Sunday, May 10, 2020

Thoughts on UFC 249: Ferguson vs Gaethje & Implications for Khabib

I've always felt like Gaethje stylistically, is a tougher fight for Khabib. Gaethje as wobbled most of the guys he has fought with his hands. He doesn't need to kick like a Barboza to set up his stand-up bag of weapons. Gaethje's kicks are low, little telegraphing, and accumulate quickly in the first couple rounds, and as opponents stand more still in front of him, he lands his damaging shots. Gaethje also showed a patience in this fight he has not shown in previous fights. He would land the big shot and rather than pour on for a finish and come blitzing forward until they hit the cage, he would circle off, reset, and start again.

This was the kind of gameplan necessary not only to defeat Ferguson who thrives in that kind of affair, but also to prepare for a Khabib fight: a measured 5 rounds fight with the win coming from devastating punches landed across multiple rounds and devoid of rushing forward that will allow Khabib to lock his hands and force it to the mat. Khabib struggled to implement his gameplan against Iaquinta, and Gaethje is a far more dangerous puncher content to do far more than jab, in fact, Gaethje actually didn't utilize his jab much if at all last night and managed to find the timing, distance, and head movement to set up both his key punches for the fight: right cross and left hook.

My chief suspicion in this fight was the weight cut twice in several weeks. I say this not as a detriment to Gaethje but in that Ferguson fought such a different fight. Gone with the chopping kicks to the mid section and the constant forward pressure talking his opponents over the first couple rounds that have led to the photos you have seen of his opponents busted up. Without that forward pressure, Fergun was unable to land the elbows which have been such a tool in his arsenal in accumulating damage and battering opponents. And left with a punch and counter punch style fight, Gaethje's counter right hand and left hook and head movement proved far too much for Ferguson over the duration of the fight. Ferguson's constant movement and resulting pressure were nowhere to be seen, causing me to believe his legs felt heavy/he simply didn't have it in the tank. I can't think of a reason why a fighter with such a history of keeping a torrid pace with basically every strike in the tool box and granby rolls and rolling somersaults et cetera suddently didn't have the energy for that gameplan other than the decision to cut weight twice in such a short amount of time. I had read a comment by him about doing the first weight cut without his nutritionist/weight cut person which also concerned me. At any rate, it was an amazing fight and Gaethje won and this is in no way an effort to discredit his win, but Ferguson fight a completely different fight (other than his durability) than has been shown in his until last night consecutive win streak. 

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