UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje Odds, Schedule, Predictions and Fight HypeMay 7, 2020
Fights are officially set to return on Saturday, May 9 with a massive UFC 249 pay-per-view card that features Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje in the main event.
The two will be vying for the interim lightweight title. The original main event for the card which was supposed to take place on April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the bout.
Attempts to hold the event at an alternate location were ultimately ended before the new May date was announced and the bouts were moved to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The fights will take place behind closed doors and no fans will be in attendance.
The card itself is star-studded. An amalgamation of other canceled cards, a bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz will serve as the co-main event while a featured heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Jair Rozenstruik is also on the card.
Here's a full list of the fight card along with odds, predictions and the latest hype for the biggest fights.
UFC 249 Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Tony Ferguson -175 (bet $175 to win $100) vs. Justin Gaethje +145 - interim lightweight championship
- Henry Cejudo (c) -230 vs. Dominick Cruz +185 - bantamweight championship
- Francis Ngannou -280 vs. Jair Rozenstruik +230
- Calvin Kattar -260 vs. Jeremy Stephens +210
- Greg Hardy -210 vs. Yorgan De Castro +175
Prelims (ESPN at 8 p.m. ET)
- Anthony Pettis -140 vs. Donald Cerrone +110
- Fabricio Werdum -320 vs. Aleksei Oleinik +250
- Carla Esparza -155 vs. Michelle Waterson +125
- Ronaldo Souza -130 vs. Uriah Hall +100
Early Prelims (ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET)
- Vicente Luque -280 vs. Niko Price +230
- Bryce Mitchell -155 vs. Charles Rosa +125
- Ryan Spann -450 vs. Sam Alvey +325
Odds via Caesars Palace
Ferguson Feels He's Fighting Gaethje for the 'Real' Championship
Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov have been scheduled to fight five times. And five times it has been canceled. With the lightweight champion out of the fight once again because of travel restrictions in Russia and his observance of Ramadan, Ferguson looks at his bout with Gaethje as a fight for the real championship.
"I'm defending my belt for the third time," Ferguson said in an expletive-laden rant, per Damon Martin of MMA Fighting. "This is for the real belt. This is not for an interim title. This is for the real championship s--t."
Ferguson is taking a risk in fighting Gaethje. Not only is Gaethje incredibly durable, but his high-paced style makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone. A loss here would hurt Ferguson's odds of ever getting his big-money fight against Nurmagomedov or Conor McGregor.
Still, worrying about that kind of thing just isn't how Ferguson rolls. This is the man who completed a 24-pound weight cut for a fight that was already canceled just to show he was ready.
The 36-year-old is on a 12-fight win streak that spans back to 2012. Gaethje has won each of his last three bouts inside the first round, so the action should come early and often in this one. Despite the disappointment of missing out Nurmagomedov-Ferguson once again this could wind up being the Fight of the Year.
Ferguson has never been stopped and won't be fazed by Gaethje's volume. He's one of the few around who fights at a similarly frenetic pace. The only difference is The Highlight has been on the losing end of a knockout twice while Ferguson hasn't experienced that.
Prediction: Ferguson via third-round TKO
Cejudo Wants to Add to Legacy with Win Over Cruz
It's fair to wonder why Dominick Cruz was chosen to challenge Henry Cejudo for his bantamweight crown. We haven't seen Cruz fighting in the Octagon since a December 2016 loss to Cody Garbrandt for the title.
Jose Aldo was originally connected to the event when it was expected to take place in Brazil under the name of UFC 250. However, moving it to the United States caused visa issues for the former featherweight king.
Now, more than three years since his last fight Cruz is jumping the line and getting the next crack at the champion. According to Cejudo, it's because of the respect he has for Cruz's resume.
"Dominick was my first choice. Since the beginning, I wanted to fight [him]," Cejudo said, per Danny Segura of MMAjunkie. "I thought it was a great storyline—we're both from Arizona, he's a great champ, I beat the No. 1 contender Marlon Moraes, and there was really not a concrete No. 1 contender after I beat Moraes."
Aldo would have served a similar purpose for Cejudo's record. He's a former UFC champion who has seen better days. He dropped a split decision to Moraes in his first foray into the bantamweight division.
As the odds indicate, this is Cejudo's fight to lose. When Cruz was at his best, his ability to win in the transitions and throw opponents off with his unusual footwork and mannerisms was top notch. After more than three years away from the Octagon, it's hard to see him out-foxing someone with great Fight IQ himself in Cejudo.
Since beating Demetrious Johnson by decision, Triple C has won his last two fights against T.J. Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes by knockout. It wouldn't be surprising to see him get a third in a row as Cruz shows his age.
Prediction: Cejudo via second-round TKO
Ngannou Ready to Knockout Rozenstruik After Long Wait
Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik are in a different situation from their fellow UFC 249 headliners. While the others at least had advanced notice their bouts were going to be canceled, the two heavyweights were supposed to fight six weeks ago in March.
They were the headliners for a March 28 card that was ultimately scratched then rescheduled for the April 18 date, which was also postponed. So that's three separate times Ngannou has prepared for the bout, and he will be the first to admit it hasn't been a fun experience.
"It's been very exhausting, very frustrating, [mentally]," Ngannou told Martin of MMA Fighting. "It's been very hard to keep motivation and go out there every day. Go out there and train without knowing if the fight is going to happen. [You're] always suspicious—maybe it's going to happen or not, and to keep the same intensity for the fight."
The fact he's had to start and restart his camp three times in preparation for his fight can be an overlooked development in the buildup. The only fortunate thing about it for Ngannou is the knowledge that Rozenstruik has been through the exact same thing.
The matchup is a big deal in the heavyweight division. Ngannou is looking to get back into the title picture. He's won three straight since back-to-back losses against Stipe Miocic for the title and Derrick Lewis. He'll be frustrated if a win here doesn't result in a title shot.
"I don't know, supposedly," Ngannou told Bleacher Report's Kelsey McCarson about being next in line for a crack at the champion. "That's what I thought for my last fight, and it still didn't happen."
Rozenstruik, on the other hand, will look to continue his unbeaten streak. The Suriname kickboxer is 10-0 in his MMA career with wins over Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski in his last two fights.
It's worth noting that Rozenstruik was arguably about to lose his fight with Overeem on the cards before he finished the fight with four seconds left. He showed he was very hittable against The Reem, but his power ultimately bailed him out.
If you prove you are hittable against Ngannou, it's likely going to be an early night.
Prediction: Ngannou via first-round TKO