Top 10 UFC Fighters Of The Decade: #9: Tony Ferguson
By Ross Markey
Taking the #9 rank on this Top 10 list, is perennial lightweight title challenger, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson. The Oxnard favorite is also the only person included on this highly competitive list, to never claim undisputed championship status – a true testament to the ability of the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Ferguson is one of the most technically gifted athletes to ever step foot inside the Octagon, as well as one of the most unorthodox.
The dynamic mixed-martial-artist is yet to ever compete for undisputed Octagon gold, but looks to put this perceived curse behind him at UFC 249 in April, when he is paired with reigning lightweight kingpin, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov for a fifth separate time. Similarly to the previously listed, Max Holloway, Ferguson has really gone through the grinder to earn his long-overdue shot at championship gold.
As this decade comes to a close, Tony Ferguson has won The Ultimate Fighter, the interim lightweight championship, established a division-tying twelve fight win streak, and has only been beaten once since 2012. Quite staggering. In that incredible run, Ferguson has managed victories over five world champions.
With one of the most fluid striking games in mixed-martial-arts today, Ferguson possesses a lengthy jab, damaging low kick and almost unmatched forward pressure. Adding to these attributes, Ferguson has nasty elbows both on his feet and from his back, as well as arguably one of the best cardio-tanks in the promotion. Evident in his victories over Kevin Lee, Edson Barboza, Gleison Tibau, Abel Trujillo, and Lando Vannata, Ferguson is a distinctly formidable submission grappler from his back, or from back mount, A staple of Ferguson’s submission grappling arsenal, is his taut D’Arce choke.
In his rise to #1 contender status, Ferguson has made massive statements, with victories over Muay Thai practitioner, Edson Barboza, former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, dangerous wrestler, Kevin Lee, and more recently, former WEC and UFC lightweight best, Anthony Pettis, and kickboxing ace, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. If we delve into each of these matchups, we see some absolutely shocking damage sustained by all of Ferguson’s opponents. They’ve all been sliced by ‘El Cucuy[s]’ elbows,
The 35-year-old has featured in the Octagon on at least one occasion in each year since his UFC stint began in 2011, even after he suffered a dire separation of his FCL while carrying out media obligations ahead of his main event with Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in April last year. Just six months later, Ferguson who had preformed his own rehabilitation, was back in the saddle against Anthony Pettis. Appearing arguably better than ever, Ferguson began kicking from his injured leg before forcing a second round corner stoppage after landing beautiful boxing combinations.
On April 18th. at UFC 249, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson meet with not only the UFC lightweight championship up for grabs, but also the moniker as the promotion’s greatest ever lightweight goes to the victor. Both men are complete standouts in a murderer’s row of 155-pounder competitors. On paper, Ferguson, presents the toughest opponent available to Nurmagomedov today, making this bout one of the most compelling meetings in not just the UFC, but the sport’s history.