UFC 249 Preview

UFC rocks into Jacksonville, Florida this weekend for UFC 249. There’ll be tons of pandemic punching happening in the octagon on May 9. On paper this is stacked top to bottom with great match-ups. The event itself will be held behind closed doors.

Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje go at it for the interim lightweight title. There’s one thing that this fight guarantees and that is pure violence. When you talk about match-ups in the division or even in the UFC there isn’t another fight that wets your palette as much as this one. The last time Ferguson tasted defeat was against Micheal Johnson all the way back 2012. Since then he is on a 12 fight win streak and he looks to recapture the interm title he once held. 

Justin Gaethje brings vicious knockout power into this fight. The former WSOF lightweight champion gets his first crack at obtaining UFC gold. Gaethje has serious wrestling credentials but those skills are rarely seen. Gaethje’s style is knocking people dead. He has brutal power in both hands and he is not afraid to stand in the pocket to take a shot in order to give one. His last 3 opponents James Vick, Edson Barbosa and Donald Cerrone did not see past the first round. 

This fight is going to be a barn burner. Gaethje is going to come flying out the gates and will try to put this fight to bed early. Tony will have to weather that storm and try to implement his own game plan, something which he managed to do so many times in the past. I can’t see Tony stopping Gaethje but I can see him weathering an early storm and picking up a decision. It’s going to be really fun to see how this one turns out. 

The co-main event has more gold up for grabs. Henry Cejudo will take on Dominick Cruz for the 135 lbs UFC bantamweight title. Cejudo, who trains out of Fight Ready MMA will defend that bantamweight title for the first time. He beat Marlon Moraes for the vacant title to become a double champion holding both flyweight and bantamweight straps. He relinquished the flyweight title that he took from Demetrious ‘‘Mighty Mouse’’ Johnson in order to defend his belt against Cruz. 

Cruz will try to become a three time UFC champion with a win on Saturday night. This could turn to a real fairytale for a fighter who has been stuck in another injury nightmare for the past three years. Cruz’s career has been ravaged by injury for a decade now, but somehow he finds himself fighting once more for the title. It would be some story.

We’ve not seen Cruz in the octagon since his defeat by Cody Garbrant at UFC 207. Normally Cruz matches up well with wrestlers with his unique style. Demetrious Johnson, Uraih Faber, TJ Dillashaw have all fallen victim to decision losses the Dominance MMA fighter who at the top of his game is very hard to beat. 

Three years away from competing doesn’t make things any easier here for Cruz if he comes back and he’s back to his absolute best we have ourselves a fight. Henry Cejudo will capitalize here if Cruz isn’t on his game. It’s unlikely he gets taken down with his wrestling credentials. He will be quicker and has some surprising power in his hands. Henry Cejudo’s stand up game has come on leaps and bounds. I can see these guys standing and banging for most of this fight in what will be a very interesting encounter.

Propping up the two title fights is a heavyweight showdown between Francis N’Gannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The winner of this fight likely sets himself up as number one contender in the division. Jairzinho is called after the Brazilian soccer player of the same name. His last fight, a KO win vs. Alistair Overeem put everyone on notice in the heavyweight division. The Suriname fighter is fond of a knock out with all but one of his ten wins coming by TKO/KO stoppage. 

N’Gannou is on a three fight win streak and has looked unstoppable. With recent wins over Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos he doesn’t like sticking around too long. All three of those wins accumulated a time of just two minutes and twenty two seconds. I want to say there’s no chance this goes all the way but this is MMA so you never know. There will be some heavy leather thrown that is a given.

Jeremy Stephens looks to bounce back, he is on a three fight losing streak. He fights Calvin Katter in a featherweight bout. Opening the PPV section of the card is undefeated Yorgan De Castro squaring up against former NFL player Greg Hardy. The main attraction on the prelims is a welterweight bout in which Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will be looking to avenge his lightweight defeat to Anthony Pettis when they lock horns for the second time. The card is pretty much stacked with top notch fights. See the full card below. 

Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje
Henry Cejudo (c) vs. Dominick Cruz
Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar
Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan de Castro

Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Fabrício Werdum
Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson
Uriah Hall vs. Ronaldo Souza
Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa
Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey

Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.