MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the scrapped main event for UFC 249, which was to feature two of the most exciting fighters in the sport.

Set to take place Saturday at Tachi Palace Resort Casino in California, UFC 249 was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Who was Tom leaning toward in this matchup, which could still come to fruition later this year? Read on.

Tony Ferguson (25-3 MMA, 14-1 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 36 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: TKO win over Donald Cerrone (June 8, 2019)
  • Camp: 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Former interim UFC lightweight champion
+ 2x All-American wrestler
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 13 KO wins
+ 8 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ Relentless pace and pressure
^ Well-conditioned/consistent stalker
+ Dynamic striking assault
^ Shifts stance and variates timing
+ Solid wrestling ability
^ Superb hip, grip and lever awareness
+ Excellent from front-headlock
^ Chokes, transitions, back-takes
+ Active and attacking guard

Justin Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 70″
  • Last fight: TKO win over Donald Cerrone (Sept. 14, 2019)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ WSOF lightweight title
+ NCAA Division I All-American wrestler
+ 18 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Relentless pace and pressure
+ Heavy right hand
^ Variates between overhands and uppercuts
+ Hard leg kicks
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Good hips and dirty boxing
+ Strikes well off the break
+ Excellent wrestling and scrambling ability
+/- Propensity to brawl

Point of interest: Pressure king

Once Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced out of UFC 249, the new main event was to feature an interim title fight between two of the most violent pressure fighters in the history of the lightweight division.

Walking a fine line between forward mover and voracious marauder, Tony Ferguson seldom can be found taking a back step in his fights.

Whether he is feinting or throwing, Ferguson – for the most part – is consistently putting pressure on his opponents, looking to either slice-and-dice his way inside or half-step his way into kill shots off of his accurate jab. From powerful prods to crafty checks, I suspect that the former interim titleholder’s jab would have been a weapon to watch for in this matchup.

Ferguson also uses straight shots to help him counterbalance off of his body and leg kicks and is not opposed to mixing spinning attacks into his offensive shifts and defensive slips. Nevertheless, it is in these instances of shifting attacks and advancements where Ferguson is most hittable and susceptible to being countered.

Although Ferguson has a deceptive ability to roll with the punches, taking shots becomes an extra dangerous proposition when you’re standing across from Justin Gaethje.

A man who might own the most violent and financially fruitful six-fight start in UFC history, Gaethje has proven to be highlight-reel material, win or lose.

A relentless forward mover, Gaethje embodies the phrase “a bull in a China shop” with his unabashed aggression and hard-wiring to inflict damage. Doing his best work when on the attack, Gaethje will gain his opponent’s respect with hard hooks and crosses, looking to punctuate his presence with crushing uppercuts and leg kicks when appropriate.

Similar to a Spartan behind his shield in a phalanx, Gaethje relies heavily upon his double-forearm guard, planting and looking to counter with immediacy.

Outside of his shelling defense, the 31-year-old has sometimes shown little regard for what comes back at him in the past, something that is reflected by his statistics in the strikes absorbed department. That said, Gaethje – under the tutelage of longtime coach Trevor Wittman – has quietly shown improvements in the feints and footwork department that have helped him both defensively and offensively.

I doubt that Gaethje hurting Ferguson at some point in the fight would have surprised anyone; I’m just curious if Gaethje would have made the same mistake many have when it comes to chasing a hurt Ferguson into the murky waters in which he thrives.

Next point of interest: Taking the bull by the horns