Ferguson vs Gaethje: The Modern-Day Griffin/Bonnar
By James Lee
When millions tune in to watch Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje oppose each other on Saturday night, what they will receive is combat at its purest form.
Two ultra-aggressive fighters at the most eminent level in the sport, in an anticipated fight of the year front-runner. Usually, the hyping of a fight in terms of promised pure activity can jinx it, but as the pair have exemplified numerous times, that will not be the case in Jacksonville.
Crucially, there remains something unconventional about the couple. As most perform for certified, overarching purposes, they are more complex. There is no extensive rationalising behind the fight. The smart move would be to wait until Khabib Nurmagomedov can compete again. But as fight day approaches, the enthusiasm for two of the best lightweights of all time fighting for fan pleasure during this unprecedented period is compelling.
Since his arrival to the UFC, Gaethje has quickly established himself as the most electrifying fighter in the sport. He never has and will never be a part of a dull fight. His style would not allow it. Even the entire 150 seconds of his match with Edson Barboza was edge-of-the-seat action, and the battle with Tony Ferguson will not disappoint, despite how long it persists.
His kill or be killed style has rarely ever been seen. The Colorado fighter takes no time to warm into a fight. His recent knockouts over James Vick and Edson Barboza in a combined four minutes note his immediate danger, and he has looked as devastating as ever since his first two career losses. A vicious power puncher, with unmatched grit if necessary. Power that could cause trouble for anybody, even Tony Ferguson.
Nevertheless, there is a reason his American counterpart has not lost since 2012. Rightfully, Tony Ferguson has acclaimed mass praise for his readiness to not only beat the best but stay true to his style while doing so. His performances against Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone rightfully remain configured in the minds of those who witnessed.
The potential 25 minutes between two of the sport’s most inspiring will go down on Saturday. Somehow though, what could be only described as an inconsequential future lingers considerably over the contest. The aura of Conor McGregor will forever reign over the top of the division until it is his time to retire. For the sport and viewership, his participation is always welcome, but for those wanting to achieve championship greatness at lightweight, their chances slim significantly whenever he is active. With that, there is little guarantee the winner is destined for unification and such that the lightweight division has become a division of excitement, not one of purified championship capability for most.
However, in terms of fight legacy, the stakes are enormous. Victory would be notable on their record long after they retire as ultimately, the man with six performance bonuses in five UFC fights and the most exciting fighter in the UFC today versus the always-exciting and maybe most consistently impressive fighter in UFC history Tony Ferguson is set to be a fight of the year contender.
A contest that may spark yet another landmark moment for the UFC, much like Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar did fifteen years ago.