role in his life. Indeed, Gaethje would go on to become a two-time Arizona state champion. Needless to say, the 31-year-old is well versed in the art of wrestling and in this case, submissions.
The official odds on Tony Fergusson and Justin Gaethje don’t necessarily reflect the latter’s wrestling prowess after he was priced at 25/1 to win the fight by making Ferguson tap out. And yes, if you were to look at Gaethje’s career, you would see that, in actual fact, he rarely looks for takedowns and prefers to go toe-to-toe with his opponents.
With this in mind, you can understand why those odds are so high, but there’s no doubt that he has a takedown in his locker given his illustrious career in wrestling. Ferguson, on the other hand, would laugh off those claims and will remind anyone that he has only ever been forced to tap out once in his career, and that was against Jamie Toney back in 2009.
In any case, the 36-year-old Ferguson is only thinking about winning and has sent Gaethje a chilling warning ahead of their matchup in Jacksonville. Ferguson doesn’t believe that Gaethje will leave the cage after he is done with him but, then again, what would a UFC event be without crass smack-talk between two nervous fighters?
It’s all about mind games and trying to gain a mental advantage over your opponent in the lead up to these brutal encounters. Ferguson will be desperate for Gaethje to step into the octagon feeling a sense of fear before they go head to head, which is, of course, half the battle won.
On this occasion though, it doesn’t seem at all likely that Justin Gaethje will be consumed by any dreaded thoughts of 'what if' when he meets Ferguson in Florida. On the contrary, it may well be Tony Ferguson who is the one less certain about what the outcome will be when their bout comes to an end. You don’t want to take your eyes off this one.