UFC 249: Previewing Khabib-Ferguson and Other Matches on the Card

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2020

UFC 249: Previewing Khabib-Ferguson and Other Matches on the Card

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    It's finally happening.
    It's finally happening.Chris Unger/Getty Images

    UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and top-rated 155-pound contender Tony Ferguson have long been destined to face each other inside the Octagon.

    In fact, the two stalwart divisional aces have been more than just destined. They've actually been scheduled for fights against each other four other times only to see those get scrapped for various reasons.

    But now the two will finally get their hands on each other at UFC 249.

    Can Nurmagomedov remain undefeated and one of the most dominant forces in MMA? Or does Ferguson possess the perfect blend of skill and tenacity to fell the champion for the very first time?

    UFC 249 features a massive main event title fight and plenty of other action-packed scraps, too. Here's an early preview of the card along with information and analysis about the key fights making up the rest of the action.

UFC 249: Khabib-Ferguson Fight Card and Info

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    Ferguson finally gets to tackle the champ at UFC 249.
    Ferguson finally gets to tackle the champ at UFC 249.Chris Unger/Getty Images

    UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson is scheduled to take place on April 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    The main card ESPN+ pay-per-view is scheduled to begin at 9:00 pm ET.

    The prelims are scheduled for ESPN beginning at 7:00 pm ET.

    The early prelims are set for ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass at 5:15 pm ET.

    The fight card listed below is per ESPN and is subject to change.

          

    UFC 249 Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)

    Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
    Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
    Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba
    Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Hernandez
    Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar

         

    UFC 249 Prelims (ESPN)
    Uriah Hall vs. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza
    Lyman Good vs. Belal Muhammad
    Khama Worthy vs. Ottman Azaitar
    Gian Villante vs. Ben Rothwell

        

    UFC 249 Early Prelims (ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass)
    Sijara Eubanks vs. Sarah Moras
    Karl Roberson vs. Makhmud Muradov
    Hunter Azure vs. Umar Nurmagomedov

The Main Event: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson

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    Nurmagomedov is a dominant force.
    Nurmagomedov is a dominant force.Mahmoud Khaled/Associated Press

    It took four years to make Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson happen, but the two top UFC lightweights are finally going to tussle in the main event of UFC 249.

    Nurmagomedov, 31, is arguably the most dominant force in MMA at the present. He's never lost a fight across all promotions, and he's hardly even been tested. Still, winning 28 fights in a row hasn't allowed the expert mauler to clean out the division just yet. Facing Ferguson would help him stake that claim and offer Nurmagomedov firmer footing that he deserves the No. 1 pound-for-pound ranking where he's currently No. 2 behind UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

    Beating Ferguson could sway more votes his way, especially if Nurmagomedov dominates the way he has against just about every other opponent. But Ferguson, 36, enters UFC 249 on a hot streak of his own. He's won 12 straight fights dating back to 2013, and he's unlike any opponent that Nurmagomedov has ever faced.

    Heck, he's unlike any opponent pretty much anyone in the UFC has ever faced, minus Ferguson's previous opponents. Ferguson's aggression, hectic style and ability to score from his back make the main event of UFC 249 a compelling matchup. 

The Co-Main Event: Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas

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    Huge rematch at UFC 249.
    Huge rematch at UFC 249.Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

    The co-main event of UFC 249 features a hotly anticipated rematch between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas. Both are former women's strawweight champions itching to get the next crack at current champ Weili Zhang.

    Andrade, 28, defeated Namajunas at UFC 237 in May 2019 to grab UFC gold. It was an impressive performance, especially when you consider she was largely being outworked in the fight until she exploded for a surprise slam knockout.

    Meanwhile, Namajunas, 27, is likely to feel confident heading into the rematch. Had she avoided Andrade's devastating knockout move, she appeared to be on her way to the defense of her title.

    Moreover, the winner of Andrade vs. Namajunas will figure heavily into the plans for Zhang's next title defense. The women's strawweight champion and No. 2 fighter on the women's pound-for-pound list is one of the fastest rising stars in the sport.

    Zhang stopped Andrade in the first round last year to start her title reign and continued it in stunning fashion in a Fight of the Year candidate against former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248.

    But Zhang needs challengers, and Andrade vs. Namajunas should produce one.

Fight to Keep an Eye On: Jeremy Stevens vs. Calvin Kattar

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    Can Stephens grab the needed win?
    Can Stephens grab the needed win?Chris Unger/Getty Images

    This one should be a doozy. 

    Jeremy Stephens, 33, is badly in need of a win after losing to Yair Rodriguez in October, experiencing a no-contest bout against him the prior month and losing to top-tier featherweights Zabit Magomedsharipov and Jose Aldo over his prior two fights. That makes the American 0-3 in his last four fights with one no-contest.

    He's been one of the better featherweights in the world over recent years, but he needs to show he still belongs among the division's top 10 fighters. Beating Kattar would help him do that.

    Meanwhile, Calvin Kattar, 31, hopes to displace Stephens in the rankings. Kattar is ranked No. 10 at 145 pounds, just two spots behind his opponent. He was somewhat outclassed in his unanimous-decision loss to Magomedsharipov in November 2019, but he at least stormed back late in the fight to prove he'd maybe have overcome his shifty foe if it had been a five-round fight. Before that setback, Kattar had notched wins over Ricardo Lamas, Chris Fishgold, Shane Burgos and Andre Fili.

    So Stephens and Kattar each stand much to gain in the division by beating each other. More importantly, both are action fighters who love to mix it up. It should be real barnburner.

Best of the Rest

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    Souza is 40 but looked solid in his last fight.
    Souza is 40 but looked solid in his last fight.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    Hunter Azure vs. Umar Nurmagomedov

    The most compelling fight scheduled for the early prelims portion of the card is the matchup between undefeated bantamweights Hunter Azure and Umar Nurmagomedov.

    Azure, 28, earned his UFC contract on Dana White's Contender Series. Nurmagomedov, 24, is lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov's younger cousin and seems to be on his way up in the sport. Azure is a stern test, but one that should pay huge dividends if he can pass it. 

          

    Uriah Hall vs. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza

    Both Uriah Hall and Ronaldo Souza are solid 185-pounders who help make middleweight division a deep one.

    Hall, 35, has won two straight since getting stopped by undefeated middleweight monster Paulo Costa in 2018. Souza, 40, jumped up to light heavyweight in his last fight and almost pulled off the shocker against Jan Blachowicz. Now the Brazilian hopes getting back to the middleweight ranks will him grab a needed win. Hall vs. Souza is some solid action for being among the prelims. 

          

    Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Hernandez

    Islam Makhachev, 28, is riding a six-fight win streak and aims to become a real contender at lightweight. He desperately wants to fight Kevin Lee to prove he belongs among the best 155-pound fighters in the sport, but he gets Hernandez at UFC 249 instead.

    Alexander Hernandez is built like a tank. The 27-year-old is coming off a win but was stopped in his prior fight by Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. This main card matchup could be just what each fighter needs to step up in the lightweight ranks.