UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - MAY 08: (L-R) Opponents Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje face off during the UFC 249 official weigh-in on May 08, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
Mike Roach/Getty Images

UFC 249 marks the promotion's return from its hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the loaded pay-per-view card is headlined by Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje in an interim lightweight title fight.

The exciting final fight is a microcosm for how much this event has changed over the past month. The bout was originally supposed to be the long-awaited title fight between Ferguson and champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, but travel restrictions in Russia and then the Eagle's observance of Ramadan has canceled the fight for the fifth time.

This card has been through many changes with the ever-shifting sports landscape amid a pandemic. The final offering is one that will see two title fights and a ton of recognizable names and talents on both the main card and prelims.


UFC 249 Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)

  • Tony Ferguson -195 (bet $195 to win $100) vs. Justin Gaethje +165 (bet $100 to win $165) - interim lightweight championship
  • Henry Cejudo (c) -240 vs. Dominick Cruz +190 - 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
  • Vicente Luque -280 vs. Niko Price +230

Early Prelims (ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET)

  • Bryce Mitchell -165 vs. Charles Rosa +135 
  • Ryan Spann -450 vs. Sam Alvey +325 

Odds via Caesars Palace.



Tony Ferguson Outlasts Justin Gaethje in a Classic

If we can't finally get Ferguson-Nurmagomedov, watching Ferguson take on Gaethje is an excellent consolation prize. Gaethje's ultra-violence combined with the unorthodox stylings of Ferguson is a recipe for an instant classic.

Gaethje sets an incredible pace. He averages 8.57 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 9.67. His take-one-to-give-one philosophy of fighting results in him taking a lot of damage, but few are able to take what he's dishing out long enough to win the fight.

The Highlight has only been to a decision twice in his career, and both of his losses have come by way of knockout.

Ferguson doesn't push quite the same pace as his opponent. But he is generally willing to adapt to whatever style of fight his opponent wants and promptly beat them at it. He is a menace in transition on the ground and can either pressure fight or counterstrike on the feet.

El Cucuy has been a slow starter but picks up steam as the fight wears on. He's earned a stoppage in the second or third round in each of his past three fights and four of his past five.

Expect Gaethje to push the pace early and most likely win Round 1. But if he doesn't find a way to become the first fighter to knock out Ferguson, the fight should belong to the man who hasn't lost since 2012.

Prediction: Ferguson via third-round TKO.


Henry Cejudo Proves Too Much Too Late for Dominick Cruz

If the bantamweight title fight between Dominick Cruz and Henry Cejudo were happening in 2017, this would be a fascinating fight and Cruz would likely be favored. Triple C is a fairly heavy favorite for a reason—Cruz has been away from the cage since losing his bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt in December 2016.

Cejudo was just gearing up his for his run to the flyweight title back then. Now, he's a dual-division champion who is clearly looking for the highest-profile fights he can put together. That's the only reason for picking a fight with a former champion who hasn't fought in well over three years.

Were this between both men at their peaks, the clash of styles would be fascinating. If you believe Cruz can turn back the clock this long after losing to Garbrandt, it still could be. He has never really been outwrestled in a fight. He isn't a pure traditional wrestler but is one of the best when it comes to winning scrambles and owning the transitions. Cejudo's usual dominant wrestling advantage could be minimized.

On the feet, Cruz's unorthodox movements, footwork and angles create a complex, layered game that you don't see much in the champion's arsenal. Cejudo has traditional rudimentary boxing with limited punches and approaches footwork in a linear fashion.

The problem is this isn't 2017, and pretending that Cruz can just dust off his trunks and come back just as strong as ever or at a championship-caliber at all is a stretch. This matchup has arrived too late, and Cruz will find Cejudo's athleticism to be too much this late into his career.

Prediction: Cejudo via second-round TKO.


Ngannou Continues Title-Chasing Campaign by Knocking Out Rozenstruik

Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik have a lot in common.

Ngannou's rise to stardom is well-known by now. He comes from Cameroon, a country that isn't exactly known for producing MMA stars, and wanted to be a boxing star, but he found himself as one of the best knockout artists in the UFC.

The shine wore off Ngannou's rising stock when he dropped back-to-back unanimous decisions to champion Stipe Miocic and veteran Derrick Lewis. Some of his game was exposed, and what was once an unblemished record in the UFC became a lot less marketable.

Now comes in Rozenstruik. He represents Suriname, a country that has little to no representation in combat sports, and last year entered the UFC, in which he is a perfect 4-0 with four knockouts. In short, he's what Ngannou was before getting exposed in his championship fight.

Rozenstruik nearly tasted defeat for the first time against Alistair Overeem in his most recent fight. The Reem was likely up on the cards through four rounds, but the rising prospect got the stoppage in the fifth round with just four seconds left.

That's not going to happen with Ngannou's power. The former title challenger's power is arguably the best in the UFC, and Rozenstruik will need to start fast and put away Ngannou early. As with many heavyweight fights, whoever lands the first big shot is likely to be the winner.

Few have the ability to land that first shot like Ngannou.

Prediction: Ngannou via first-round TKO.