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This is a bit of a way off but it’s kind of a big deal. Back in Brooklyn. Will the FIFTH time be the charm? PPV MAIN CARD Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson - Lightweight Title Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Hernandez Jeremy Stephens vs Calvin Kattar ESPN PRELIMS Jacare Souza vs Uriah Hall Lyman Good vs Belal Muhammad Ottman Azaitar vs Khama Worthy Ben Rothwell vs Gian Villante ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Sijara Eubanks vs Sarah Moras Makhmud Muradov vs Karl Roberson Umar Nurmagomedov vs Hunter Azure Shamil Abdurakhimov vs TBA There’ll be a few more fights added yet and the order might change but that’s the meat and spuds of it. That undercard is better than I realised. Khabib vs Ferguson though. Fucking hell! Can we actually have it this time? PLEASE?! Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson. Yeah, I know it’s too soon to start even thinking about getting excited about this fight. But I’m excited about this fight. Big time. Surely this time, right? Surely. To get the full scope of this one, I’m going right back to the beginning. 2008: Both men make their professional MMA debut. Ferguson goes 3-0 with 3 finishes. Most notable being his September submission over future GLORY kickboxer and Diaz brothers teammate Joe Schilling. Khabib fights and wins 4 times, although 3 of them are in the same night as part of a tournament. 2009: Khabib goes 3-0 with 3 finishes. Ferguson fights a whopping 7 times and goes 5-2. So he tastes defeat early in his career. Both are bouncing between 155 and 170 in these early fights. 2010: Khabib gets another 2 wins in the books. He’s now 9-0 and fighting for M-1. Ferguson is back on track. He gets 2 wins and TKO’s Brock Jardine to win his first title for a promotion called PureCombat. 2011: A big year for both. Not to be outdone by Fergie’s 2009, this time Khabib fights 7 times. And he finishes all 7 opponents. Ferguson competes on The Ultimate Fighter, makes a complete tit of himself in the house but does well in the cage. He knocks out Ramsey Nijem in the finals to win the tournament... He caps off a breakthrough year by beating veterans Aaron Riley in September and Yves Edwards in December. 2012: Khabib makes his UFC debut in January and beats Kamal Shalorus on points. He follows that with another decision over Gleison Tibau on the Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen 2 undercard in July. Ferguson fights only once and loses a decision to Michael Johnson. 2013: Another 3 in the bag for the Russian as Khabib beats Thiago Tavares, Abel Trujillo and Pat Healy. He looks dominant each time. Ferguson only fights once again, submitting Mike Rio in a round in October. 2014: Ferguson went 3-0 in 2014 with wins over Katsunori Kikuno, Danny Castillo and Abel Trujillo. Khabib was briefly linked to fights with Gilbert Melendez and Nate Diaz but neither got finalised. He only ended up fighting once. But it was one that really left an impression as he completely trounced Rafael Dos Anjos in a one way traffic decision. Really opened my eyes at the time. Everyone could see he was someone to keep an eye on before this. But this was the one that really got people to take notice. RDA was on a hell of a run at the time as well. He’d won 5 fights before and 5 fights after the Khabib loss. RDA was in top form and Khabib just dominated him. 2015: Khabib vs Cerrone was supposed to happen but Khabib suffered a knee injury that would ultimately see him inactive for the whole year. And so it begins... Attempt #1 - December 11th 2015 Khabib and Ferguson were supposed to face off at the The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Khabib pulled out with a rib injury. Ferguson ended up facing Edson Barboza instead, submitting him with a sweet D’Arce choke. He’d also beat Josh Thomson and Gleison Tibau earlier in the year. 2016: They try again... Attempt #2 - April 16th 2016 Khabib vs Ferguson was rescheduled to take place on Big FOX. But about a week or so before the show, the fight was called off again. This time it was Ferguson who pulled out with a lung issue. Khabib did finally return to the cage that night though, beating late replacement Darrell Horcher by TKO. At the end of the year, Khabib nearly ripped Michael Johnson’s arm off at MSG and then called out Conor McGregor; ”I want to stay humble, but I have to talk because your guy talks too much. Your guy...beginning of the year he tap like chicken, end of the year he fight for the title. Crazy. You know this is true. This is not trash talking. Hey guys, Irish only 6 million, Russian 150 million. I want to fight with your chicken because this is number one easy fight in Lightweight division.” - Khabib Nurmagomedov In July, Ferguson had to weather a bastard of a storm to submit Lando Vannata. Then notched his biggest career win to date, outpointing Rafael Dos Anjos in Mexico in November. 2017: Third time lucky? No. Attempt #3 - March 4th 2017 This time Khabib and Ferguson were booked to square off as the co-main event of the UFC 209 PPV. The stakes were higher as well as it was going to be for the Interim Lightweight Title due to Conor McGregor pissing about and lining up some little boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. Once again, Khabib vs Fergie never materialised. Khabib royally cocked up his weight cut and pulled out with an illness on fight week. They both only ended up fighting once in 2017. Ferguson took on Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC 216 in October. Fergie won by submission to become the new Interim champ. And Khabib utterly crushed Edson Barboza in December in one of the most one sided beatdowns you’ll ever see. 2018: Here we go a-fucking-gain. Attempt #4 - April 7th 2018 This time they were all set to headline UFC 223 in Brooklyn for the actual Lightweight belt. Ferguson injured his knee though and it all went tits up. Khabib ended up facing Al Iaquinta and winning comfortably on points to become Lightweight champion while McGregor threw himself at a bus because cocaine. UFC 229 on October 6th saw Khabib and Ferguson in action, although not against each other. Ferguson went to war with Anthony Pettis and ultimately overwhelmed him. In the main event, Khabib took the soul of Conor McGregor. Beating him up, down, sideways, making him ask for mercy and then making him tap as he tried to unscrew his head from his neck. It made a nice change to see McGregor being held down against his will for a change. Anyway, after the performances from both men that night, Khabib vs Ferguson seemed like the obvious choice. We’d have to wait a bit longer though. 2019: Both only see action once again. Ferguson butchers Donald Cerrone at UFC 238 in June. While Khabib looks as monstrous as ever, beasting and submitting Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi in September. Poirier tried and he had the odd moment, but Khabib proved to be too much animal for him to cope with. Just look at Poirier’s face here... What’s that twat McGregor always saying? “The eyes never lie.” Seriously, Poirier looks like he’s seen a fucking ghost there. Looks like a man who’s realised he’s up against something he can’t handle. And here we are. After a bit of dopey talk about McGregor possibly nicking this fight, it seems that for once, common sense prevailed. It’d be an absolute travesty if this fight got passed over to appease that dickhead’s demands. This was THE fight to make in every way. Ferguson is the most deserving to get the shot by fucking far. Plus it’s the most interesting fight in the division from a viewer’s perspective. Fuck divisions, I genuinely think it might be the most fascinating fight in MMA full-stop at the time I’m typing this. Regardless of weight class, organisation, the lot. It’s the one. And the fact we’ve had to wait so long for it has only made it better in a fucked up way. This is a better fight now than it ever would’ve been at any point between 2015 and 2018. Now they meet at their peak and to decide who is the undisputed champion. It’s perfect. It’s such a brilliant fight style-wise as well. If anyone can nullify Ferguson’s wacky offence and shut him down, it’s Khabib. And if you were asked to design a fighter to beat Khabib, he’d be something like Tony Ferguson. • Dangerous and unpredictable striking. • Not easy to take down. • If you do manage to take him down he’s lethal off his back with submissions, elbows etc. • Insane pace and cardio. • The nutcase factor. Which is a real factor. Not like when Sky Sports News had ‘tattoos’ included in their Tale Of The Tape during their Mayweather vs McGregor coverage. I think it’s going to take someone with the kind of weirdness, bulletproof belief in themself and different way of doing everything to possibly throw Khabib off. Khabib is a different breed to anyone in the division, physically but also with that mental toughness that those Dagestani fighters seem to have. Ferguson is a different cat to anyone Khabib has faced yet though. Get this promo watched; As you can probably tell, I’m absolutely buzzing my tits off for this. It better happen now. I’ll be fucking livid if this gets bollocksed up again and we end up with that tit McGregor in there instead. That’s not going to happen though. Khabib vs Ferguson is going down this time. I can feel it. It’s finally happening. Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas 2 fills the co-main event spot. Seems a bit quick to do this rematch but I’m well up for this. They first met in May last year, for the Strawweight belt, as the main event for UFC 237 in Brazil. Thug Rose was the champ going in. It was a cracking fight while it lasted. Rose looked tremendous in the first round, striking looked really sharp and she was taking it to Andrade. But Andrade wouldn’t fuck off and in the second round... It’s still rough watching that. She slammed Rose down and her head and neck folded under her body weight as she came down. It was over. Andrade was the new champ. Since then, Rose hasn’t fought and Andrade lost the title to Zhang Weili over the summer. So it’s kind of a redemption fight for them both in a way. No title on the line this time but it’s a big fight for both women and the winner immediately gets back in the mix. If it’s anything like the first fight we should be in for a treat. OK, Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba 2 then. They’re running this madness back. These two locked horns back in February at UFC Norfolk. I think when the original fight was booked everyone expected a good scrap. It turned out to be a right odd one though. Right from the off they had to be pulled apart during the Buffer intros. Then 38 seconds into the fight, referee Kevin McDonald jumped in and stopped it after Cutelaba got wobbled with a headkick. He was definitely buzzed and looked a bit jelly-legged but I felt like McDonald jumped the gun a bit. Always better to be safe than sorry, of course, but I thought it was a harsh stoppage as Cutelaba was fighting back at the moment he stopped it and he didn’t really give him a chance to get through it. It all adds to the rematch though. Should be a dogfight. Got a feeling someone’s getting ironed out properly this time. Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Hernandez is a late addition to this card. I like it. Makhachev is a bit of a beast. Combat Sambo world champion with an 18-1 MMA record, on a 6 fight winning streak. He’s had two really strong performances in his last couple of outings, picking up points victories over Davi Ramos and Armin Tsaryukan. He’s a badass. There’s been a lot of talk that he’s one of the most avoided fighters in the 155 division and I can see why the top boys don’t fancy it. Not that they necessarily fear him, but he’s a lot of risk for little reward in that he’s not a particularly big name. Another thing that is stalling his advancement is that he’s a close friend and teammate of Khabib, which would be fine if they weren’t in the same division. It means he’s basically locked out of the title picture because, with how close that Dagestani crew seem, I doubt they’d ever fight. He’s kind of in the spot Shogun was in during Wanderlei Silva’s reign in Pride. Anyway, he’s facing Alexander Hernandez. He’s 11-2, had some good wins over Trinaldo and Dariush. But he’s probably best known for being a mouthy twat in the buildup to his fight with Donald Cerrone, then getting leathered when they fought. He’s since confirmed he’s a bellend by shitting on Cerrone again recently, saying Cowboy quit in the McGregor fight. That’s his opinion so whatever, but it smacked of bitterness because Cerrone spanked him. So yeah, I’d like to see Makhachev crush him. Jeremy Stephens vs Calvin Kattar should be fireworks. This could’ve easily headlined a Fight Night card. Stephens kind of has his back against the wall coming into this one. He hasn’t tasted victory in nearly two years. He’s lost to Aldo, Zabit and Yair so he’s been mixing at a high level but it’s a losing streak nonetheless. He’s got a fan friendly style so I don’t think he’s in danger of getting the chop just yet, but he could do with an impressive win right about now. Problem is, he’s in with Calvin Kattar and that’s no easy rebound. I really rate Kattar. He lost his last fight to Zabit in November but he gave a good showing and I felt like it could’ve been a different outcome if it was a 5 rounder. He’d stopped Ricardo Lamas and Chris Fishgold before that. I like Kattar. Really good boxing and I think he matches up well with Stephens. Jacare Souza vs Uriah Hall sounds like fun. At first glance it’s grappler vs striker but you know how it goes. Jacare isn’t against throwing bombs himself. I think he’d be wise to grapple this one out though. He’s one of the best grapplers in all of MMA. And he badly needs a W here. He’s 40 now and coming off back-to-back losses. He’s back at 185 after losing that shit fight against Jan Blachowicz in November. Never a good sign to me when an ageing fighter starts aimlessly bouncing around weight classes. And Hall is always dangerous. He’s won 3 of his last 4 with the only loss being to Paulo Costa. Not sure how this goes. Jacare is slowing down and coming off losses but it’s not like he’s getting knocked out or really beat up. I think he still wins this if he comes primarily to grapple. And it’s not like Hall’s the most consistent at the best of times. Don’t know what to make of it. Lyman Good vs Belal Muhammad isn’t a fight of any particular relevance or significance. It doesn’t exactly impact the rankings or title picture at all. But I think it’ll be entertaining enough. Don’t recall either really having any boring fights and Muhammad especially has had a couple of corkers. I remember loving his fight with Alan Jouban years ago. He’s coming off a couple of nice wins as well actually. Good’s alright. 21-5-1 record, has only really lost to killers and top guys. Decent little fight. Ottman Azaitar vs Khama Worthy is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** on this bad boy. This could go under the radar, which is why I’m highlighting it. I’m really looking forward to this. Can’t say I’ve seen a great deal of either but what I have seen, they both made a hell of an impression. Azaitar is 30 years old, Moroccan and is 12-0 with 11 finishes. He made his UFC debut on the Khabib vs Poirier undercard in Abu Dhabi in September, and knocked the absolute fuck out of Teemu Packalen... One of the most frightening knockouts of 2019. Legs were twitching and all sorts. Khama Worthy is 33 years old out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’s 15-6 with 11 finishes. Made his Octagon debut in August on the UFC 241 prelims. Jumped in on short notice against Devonte Smith, who was a solid prospect at the time, and Worthy fucked him up in a round. Seems to have a bit of flashiness and personality about him as well. It’s rare I’m this excited about a fight after seeing both guys just once, but there’s something about this one that’s just grabbed me. Got a good feeling about these two. Ben Rothwell vs Gian Villante...meh. Not arsed. It’s one of those fights that could be so ugly it’s perversely enjoyable in a car crash way. But I’m not exactly looking forward to it. Rothwell has a knack for having these sloppy brawls. Sometimes they’re kind of fun like the last Arlovski fight. Other times, they’re just plodfests. Villante at Heavyweight just seems weird as well. He’s 34 years old, has a record of 17-11 and was stopped a few times at 205. Maybe I’m wrong but this move up to Heavyweight just feels like he’s probably given up and swapped training camps for pies. Sijara Eubanks vs Sara Moras isn’t filling me with excitement. It’s one of the only fights announced so far that I really couldn’t give a shite about. Never rated Eubanks. She was kind of hyped up as some female Mike Tyson when she was on TUF a few years back but she hasn’t looked much good in the UFC since. She’s 4-4 now, coming off 2 consecutive losses and I wouldn’t say she’s had one performance that’s been particularly impressive. The only thing that’s been pretty consistent with her has been her habit of missing weight. Moras isn’t much better at 6-5. She’s coming off a TKO win over Liana Jojua in September though. Makhmud Muradov vs Karl Roberson is a fight well worth giving a look. Muradov is the only MMA fighter managed by Floyd Mayweather. That was the only hype he really came into the UFC with last year. He’s quickly changed that though. He’s more than just ‘Floyd’s boy’. He’s from Uzbekistan, 30 years old and has a record of 24-6 with 19 finishes. He beat Alessio Di Chirico in his UFC debut back in September. Solid enough but nothing mind blowing. In his second trip to the Octagon though, he took on Trevor Smith and, well... Maybe the best knockout of 2019 for my money. That might just be the cleanest one punch KO in UFC history right there. Roberson should give him a test. He’s 9-2 with wins over Jack Marshman, Ryan Spann, Darren Stewart and Roman Kopylov. He’s a good fighter, despite not having that much MMA experience. He also took Jerome Le Banner the distance in a Kickboxing bout in 2015. Interesting fight here. Umar Nurmagomedov vs Hunter Azure should be worth a glance. Umar is Khabib’s cousin. He’s 24 years old, unbeaten at 12-0 with 6 finishes so far. He’s fought in the PFL a couple of times. Azure is also undefeated at 8-0 with 4 finishes. He won his UFC contract on Dana’s Contender Series. He beat Brad Katona in his Octagon debut on the Vancouver card last September. Someone’s O has gotta go. Fucking come on! FINALLY!