Ferguson vs Dariush is last chance saloon at UFC 262 for El Cucuy

Tony Ferguson’s clash with Beneil Dariush at UFC 262 is do-or-die… victory will see his legend reborn but a third defeat in a row will see the 37-year-old’s dreams of a title evaporate

  • Tony Ferguson came up short by a hefty margin in his previous two fights 
  • His proposed clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov fell off staggering five times 
  • It would have capped off an incredible winning streak but was never to be  
  • Now Ferguson, 37, is in last chance saloon territory against Beneil Dariush 

Tony Ferguson was in bullish form at the pre-UFC 262 press conference, as wild an unpredictable with the mic in front of him as he is in the octagon. 

There was a definite sense that he was almost riling himself up for battle against his co-main event opponent Beneil Dariush. 

Dariush is a laid back character and refused to engage in any of Ferguson’s attempts to get into him, even when El Cucy was virtually foaming at the mouth, warning: ‘I’m going to hit you so f*****g hard.’

Tony Ferguson knows that defeat on Saturday against Beneil Dariush would kill his title hopes

Charles Oliveira dominated Ferguson for all three rounds of their contest last December 

Ferguson understands just how important Saturday night is and the huge implications the outcome will have for the rest of his UFC career. 

For so long, Ferguson was on the cusp of a title shot and his proposed showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov fell off a staggering five times. 

Injuries to both and an infamous weight cutting issue – with Khabib seen eating Tiramisu on fight week – followed by a freak accident with Ferguson ripping his knee apart after tangling in some wires during media day, made it seem like the bout was cursed. 

Ferguson had been on a 12 fight winning streak and had not tasted defeat in seven years. 

The timing was perfect for the big opportunity he’d worked so hard for but the MMA Gods have not been kind to him and dreadful luck was a huge factor. 

Ferguson’s stock was at it’s peak when he agreed to fight Justin Gaethje last May in one of the first pandemic events with no crowd. 

And it all came crashing down in brutal fashion. Ferguson had his moments and dropped his man at the end of round one but by the fifth, he was getting battered from pillar to post. 

Gaethje is one of the most relentless, durable fighters on the roster and it was uncomfortable viewing when yet another bludgeoning strike landed, causing the already dazed Ferguson to shake his head. It was a clear sign to the referee that the stricken fighter needed saving. 

Of course, afterwards Ferguson insisted he wanted to go out on his shield and said he still felt he had a chance to pull victory from the jaws of defeat but he would only have absorbed more unnecessary punishment. 

Gaethje (left) outclassed Ferguson before claiming a fifth-round TKO victory in Florida

He had already taken 100 shots to the head, 36 to the body and 30 to the legs. For the first time since 2013 he looked fallible. 

Sometimes a huge beating like that can change the trajectory of a career. And time is already against Ferguson, now 37, and no lightweight champion has ever been his age or older.

All eyes were on what the UFC would do with Ferguson after that Gaethje defeat and the Charles Oliveira match-up, while dangerous was definitely one he’d see as winnable. 

But there were further signs that Ferguson is on the slide. He was comprehensively outclassed, particularly on the ground.

El Cucuy only landed 19 significant strikes over the course of the entire fight and the time in control on the ground tells the story. 

In total, Oliveira spent 11 minutes and 39 seconds in charge on the mat and showed he is in a different stratosphere, even securing what looked like a guaranteed arm-bar submission. 

 A defeat like the one against Gaethje can add miles to the clock and Ferguson needs a win

Astonishingly, Ferguson refused to tap and who knows the damage Oliveira did to the limb. Ultimately, the American’s pride could remain in tact but he lost decisively on the scorecards, 30-26, 30-26, 30-26.

After defeat by Gaethje, Ferguson offered a reasonable number of excuses, citing the fact that he had been preparing exclusively to face the dominant wrestling style of Khabib and had to switch on late notice to deal with a striker. 

But there was little he could say after the Oliveira defeat. He posted a long and bizarrely rambling message on Instagram.

One of he more coherent parts read: ‘No Excuses, I felt flat. I went out & welcomed the attack instead of defend. The warm up time in the back for UFC hasn’t been the same since pre-Covid. Still no Excuses, times change & so do people. The aggressive level we needed was not reached. My fault.   

‘Kid was slick but so am I. I was looking for the knockout standing & d’arce from bottom position once we hit jits transitions. It was fun fighting against a wet blanket (AKA “heavy pressure opponent”) mark my words, that scenario won’t happen again. Period.


‘My arm is alright, the armbar was really tight. The thought of my son’s ability to be double jointed in his elbow during that sequence & my mental capacity to endure pain got me through it.’

Dana White reflected: ‘Of course that’s possible that he’s past his prime, but Tony needs to go home and spend the holidays with his family and take some time off and think about what he wants to do next year and we’ll see what’s next for him. But yes, every time you fight in this business, that’s always possible.’

There are no gimme fights in the upper echelons of any UFC divisions and Dariush ranked No 9 at the moment so defeat on Saturday will see Ferguson slide well away from title contention. 

It is very difficult to see a way back to a shot at the belt for Ferguson when he will be the big name on the wane that every up and coming star wants to fight, especially given his age. 

Dana White recently told ESPN: ‘It’s a big fight for him, man. He’s a huge fan favorite so if he comes in and he performs, he’ll be right back on top of the game. 

‘We just gotta see which Tony Ferguson shows up.’

Ferguson knows that Dariush (right) will pose a threat on both the feet and ground 

A win would propel Ferguson right back up towards the top of the lightweight division. Many will regard the winner of Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier as the champion in waiting despite Oliviera and Michael Chandler competing for the belt this weekend. 

So outside of those four and along with Gaethje, Ferguson’s name would be right back in the mix. 

But defeat could spell disaster for him. Ferguson is the type to fight until the bitter end but may one day need saving from himself. 

This Saturday is last chance saloon territory and could see a legend reborn or prove fatal to his chances of ever touching UFC gold. 

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