UFC 249 Main Card Preview + Predictions

UFC 249 Main Card headliners facing off

Just when we thought it was all over, Dana White and crew fixed up UFC 249. Top lightweight contender Tony Ferguson will now draw a line in the sand against slugger Justin Gaethje in a battle for the interim 155lbs. title.

Then, in your co-main event, two time bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz returns to current champion Henry Cejudo in a bid to see who is the best bantamweight of all time. 

UFC 249 Poster

Are we witnessing the most controversial card in UFC history? Probably – not just because the whole world is in lock down either. 

Here is your UFC 249 Main Card preview:

Main-Event: Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson vs. Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje

Ferguson-vs-Gaethje poster

With lightweight champion Khabib stuck in Russia, top contender Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson will now face former WSOF champ Justin ‘ The Highlight’ Gaethje for the interim title. The replacement bout comes as a bittersweet treat for fans, being a retaliation to Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson being scrapped for the fifth time. 

Both men scrapping in this weekend’s headliner are extremely active pressure fighters. They’re renowned for their guts and glory styles, with neither ever giving quarter. You have arguably the best lightweight of an era in Ferguson throwing down against a man who has trail blazed through the division since joining the UFC.

But it’s Tony’s fight to lose. Gaethje is stepping up to challenge for the number one contender spot, while Ferguson is risking his seat once again for an interim title. The winner will undoubtedly face Khabib, which is putting nearly all the risk in Tony’s hands. Should we ever expect ‘El Cucuy’ to turn down a scrap? It just isn’t in his nature.

Pundits are expecting Gaethje to keep it on the feet, looking to slow Ferguson down with his patent low kick. Ferguson is known as a take-one-to-give-one kind of guy – not to mention a hands down, chin high hip slinger. So, it’d be in Gaethje’s best interest to look for an early knockout in round one and two, most likely by overhand right.

Ferguson better as fight goes on

Tony Ferguson always appears to get stronger as the fight goes on, which is why the further we get into the title match, the more the odds fall in his favour. Expect unorthodox movement patterns, digging front kicks, and long elbows from ‘El Cucuy’. He’s also is arguably the most dangerous all-round in the lightweight division. His elbow attacks from the bottom are savage, while his 10th Planet Black Belt submission game is a match for almost anybody at 155lbs. It’ll be a choke if anything that’ll stop Gaethje.

Let’s also not forget ‘El Cucuy’ is also an NCWA winner either. So, although Gaethje has a prestigious wrestling pedigree himself, most would give Ferguson an edge on the ground. If the fight ends up there, ‘El Cucuy’ will probably look to open up ‘The Highlight’ with elbows before fishing for his feared D’arce. Otherwise he could hunt for a choke from the back.

If there’s any man to submit Justin Gaethjhe, it’s Tony Ferguson. But then again, think about how heavy ‘The Highlight’ hits for 155 – then picture ‘El Cucuy’ trading shots with a high chin. It really is Ferguson’s to lose on the night.  

Prediction? Gaethje by 2nd round TKO. Or Ferguson 3rd round submission.

Co-Main Event: Henry ‘The Messenger’ Cejudo vs. Dominick ‘The Dominator’ Cruz

Cejudo vs Cruz poster

It’s ‘The Cringe’ vs. ‘The Cruz’ in your co-main event. The winner being unofficially crowned the greatest bantamweight of all time. Many contenders are sour about Cruz heading straight for the hot seat – especially given his four year injury lay off.

But, what we’re about to see is the former greatest bantamweight the sport has ever seen taking on its current ‘triple C’ in Henry Cejudo. Not only is this man a two division title holder (FLW/BW), but an Olympic gold medallist wrestler. Calling Cejudo the undisputed king of cringe kind of takes away from his elite calibre.

Haters gonna hate

Haters gonna hate. This is a great fight pitting the former best and the top ranked defender, regardless of who ‘should’ have been next in line. We’re in a global pandemic and it’s an extremely logical booking at 135lbs. Both fighters are close to the event and there are no oceans to travel. Plus, it’s an awesome test for Cejudo who hasn’t had much action at 135lbs. 

Many would say the Olympian Cejudo is probably the fastest developing fighter we’ve seen inside the UFC. He’s progressed from one track (stunningly elite) wrestler into a complete, multidimensional martial artist, complete with knockout power to ignite a dangerous stand up game. What we now have is a triple champion with zero noticeable chinks in his armour. 

Unorthodox Cruz could cause problems

Cruz, on the other hand, offers up the most unorthodox fighting style that might only be matched in creative awkwardness by Jon Jones. He’s also extremely elusive, rarely taking masses of damage in his usual five round fights.

So far Cruz has shown himself to be immune to ring rust. Coming back even sharper every time he returns. Yet, you have to ask how the persistent knee and foot injuries have impacted his herky-jerky footwork, as well as evasive speed.

Cejudo has the style to beat Cruz

Henry Cejudo’s current style of stepping footwork isn’t too far removed from former champ Cody Garbrant. Garbrant successfully shut off and slowed down Cruz when the pair met four years ago at UFC 207, edging the bout in a unanimous decision. However, unlike Garbrant, Cejudo has now adopted an in-out karate style to close the distance. He’ll only square up to throw once inside, which will be an advantage when cutting off the cage.

The close loss marked only the second time Cruz had been beaten in an incredible 24 matches. It’s also worth pointing out Cruz clearly became frustrated during both bouts – can Cejudo get under his skin too?

If Cruz takes out Cejudo, it’ll be the greatest comeback in UFC history. But, the odds are stacked against him, on account of Cejudo not only being a dominant triple champion, but also incredibly active. His cringe persona doesn’t do any favours for promoting just how elite an athlete the Olympian actually is.

Cejudo is on an unstoppable tirade inside the Octagon and Cruz is noticeably chomping at the bit for a return. Both men are throwing venomous verbal shots, so there’s bad blood to be spilled on the canvas. Just expect it drawn in a technical five rounder unless Cejudo puts Cruz out early. The ‘King of Cringe’ to edge on ‘The Dominator’ on points.

Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou vs. Jairzinho ‘Big Boy’ Rozenstruik 

Ngannou vs Rozenstruik poster

Now, this fight has barn burner written all over it. But, when two of the sports biggest hitting heavyweights meet, there’s always a chance of a 15 minute stare off. Why? Because both warriors know the consequences of eating one of their opponent’s massive fists. Whoever’s first to land heavy will probably have their hand raised too.  

Ngannou is currently riding a three fight win streak and has 10 dramatic career knockouts to his name. He’s also laid a couple of former world champions to rest in his last two appearances and knocked out top 10 contender Curtis Blades immediately beforehand.

Knockout machines

Undefeated Rozenstruik has also dispatched two former champions in his last two fights, and boasts a savage 9 knockouts in 10 bouts. However, he hasn’t quite faced the same level of competition Ngannou has. ‘The Predator’ has fought the likes of current champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Cain Velasquez, whereas ‘Big Boy’ is yet to face that calibre.

To call both men power punching knockout machines could still be an understatement. Rozenstruik is hot on Jorge Masvidal’s heels, holding the second fastest knockout in UFC history when he dispatched Allen Crowder in 9 seconds. Ngannou himself ruined Velasquez’ comeback by turning off the Mexican’s lights after just 26 seconds.

This fight will either burn the house down, or be all-smoke-no-fire for 15 minutes. We’ll just have to wait and see. Winner? Either if they pull the trigger – but if you’re holding a gun to our head Rozenstruik.

Jeremy ‘Lil’ Heathen’ Stephens vs. Calvin ‘The Boston Finisher’ Kattar

Jeremy Stephens vs Calvin Kattar

Now, this one’s got FOTN written all over it! 

Both men are renowned for their fan pleasing styles. They’re also stepping into the Octagon on the back of a loss, making Saturday night’s fight a must win match up for both parties. So expect a sense of urgency. 

Pundits aren’t expecting an early finish for this fight. The warriors are incredibly well matched stylistically, which means we could see ‘em swinging in the final few seconds. Both men are boxing heavy wrestlers, with the only slight advantage possibly going to Stephens on the submission front. He also carried KO power all the way up to welterweight too. 

‘Lil’ Heathen’ might be scrapping for his contract too, having lost three on the bounce. So if there are any casuals in the house, get them sat down front and centre for this throw down. MMA virgins should also consider this essential viewing.

Who takes it? Stephens by close decision.

Greg ‘Prince of War’ Hardy vs. Yorgan ‘The Mad Titan’ De Castro

NFL standout Greg ‘Prince of War’ Hardy has had an exciting UFC career so far. The ‘Prince of War’ may also be coming off a loss to a top HW contender in Volkov, but given his evident hard work ethic and head down mindset, the former footballer has no doubt grown wiser for it. He’ll also be the most athletic opponent De Castro’s faced to date. 

Despite a shaky amateur career, ‘The Mad Titan’ has gone on to six straight undefeated as a professional. His most recent of those wins being an explosive walk-off KO against Justin Tafa.

Throwing bombs

So, while Hardy is undoubtedly the most athletic adversary De Castro has faced, we’re expecting both men to throw bombs all the same. This is where the bout becomes most dangerous for Hardy. He’s much more of a rough and ready striker in comparison to the technical De Castro.

Defeating De Castro would claim an incredible scalp for HW up-and-comer Hardy. But nothing could take De Castro closer to title contention than taking out the rising star, especially with another big KO. The fight prove to be a great test for both men.

De Castro by TKO.

Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis vs. Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone

Cerrone vs Pettis UFC 249 Preview poster

Okay, we said main card, but this one’s slipping the net. ‘Showtime’ vs. ‘Cowboy’ 2 is a big match up for the fans at 170. Both men are renowned for their striking prowess, and although they’re both coming off a loss, you can be sure neither will play it safe. 

Pettis beat Cerone in their prior meeting by savagely attacking his soft midsection. So, you could say he’s already been there and done it in regard to exposing ‘Cowboy’s weak spots – it’s no secret ‘Cowboy’s’ midsection is a little soft after his dirt bike accident.

Pettis is also a southpaw and counter striker, two traits that work well against ‘Cowboy’. He’ll be looking to draw Ceronne onto his powerful taekwondo kicks into the body just as before. Maybe we’ll also witness the infamous showtime kick too.

Don’t count ‘Cowboy’ out

Nobody should count ‘Cowboy’ out though. Cerrone can make it past the first stanza, expect him to grow stronger as the fight goes on, whereas Pettis is prone to fading. Cowboy is also a natural 170 lb. fighter, which he’s come to embrace in later years.

He moves much better at the heavier weight and his speed suits the division. So, although Pettis is set to win on paper, Cowboy could turn up on the night.

Will it be a guaranteed knockout? Most likely a TKO – unless Pettis puts Ceronne to sleep early. But it’s worth noting how good grapplers both fighters are. Pettis once arm barred BJJ black belt Ben Henderson for the lightweight title, and Ceronne’s dispatched his fair share of gunslingers too. The grappling edge probably lies in favour of ‘Cowboy’ on account of his higher number of submission victories.

We should take this fight for what it clearly is – a fun gift for the fans. It’s not a test for contention here, it’s all about action. Two gatekeepers having a good old fashioned throw down for the glory.

Pettis by 2nd round TKO. Stylistically it isn’t the best fight for ‘Cowboy’.

How to watch

UK fight fans can tune into the Main Card on BT Sport. Live action will kick off at 3 AM GMT with Prelims starting at 1 AM. As always, catch the Early Prelims on Fight Pass.

Thinking of betting on UFC249? Why not get an edge on the bookies with MMAPlay365. Their team of professional handicappers have now released their official predictions and betting strategy for Saturday night.

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