UFC 249 tips: Best bets for the entire main card
Jack Green is predicting an exciting main event between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje in his UFC tips for Saturday night.
TONY FERGUSON V JUSTIN GAETHJE
It’s not Ferguson v Khabib, but Saturday night’s main event should still be a cracking fight.
It features two of the UFC’s most entertaining fighters – Ferguson, an unorthodox striker who fights at a relentless pace, and Gaethje, a brawler who seems to enjoy taking punishment just as much as dishing it out.
Ferguson is on a 12-fight winning streak and would have had his shot at the lightweight title by now had injuries (and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s quarantine) not got in his way.
The 36-year-old is dangerous both on the feet and the mat, with 12 knockout wins and eight submissions in 28 fights.
Ferguson occasionally starts slowly, which presents an opportunity for Gaethje, who is on a run of three straight first-round KOs.
‘The Highlight’ has heavy hands and makes every single fight a war, but defeats to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier between 2017 and 2018 prove he can be stopped if his opponent withstands the early onslaught.
Ferguson will know that, and has overcome sluggish starts to win on several occasions during this 12-fight streak.
He’ll do so again this weekend before piling the pressure on in the middle rounds and earning the stoppage.
Ferguson to win by KO/TKO/DQ
HENRY CEJUDO V DOMINICK CRUZ
Cruz makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon on Saturday night to challenge Cejudo for the bantamweight title.
The UFC legend was completely shown up in his last fight, a title bout against Cody Garbrandt in December 2016.
He lost the belt by unanimous decision and might have been stopped had Garbrandt not started dancing every time he knocked Cruz down.
Cruz looked past his best in that defeat and is now 35, so it’s hard to see how he’ll beat a champion who has never looked better.
Cejudo won the belt with a stunning TKO of Marlon Moraes in June and has now won five consecutive fights across two divisions, having also previously held and vacated the UFC flyweight title.
The 33-year-old is an excellent wrestler, having won gold at the 2008 Olympics, and has shown with his last two TKO wins that he possesses the power to stop anyone.
Cruz doesn’t have the same pop with his punches, so he’ll struggle to prevent Cejudo’s relentless pressure. A gruelling decision win for the champion looks a good bet.
Cejudo to win by decision
FRANCIS NGANNOU V JAIRZINHO ROZENSTRUIK
Ngannou has had to fight his way back into the heavyweight title picture after losing to champion Stipe Miocic in January 2018.
The Cameroonian followed that defeat up with one of the most boring UFC fights ever – which he lost – against Derrick Lewis in July of the same year.
Ngannou and Lewis are both big punchers who were unwilling to put themselves in danger in that fight, which is concerning as this bout could follow a similar pattern.
Rozenstruik is another knockout artist who has ended nine of his 10 victories inside the distance, and he has knocked his last three opponents out cold.
This fight will ultimately come down to which fighter can land their one big shot, and Ngannou’s extra experience means he looks the better bet.
In Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, he has beaten three good heavyweights since his two defeats in 2018, and should have learned enough to get the job done here.
Ngannou to win by KO/TKO/DQ
JEREMY STEPHENS V CALVIN KATTAR
This should be another great fight between two evenly matched lightweights.
Stephens made his name as a brawler in the UFC but has slowed down in recent years. He has lost three of his last four fights, with the other ruled a no contest after an eye poke just 15 seconds in.
His power and experience make him a dangerous opponent, though, and he’s capable of winning this fight.
Kattar is also coming off a defeat to Zabit Magomedsharipov in November, but he performed well despite the result and has a 4-2 record in the UFC to date.
The 32-year-old is a faster and cleaner striker than Stephens, and has the power to hold his own even if this turns into a war.
It should be close, but the edge must go to the younger fighter here. Stephens has looked like a fading force in recent fights, so Kattar should manage to earn the decision.
Kattar to win by decision
GREG HARDY V YORGAN DE CASTRO
Hardy is gradually being pushed towards a heavyweight title shot and this should be another routine win against a middling opponent.
De Castro has won six fights out of six but has only one fight in the UFC to date – a KO win over Justin Tafa last October.
Hardy is coming off a defeat to Alexander Volkov and has also lost by DQ to Allen Crowder in the past, but the former NFL star has otherwise faced little trouble in the UFC.
He should use his size and strength to grind out a win on points.
Hardy to win by decision
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