One of the UFC’s hottest lightweights gets a chance to inch closer to a future title shot this weekend at the TUF Latin America 3 Finale.
Tony Ferguson carries an impressive eight-fight win streak into his main event assignment against former champion Rafael dos Anjos in Mexico City. The No. 3-ranked “El Cucuy” is one of the most deserving title contenders the organization has yet to reward with a championship fight, and his prospects would be brightened considerably if he were to continue his victorious ways against the talented Brazilian veteran.
Ferguson first arrived on the scene as the Season 13 winner of The Ultimate Fighter. While he captured that tournament in impressive fashion as a welterweight by producing a string of finishes, he has campaigned since that time as a 155-pounder and has posted an impressive 11-1 overall record with the promotion. That lone setback was a unanimous decision loss against current No. 6-ranked contender Michael Johnson.
The 32-year-old California native is battle-tested and is noted for his aggressive, unorthodox style that has produced several fan-friendly affairs. Ferguson possesses solid power, wrestling ability and submission skills, and is as relentless as they come. He’s a proven finisher with 18 of his 22 victories coming by either knockout or submission and is quite durable, having never been stopped via strikes in his 24-fight professional career. This looms as Ferguson’s biggest assignment to date as he steps into the headlining spotlight this weekend.
With Ferguson having garnered Fight Night awards in four straight appearances, he’ll undoubtedly be looking to make another emphatic statement against the dangerous ex-champion. The matchup against dos Anjos is the type of high-profile clash that Ferguson has been waiting for after seeing potential fights fall through this year against the likes of undefeated contender Khabib Nurmagomedov and Michael Chiesa because of injury-related circumstances. With “El Cucuy” set to do battle in what looms as a compelling affair against RDA, we take a look at his top five UFC triumphs.
Honorable Mention: Tony Ferguson vs. Abel Trujillo
Event: UFC 181
Date: Dec. 6, 2014
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Result: Ferguson def. Trujillo via submission
Not surprisingly, this matchup involving two highly aggressive fighters provided plenty of fireworks in Las Vegas. “Killa” had the early advantage after dropping Ferguson with a right hand to the temple in the first minute of the contest. Trujillo was aggressive in following up on his advantage as he landed a solid combination and secured a takedown. Trujillo was hanging onto Ferguson’s neck but was unable to sink in a fight-ending submission.
After being taken down again, Ferguson was active from his back in fishing for submissions and both men were busy throwing punches at one another. “El Cucuy” started to ramp up the pressure as the round continued as he was able to find the range with his jab, right hand and leg kicks. He was definitely coming on as the stanza concluded.
Ferguson continued to pressure Trujillo to begin the second frame and landed an effective body kick. He thwarted a takedown attempt and landed some effective ground-and-pound on Trujillo from the top position. Ferguson tried to sink in multiple submission attempts to no avail, but it was clear that his opponent was starting to fade. Ferguson was clearly wearing down Trujillo with his aggressiveness and pace and was able to drag Trujillo to the mat again while doling out punishment. The end would come at the 4:19 mark when Trujillo provided Ferguson with the opening he needed to lock in a rear-naked choke that forced a tap.
5. Tony Ferguson vs. Lando Vannata
Event: UFC Fight Night 91
Date: July 13, 2016
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Result: Ferguson def. Vannata via submission
Ferguson was relegated to co-main event status after the disappointment of seeing a main event contest against fellow TUF winner Chiesa fall through because of a back injury sustained by “Maverick.” However, the battle between “El Cucuy” and the promotional newcomer Vannata provided an unexpected gem on the South Dakota card.
Ferguson and Vannata went to war right from the outset as both relied upon their unorthodox striking techniques to inflict damage upon one another. Ferguson dropped Vannata briefly with a left hand but was later stung himself by a spinning back-fist and right hand from his underdog opponent. There were crazy stand-up exchanges throughout the opening frame and Ferguson was forced to dig deep after being badly wobbled by a head kick. Vannata would press the advantage and had Ferguson in seemingly dire straits as he was unable to get his legs under him. Ferguson was able to avoid what would’ve been a massive upset by collecting himself and fishing for submissions from his back.
Despite the major scare in the opening stanza, Ferguson came out aggressively in the second and started to take over with his crisp jab and uppercuts. Vannata paid the price for keeping his hands low as Ferguson pressed the attack with front kicks to the body. Vannata was bloodied up but tremendously tough as he continued to eat punches from his opponent. Eventually, Ferguson was able to latch on a D’Arce choke that forced Vannata to tap at the 2:22 mark.
Ferguson showed tremendous sportsmanship in raising his opponent’s arm after a truly thrilling affair that earned both competitors a Fight of the Night bonus. While Vannata nearly thrwarted Ferguson’s title quest, the latter displayed great resilience to finally get the win in what remains one of the wildest UFC scraps of 2016.
4. Tony Ferguson vs. Ramsey Nijem
Event: TUF 13 Finale
Date: June 4, 2011
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Result: Ferguson def. Nijem via KO
Ferguson made his mark in the UFC by capturing the TUF 13 crown in emphatic fashion in Las Vegas. There were some solid exchanges in the early moments before Ferguson secured a takedown of Nijem. Both men were able to land punches during a scramble that brought the bout back to being a stand-up affair. Ferguson was more diverse in his attack, but Nijem was more than willing to engage and was effective in landing his right hand. “El Cucuy” would later secure another takedown of his opponent and enjoyed some time in top control.
The end would come once both men got to their feet again. After Nijem had landed a right hand, Ferguson would respond with a jab and a huge left hook to the jaw that sent his opponent crashing to the canvas. Ferguson would add a follow-up right hand before the proceedings were halted at the 3:54 mark of the first round. The win not only got Ferguson his UFC contract but a Knockout of the Night bonus as well. It was a prime exhibit of Ferguson’s explosiveness.
3. Tony Ferguson vs. Gleison Tibau
Event: UFC 184
Date: Feb. 28, 2015
Location: Los Angeles, California
Result: Ferguson def. Tibau via submission
Ferguson showed that he was ready to enter the lightweight division’s upper-tier when he dismantled the tough veteran in surprisingly dominant fashion. Ferguson came out landing effective leg kicks while Tibau countered with punches. “El Cucuy” went to work with some effective ground-and-pound after securing a takedown. After the contest returned to a stand-up battle it was Ferguson buzzed his opponent with a big right hand to the temple. Ferguson pounced on a clearly dazed Tibau by landing hard ground-and-pound strikes and patiently working for submissions. Ferguson would eventually lock in a rear-naked choke that brought the contest to a close at the 2:37 mark of the first-round. The win netted Ferguson a Performance of the Night bonus and marked just the second time in Tibau’s 45-fight career that he’d been submitted.
After the contest returned to a stand-up battle, Ferguson buzzed his opponent with a big right hand to the temple. Ferguson pounced on a clearly dazed Tibau by landing hard ground-and-pound strikes and patiently working for submissions. Ferguson would eventually lock in a rear-naked choke that brought the contest to a close at the 2:37 mark of the first round. The win netted Ferguson a Performance of the Night bonus and marked just the second time in Tibau’s 45-fight career that he’d been submitted.
2. Tony Ferguson vs. Josh Thomson
Event: UFC Fight Night 71
Date: July 15, 2015
Location: San Diego, California
Result: Ferguson def. Thomson via unanimous decision
Ferguson put on quite a show against the former Strikeforce lightweight kingpin in San Diego. “El Cucuy” was at his creative best as he badly bloodied up Thomson on his way to posting a lopsided unanimous decision victory. Ferguson was sharp from the outset with his effective body and leg kicks. He had Thomson off balance with his unorthodox style as “The Punk” was surprisingly inactive. Ferguson was winning the majority of the stand-up game, so Thomson opted to mix in a takedown late in the opening frame. Ferguson was quite aggressive off his back in attempting an inverted triangle technique. Thomson did land an elbow from the top but was clearly outworked in the opening stanza.
Things would only get worse in the second as Ferguson would drop Thomson with a massive standing elbow. He would unleash a furious barrage of elbows and punches while trying to catch his opponent in a crucifix position. Thomson was later opened up by another huge elbow and was on the receiving end of more brutal strikes from Ferguson. Thomson showed his tremendous toughness in somehow surviving a lengthy kimura attempt from Ferguson, but was essentially painting the canvas with his own blood.
It was more of the same in the final frame with Ferguson doing all the damage while Thomson displayed an enormous heart to make it to the final horn. It all added up to a comfortable unanimous decision victory for Ferguson by margins of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. He was awarded a Performance of the Night bonus for a dominant effort against one of the division’s toughest competitors.
1.Tony Ferguson vs. Edson Barboza
Event: TUF 22 Finale
Date: Dec. 11, 2015
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Result: Ferguson def. Barboza via submission
The matchup of Ferguson and Barboza seemed like a meshing of fighting styles that would produce an all-action war, and that’s how exactly how things played out in Las Vegas, as the two combined to produce one of the fiercest battles of 2015.
The pace was furious from the outset with both contenders getting involved in serious exchanges. Ferguson showed his creative techniques in going for a rolling kneebar attempt. Both men traded shots on the ground, “El Cucuy” from the bottom and Barboza from the top. An illegal kick from Ferguson would cost him a point deduction and Barboza would land several body punches and a head kick after the action resumed. He also got Ferguson’s attention with a nice left hook. Ferguson dug into his bag of offensive tricks by landing a solid front kick and standing elbow. An excellent first stanza ended with Barboza landing further body punches and a spinning back-kick.
The frenetic activity continued in the second round as both men were bloodied from the damage they had incurred. After Ferguson did some effective work on the mat with punches from the bottom, it was back to being a stand-up affair. Both competitors were putting everything into their strikes, but it was Ferguson who was starting to take over. He would land a front kick and a spinning back-elbow as Barboza began to fade.
As the Brazilian shot for a takedown, Ferguson countered by catching his opponent in a D’Arce choke during the scramble, and Barboza would finally tap at the 2:54 mark. The sensational scrap netted both men Fight of the Night honors while Ferguson garnered an additional $50,000 for Performance of the Night in what remains the biggest win of his Octagon tenure.