Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje ended Tony Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak and captured the interim lightweight championship with a fifth-round knockout win in Saturday’s UFC 249 headliner in Jacksonville. Gaethje hooked up his backers with a +200 payout.
The ‘over’ was an easy winner to net a +120 return at most books. Proposition bets on Gaethje to win inside the distance (+213), by TKO/KO (+200) and in Round 5 (+3450 at 5Dimes!) were winners.
Gaethje was in control from start to finish, winning all four rounds on MajorWager’s scorecard. He was quicker to the punch, landed the harder shots and made one of the best lightweights in UFC history look average.
Whether Ferguson cutting weight twice in a three-week stretch hindered his performance is up for debate, but he certainly didn’t look like the ‘El Cucuy’ that’s terrorized the division for the last seven-plus years.
But Gaethje should get credit for that. This was an absolutely epic performance, dubbed by UFC analyst Joe Rogan as “a masterpiece.” It was Gaethje’s night, his time and he took full advantage.
When I say Gaethje was landing bombs throughout the bout, I’m talking about sledgehammer shots.
He’ll now face Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight belt. BetOnline opened Nurmagomedov as a -350 favorite just moments after Gaethje polished off Ferguson. As of 2:35 p.m. Eastern on May 10, the undefeated Nurmagomedov was down to -285, with Gaethje as the +245 underdog.
Gaethje-Ferguson won Fight of the Night honors. Gaethje also bagged a Performance of the Night bonus, bringing his post-fight bonus collection to nine during his seven-fight UFC tenure.
Gaethje has now won four fights in a row by knockout to improve to 22-2 overall and 5-2 in the UFC. The scary thing? He’s getting better.
After a decade of working with renowned striking coach Trevor Wittman, Gaethje’s footwork and technique has never been better. Now he’s taking fewer chances and isn’t putting himself in harm’s way as often. It’s a formula that will present Nurmagomedov with the biggest challenge of his storied career.
Where does Ferguson go from here? The 36-year-old veteran was transported to the hospital in Jacksonville and didn’t do press after the fight (other than his Octagon interview with Rogan that you can see below). He took a ton of damage, showing an incredible chin. As UFC President Dana White pointed out at his post-fight media scrum, very few fighters on the roster could’ve absorbed the shots he ate from Gaethje and continued.
It was an excellent stoppage by veteran referee Herb Dean. Ferguson was rocked and backed up (without going down), and Dean made a wise call to end it there.
Ferguson did not agree with the stoppage, but he appeared to be in relatively good spirits during his post-fight Octagon interview with Rogan.