Fans of MMA are rubbing their hands in anticipation ahead of UFC 249, with the event now resurrected after originally being canceled back in April. Of course, Khabib Nurmagomedov was meant to be the main attraction as he took on Tony Ferguson, but Russia’s lockdown measures as a result of the coronavirus crisis have forced him to stay put in his homeland. This has meant that Justin Gaethje has been drafted in as an emergency replacement to take on Ferguson.
The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting odds place Ferguson as the heavy favorite, but with UFC 249 set to be such a unique occasion – being fought behind closed doors – perhaps there is more to analyze ahead of this fight than there would be in normal circumstances. Here, we take a look at a few areas which could make all the difference on the night.
When it comes to the experience both fighters have of competing in the UFC, there is no contest as to who has the edge. May 9th will be Gaethje’s seventh UFC fight, while Ferguson has been a consistent participant since 2011, and that undoubtedly gives the latter an advantage.
Ferguson’s form in competition in recent years will give Gaethje plenty of reasons to worry. He has not lost a fight since May 2012, a run of 12 consecutive wins. That’s a record in the UFC Lightweight division and is proof of the difficult task facing Gaethje as he gears up for what is undoubtedly the biggest fight in his career.
However, the experience is not the only factor when it comes to a fighter’s performance on the night. In the end, ability and talent will have a greater say in who comes out on top. Ferguson’s experience unquestionably gives him the edge, but stranger things have happened in the world of combat sports.
Given the strange circumstances in which UFC 249 is taking place, another key factor will be the preparations that both fighters will have made ahead of the event. Ferguson, of course, would initially have been making his preparations for UFC 249 with a view to fighting Khabib in what would have been the biggest fight of his career.
How he will have handled the chopping and changing in terms of the date of the event and the identity of his opponent will be a key factor. Complacency is the enemy of any fighter, and it’s important that Ferguson avoids that as he prepares to face an opponent who is, on paper, significantly weaker than Khabib.
For Gaethje, he would not have been expecting this opportunity, and so UFC 249 in many ways represents a kind of free hit. He may feel like the pressure is off, but then the relative lack of time he has had to prepare fully may affect him adversely.
UFC 249 will be taking place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, and so the uniquely raucous atmosphere that usually accompanies fight night will be lost. It’s unclear which fighter will gain an advantage out of this, as both will be used to competing in filled arenas with thousands of passionate fans.
As the more experienced fighter, some would say that Ferguson should be better equipped to handle these bizarre circumstances. But on the other hand, Gaethje’s lesser-known profile in the sport means that he may feel more comfortable in that kind of environment.