UFC 249: The Conway Predictions
By Alex Conway
Welcome to UFC 249, where we’ve all stepped into an alternate universe where we can’t leave our homes.
We have been forced to watch fights on TV with no fans in the stands and Dominick Cruz getting a title shot after his longest career layoff makes perfect sense.
Let’s take a look at the main and co-main event and make some predictions.
Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje
We’ve tried five times to see Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson square off and finally we get what we’ve always bee…oh wait, nevermind. It’s still not happening.
But the world’s greatest consolation prize is upon is. It’s Tony Ferguson versus Justin Gaethje!
There is basically no way that this fight will suck, but how will it look?
If the fight stays at range you’ll see Tony Ferguson throw high volume jabs, kicks and switch stance spinning elbows. He might even mix in a takedown or two, but that’s unlikely.
Justin Gaethje will look to throw his big right hand and use his lead hand to manipulate Ferguson into spaces where he can line it up for optimal effect.
Close-up striking is also a specialty for both fighters. The aforementioned elbows from Ferguson are lethal in the clinch and he has unorthodox entries into grappling exchanges. Gaethje is one of the few fighters that can throw a devastating leg kick from the Muay Thai clinch.
Fun fact, Justin Gaethje has yet to attempt to take anyone down inside the UFC. If he continues that trend he will eliminate one of the best elements of Ferguson’s game—scrambles.
When the action gets chaotic Ferguson ends up with front chokes and leg locks, but I don’t see that happening. I think as long as Gaethje doesn’t push into Ferguson, the former interim champ will be happy to strike at kickboxing range.
If that’s the case it all becomes about whether Gaethje can land the big shot (he can) within a certain time frame (early).
Early on Ferguson is highly hittable. He was tagged often by Pettis and got stung once or twice by Cerrone in the first round of their fight. If he can play it safe (yeah…ok) then he should be in better shape than Gaethje (who took the fight on short notice).
I’m predicting that Ferguson and Gaethje will light each other up for the first two rounds, Gaethje won’t be able to take Ferguson out, and eventually we’ll see Ferguson overwhelm Gaethje in the later rounds for a TKO finish.
Cejudo vs. Cruz
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. I’m picking Cruz.
I was on the fence until I saw them at the weigh-ins. Cruz looks like he’s in phenomenal shape (as does Cejudo) and he looked massive standing next to the former flyweight champ.
Cruz doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy that needs to stay active to stay sharp. Plenty of evidence in past fights to support that. He also has proven to be pretty durable throughout his career DURING a fight (not talking about training injuries).
Even when Garbrandt dropped him, he was never in true danger of getting knocked out. For all the damage the injuries have done to his career, they’ve likely preserved his chin.
Cejudo hits hard and has clearly brought that power with him to bantamweight. But he is undersized and this will be in theory the quickest fighter he’s fought in the UFC’s 135-pound division.
But is Cruz still fast? Tough to say now that he’s been out for almost four years and his on the back half of his thirties.
If Cruz hasn’t lost too much speed, I think he styles on Cejudo. I believe he’s got the technical chops to keep it on the feet long enough that Cejudo can’t win the fight on points by taking it to the ground.
On the feet, it’s not close. Cejudo MIGHT be able to catch him, but I’m not banking on it.
I’m picking Cruz via a close five-round decision.