Ferguson v Chandler is a huge crossroads fight for both men at UFC 274

Calls for Tony Ferguson’s retirement will be deafening with another heavy beating at UFC 274… he is in the last chance saloon but one more loss for Michael Chandler would also be devastating in their crossroads fight

  • Tony Ferguson has lost his last three fights and could be heading for retirement 
  • His contest with Michael Chandler at UFC 274 will see the loser fade away 
  • Defeated fighter will find it immensely difficult to return to the top level  
  • Manner of Ferguson’s defeats were alarming and he needs a big performance

If Saturday night is the end of the road for Tony Ferguson, what a sad way it will be to go out. 

‘El Cucuy’, for all his idiosyncrasies, is one of the most compelling characters in the UFC but his current trajectory is a plummet downwards.

He faces Michael Chandler in a fight dubbed ‘the people’s main event’ in Phoenix at UFC 274 this weekend and defeat will end any title aspirations, perhaps his MMA career too. 


Tony Ferguson (right) and Michael Chandler (left) will lock horns at UFC 274 this weekend

Ferguson survived a gruesome submission attempt from Beneil Dariush but lost in May 2021 

Chandler and Ferguson go face-to-face during the UFC 274 press conference on Thursday

Chandler is a heavy favourite with the bookies, given a 75 percent chance of winning. 

So an upset would also be catastrophic for him. This three-rounder has so much on the line for both men and major ramifications for the lightweight division. 

Ferguson was tipped by many as the man who could beat Khabib Nurmagomedov but their fight fell off five times and felt cursed. 

Injuries, botched weight cuts and Covid all conspired against them and the comedown for the 38-year-old has been immense. 

He went more than four-and-a-half rounds with Justin Gaethje and found himself battered from pillar to post. 

Eventually it was the referee who stepped in to spare the zombie-like fighter any more punishment. 

Commentators and fans questioned whether Ferguson would ever be the same again. In truth, those fears have looked accurate. 

Ferguson’s self belief is unwavering but after losing to Gaethje, he dropped a unanimous decision to Charles Oliveira. 

Of course, there’s no shame in coming up short against the current lightweight champion but it was the manner of defeat that was so worrying. 

He was dominated in just about every department and seemed to have aged overnight. 

Far from being given a softball next outing, the UFC matched Ferguson against Beneil Dariush. He was controlled on the ground for most of the fight and inexplicably refused to tap when his arm was being wrenched into an ungodly position. 

Ferguson’s mind is still strong but the body seems to be letting him down now. 

Ferguson has lost his last three fights and there have been calls for him to retire

Chandler is also desperate for a win. His explosive UFC debut KO win over Dan Hooker earned him a title shot but Oliveira put him away in the second round. 

His most recent defeat was the absolute war with Justin Gaethje – great for the fans, not so good for long-term health ramifications. 

It will be interesting to see how much that has taken out of Chandler. Gaethje blunted Ferguson and there’s a chance he has done the same again. 

So as damning as another defeat for Ferguson could be, Chandler’s third loss in a row would be equally devastating. 

He has repeatedly talked up a big money fight between himself and Conor McGregor and is adamant he will become UFC champion one day. 

But those ambitions could go up in smoke with a defeat against Ferguson when his stock is at its lowest.

Ferguson is at least acknowledging that a major change was needed. He says Chandler can expect a more wrestling-heavy approach. 

Charles Oliveira dispatched Chandler in the second round of their title fight last year 

Ferguson fell to a convincing unanimous decision defeat to Iranian Dariush in May, 2021

‘I wasn’t able to perform to my best abilities during my previous training camps,’ he told UFC Countdown. 

‘I was more afraid of everybody else learning my trade and learning what I’ve got because I like that little bit of Mysterio.

‘I’ve been to the top, I’ve been to the bottom, but I don’t want to lose again. So, I’m going back to my wrestling roots. Brought back my old coach from Grand Valley State University, coach Dave Mills. 

‘Brought him back to kick my ass, it’s working really well, getting my legs back in shape, Chandler’s not going to know what to do.’

‘I’m going to go out there and get the f*****g job done because I don’t have to worry about that anymore. That’s a scary f*****g feeling for that guy. Chandler, you’re gonna have your hands full.’

Chandler knows he will be a long way from a title shot if he loses against Ferguson

There’s no danger of Chandler taking this fight lightly. He recognises that the unorthodox style presented by his opponent on Saturday night could give him problems. 

The 36-year-old said: ‘Tony Ferguson has always been a perennial top guy. We’re only a couple of years removed from that illustrious 12-fight win streak that he was on when he looked unbeatable, possibly could’ve even beaten Khabib.

‘I see Tony Ferguson as a guy who is still extremely dangerous, still always performs well even when he runs into the toughest guys in the division. When you’re fighting the toughest guys in the division, you’re going to take losses.’

Both men arrive in Phoenix at a crossroads. Even though the division is relatively open, defeat puts the loser two or three fights against elite opposition away from the title. 

This one has a do-or-die feel for Chandler and Ferguson, giving an already brilliant fight an extra bit of edge this weekend.  




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