Justin Gaethje def. Tony Ferguson at UFC 249: Best photos
Justin Gaethje’s maturation from a wild brawler best known for “Fight of the Night” bonuses to a well-rounded, world-championship quality competitor is complete.
Gaethje (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) quite simply put on an incredible performance against Tony Ferguson on Saturday night in the main event of a memorable UFC 249. After pouring it on well into the fifth round in Jacksonville, Fla., the bout was waved off at the 3:39 mark of the final frame for a TKO.
Gaethje won the UFC interim lightweight championship with the victory, but removed the belt just as soon as it UFC president Dana White put it around his waist, proclaiming he wants the real one, currently held by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“Hard work man, hard work since I was 4 years old,” Gaethje said during his post-fight interview. “Each day at a time, I never look past one day and I want to be better than yesterday.”
Gaethje came out in the opening round throwing with bad intention and landing like a sledgehammer. Gaethje started with nasty leg kicks, and soon thereafter started landing crisp and clean with hooks.
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By the second round, Ferguson’s right eye was already starting to swell. Gaethje stayed disciplined and landed over and over. Ferguson had his best moment of the fight in the closing seconds, as he dropped Gaethje with a well-placed uppercut, but the horn sounded to end the round.
The Gaethje of old would have run out of gas by the third round, which is when cardio freak Ferguson (25-4 MMA, 15-2 UFC) usually turns up the heat. Not this time, though. Ferguson tried to pick up the pace, and Gaethje matched it, as he continued to pick his spots and land at will.
By the fourth, it was clear Ferguson needed the finish, and just as clear Gaethje wasn’t going to be tricked into making any mistakes. It’s to Ferguson’s credit that he never stopped looking for a way to win. But by the fifth round, his face was a hideous mess, and referee Herb Dean finally saw enough in the bout’s waning minutes and waved things off.
With the victory, Gaethje, the former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion, has now won four in a row. Ferguson had a 12-fight win streak snapped and was finished for the first time in his UFC run.
Geathje was a substitute for Nurmagomedov, who was originally slated to defend his belt against Ferguson on April 18, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the champ to pull out, a postponement to May 9, and two venue changes.
The interim lightweight title bout was the UFC 249 main event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN/ESPN+ and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.
“Its been a long (expletive) camp,” Ferguson said. “Ill be real, Its a long camp weight cut had nothing to do with it, Justin is a tough son of an (expletive).”
Up-to-the-minute UFC 249 results include:
- Justin Gaethje def. Tony Ferguson via TKO (punches) Round 5, 3:39
- Henry Cejudo def. Dominick Cruz via TKO (knee and punches) Round 2, 4:58
- Calvin Kattar def. Jeremy Stephens via TKO (strikes) Round 2, 2:42
- Greg Hardy def. Yorgan De Castro via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Anthony Pettis def. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Aleksei Oleinik def. Fabricio Werdum via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Carla Esparza def. Michelle Waterson via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 30-27)
- Vicente Luque def. Niko Price via TKO (doctors stoppage) Round 3, 3:37
- Bryce Mitchell def. Charles Rosa via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-24)
- Ryan Spann def. Sam Alvey via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
UFC 249: Official scorecards from Jacksonville, Fla.