UFC 223: Tony Ferguson A ‘Winnable’ But ‘Ugly’ Fight For Khabib Nurmagomedov

Tony Ferguson is a “winnable” fight for Khabib Nurmagomedov, but the contest could also turn “ugly,” according to the latter’s teammate and UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.

Ferguson (23-3), who currently holds the interim title, will battle Nurmagomedov (25-0) for the lightweight title at UFC 223, which takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on April 7.

The winner is expected to be crowned the undisputed lightweight champion with UFC President Dana White claiming current champion Conor McGregor will be stripped due to his inactivity since winning the belt in November 2016.

In what will be the fourth time the two 155-pounders were scheduled to meet after their previous three fights were all called off, the main event in New York is one of the biggest match-ups in mixed martial arts (MMA) today as the duo hold a combined 35-fight win streak and are regarded the two best fighters in their division.

Tony Ferguson Tony Ferguson will be Khabib Nurmagomedov’s toughest UFC opponent till date. Pictured, Ferguson in the audience during the UFC 213 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, July 9, 2017. Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Cormier is one who will definitely be tuning in and while he naturally thinks the fight will go in his unbeaten teammate’s favor, he believes Ferguson, who he labels as “one of the toughest son-of-a-guns” he’s seen, will represent the biggest challenge for Nurmagomedov.

“I’m not going to be cornering him [Khabib], I’m just going to watch and support him as a teammate. Me and my family are going. My son loves Khabib and can’t wait to watch him,” Cormier told Bloody Elbow in an interview. “In terms of the breakdown, I think this is a great fight and a very winnable one for Khabib.”

“He just has to understand that this will be one of those ugly fights where Tony may cut him, and he’s got to be okay dealing with the blood. He’s got to be okay with just being in a really nasty fight, because as weird as Tony Ferguson is, he’s as tough as they come—one of the toughest son-of-a-guns I’ve ever seen. I mean, I watched Edson Barboza beat the shit out of him for a while, and what did he do? He came back and submitted him. He’s just a tough-ass dude. He will never quit on himself.”

Nurmagomedov has dominated every opponent he has stepped inside the octagon with, and is known for mauling his foes on the ground. “El Cucuy” though is one of the few fighters who can be offensive off his back and has a solid ground game.

Khabib Nurmagomedov Khabib Nurmagomedov most recently defeated Edson Barboza, dominating him on the ground. Pictured, Nurmagomedov pins Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Dec 30, 2017. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

However, Cormier believes it is no match for the Dagestani native, citing how in Ferguson’s last fight at UFC 216, he was mounted by a staph-infected Kevin Lee, who could have ended the fight in the first round if there was more time left on the clock.

“The most telling thing when I think about this fight is that Kevin Lee is an ultra-talented guy,” Cormier added. “I like Kevin Lee and think he’s a very good fighter. But, when you talk about top pressure and top control, he does not have the reputation for being a smothering top fighter like Khabib.”

“He [Lee] was able to take Tony down and get to the full mount, with staph, Kevin Lee had staph and he was able to get in that dominant position. I think that would be the most worrisome thing for me if I am Team Ferguson. You cannot do that with Khabib, you won’t get up. You’re stuck there forever. Good fight, though. I can’t wait to go watch.”

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