UFC 249: What We Will Likely Learn from This Event

I am providing this content piece to provide questions that will likely be answered once UFC 249 concludes. With this highly-anticipated, stacked card we can enjoy this card from a viewership perspective, a betting perspective, and a learning perspective. Let’s take a look at the questions we will probably get answered as it pertains to this staggering card…

1. How Will Dominick Cruz Look Against Henry Cejudo?

The last time Dominick Cruz had a bout in the UFC was against Cody Garbrandt in December 2016. Since then, Dominick has dealt with more injuries and this appearance against Cejudo (on short-notice) will be the longest layoff of his MMA career. Dominick has come back from layoffs before to get the job done impressively as he defeated T.J. Dillashaw in January 2016 after about a 1.5-year layoff. If Dominick pulls this off against Henry Cejudo, this will be one of the more monumental comebacks after a long layoff in the past few years in the UFC (the other being Georges St. Pierre moving up to Middleweight and getting the belt after a long layoff at UFC 217). A valid case can certainly be made that the version of Dominick Cruz in December 2016 will defeat Cejudo, but are we getting that version of Dominick? We will have to tune in to find out.

2. How Will Fabricio Werdum Look Against Fellow BJJ Ace, Aleksei Oleinik?

Another fighter on this card that will be fighting after a long layoff is Fabricio Werdum after getting suspended by USADA after his last bout appearance in March 2017. Fabricio Werdum is one of the best MMA Heavyweights of all time as he holds very impressive wins on his resume including against Cain Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, and others. At this stage, it’s hard to gage how Werdum will look after this long layoff when he contemplated not being with this promotion (asked for his release). That said, he is a big favorite per the betting odds in this matchup against Aleksei Oleinik who also has a very threatening submission game which is a very interesting dynamic. Let’s see how ‘Vai Cavalo’ (Go Horse) performs against the active and threatening, Oleinik.

3. Is Yorgan De Castro A Potential Top 15 Heavyweight?

Yorgan De Castro has back-to-back first round finishes which earned him contract on Dana White’s Contender Series and a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus at UFC 243. Therefore, Yorgan certainly has momentum and now he gets a step up in competition against Greg Hardy. Hardy is not currently ranked in the top 15 of the Heavyweight division, but he is coming off a performance against top 10 fighter in the division, Alexander Volkov. A win against Hardy can certainly mean breaking into the division’s top 15 rankings for Yorgan. This will be no easy task for Yorgan, but a win will certainly put more eyes on the heavy-handed, prospect.

4. Who wins the rematch between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone more than 7 years later?

The last time Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone fought was January 2013 and clearly a lot has changed since then. Neither fighter is likely in danger of getting cut from the promotion with a loss here considering their excellent reputations respectively, but that said, I believe both fighters are hungry to get back in the win column after their recent struggles inside the octagon. Cerrone is on a three- fight losing streak and it will be the longest losing streak of his career if he loses this fight to Pettis. On the other hand, Pettis has had better moments recently as he earned a very impressive victory over Stephen Thompson, but has overall struggled to win consistently as he has lost 3 of his past 4 bouts. ‘Showtime’s speed, ability to be a fast starter, and athleticism may propel him to victory again, but the superior round-winning tools (i.e. wrestling and busier striking) of Cerrone may be enough to get the job done for ‘Cowboy’. Interesting rematch considering the trajectory of each fighter’s career.

5. Who is the most intimidating Heavyweight in the UFC?

Francis Ngannou is arguably the scariest guy in combat sports right now but he may very well meet his equal in that regard when he faces Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Both men have shown to be confident inside the octagon in part because they both carry a lot of power. Rozenstruik has 73 career wins by TKO/KO including his kickboxing career and Ngannou has the world record for most powerful punch so clearly the power of each man is very evident. The argument can be made that Francis Ngannou is the most intimidating fighter inside the octagon because in addition to his power, he is bigger than most heavyweights, athletic, and fast. Jairzinho Rozenstruik is the only fighter in the UFC to call out Francis Ngannou (in his post-fight octagon interview last appearance inside the octagon). A win by Ngannou will likely confirm what most already thought of him in terms of intimidation inside the UFC’s octagon, but a TKO/KO win from Rozenstruik will set a strong can that he is the most intimidating Heavyweight in the UFC.

6. What matchups at Lightweight will we see going forward if Gaethje win/if Ferguson wins?

The Lightweight Division currently has 4 fighters in the top 15 ‘Pound-For-Pound’ rankings (the most out of any weight class) which speaks to just how stacked the division really is. In order to get a title shot in this weight class in the past few years, a fighter needs to be likely riding a ton of momentum whether it be via very impressive win streak or superior hype. For instance, Khabib was riding a 9-fight win streak prior to receiving his first title shot and Dustin Poirier was riding a 5- fight win streak.

If Justin Gaethje beats Tony Ferguson, it will mean he will be interim champion and very likely mean he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov given sources report Khabib will be ready to compete in the fall. From there, it would depend on how this potential matchup between Khabib and Justin would play out as it pertains to the sequential matchmaking from then on, but this would certainly be a logical place to go considering the scenario of Justin defeating Tony at UFC 249. As it pertains to Tony Ferguson in this scenario, I believe he would face either Conor McGregor or Dustin Poirier (if Poirier defeats Dan Hooker). While I believe both matchups would be incredible from a stylistic intrigue and from a sales perspective, I think Conor would be the more likely candidate to face Tony in this scenario. If Gaethje defeats Tony, it would likely be TKO/KO; thus, piquing the interest of McGregor even more because he poses a very threatening striking game similar to Gaethje. I also believe Ferguson would be more inclined to take a bout with McGregor than Poirier because the payday will very likely be greater despite the payday still being very good against Poirier.

If Tony Ferguson defeats Justin Gaethje, it will mean he will be interim champion again (won at UFC 216 to get interim belt) and very likely mean he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov. I get it. It’s been scheduled a few times already to no avail yet, but it’s the matchup we’ve been waiting for so long and if it comes to fruition it will be very satisfying. As it pertains to Justin Gaethje in this scenario, I believe he will face Conor McGregor or Dan Hooker (if Hooker defeats Poirier). There were talks of Gaethje fighting McGregor prior to the scheduling for this card so this fight is certainly on the radar and probably more intriguing for Gaethje considering the very likely greater payday. I believe McGregor will be intrigued with a booking against Gaethje because it will boast him right back into title contention at 155lbs.


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