UFC 249: What Fans can Expect Saturday Night
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Friday, May 8, 2020
The UFC are officially back in business Saturday night, when UFC 249 takes place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, with no spectators in attendance.
Although the event will not have any spectators in attendance, it will surely generate plenty of interest from fans as it is one of the most stacked cards of the year and could be one of the most exciting. The prelim card alone could arguably be a main card of any Fight Night on ESPN, so the UFC are pulling out all the stops to ensure they provide fans with the best show possible.
UFC 249 was originally scheduled to be main evented by the long awaited UFC Lightweight Championship bout between reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, however due to travel restrictions, Nurmagomedov is unable to leave his country and the bout was cancelled for a fifth time. As a result, Justin Gaethje was given the opportunity to compete and will now step in to fight Ferguson for the interim Lightweight Championship, with the winner likely fighting Nurmagomedov in a title unification bout in July.
Gaethje is no stranger to title fights; prior to signing with the UFC, he was the reigning WSOF Lightweight Champion, where he had an undefeated 17-0 record. After hitting a rough patch with back to back losses and a 1-2 UFC record, Gaethje bounced back and is coming into this fight with three straight victories – all via first round knockout.
Ferguson on the other hand is looking to continue his impressive winning streak – currently at 12 – and make a statement that he is the best in the division. The former Ultimate Fighter winner hasn't lost in six years and looks to continue that streak by defeating another top contender in a stacked lightweight division. This is an intriguing matchup because both are very unorthodox fighters – Gaethje in terms of striking and Ferguson in terms of his scrambles and in the clinch – which should make for an unpredictable main event.
The co-main event will also be contested for a championship and legacy as Henry Cejudo will defend his UFC Bantamweight Championship against former champion Dominik Cruz, who is regarded as the greatest bantamweight of all-time. Cruz hasn’t competed since he lost the Bantamweight Championship to Cody Garbrandt in 2016 and will certainly have his hands full with the former Olympic Gold medalist.
A win over Cruz would be massive for Cejudo’s already impressive legcy as he’s the one that ended Demetrious Johnson’s reign as UFC Flyweight Champion, retained the title against then-Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw, and finally moved up to 135lbs, where he defeated Marlon Moraes via TKO in a resilient effort to become a two-division champion.
The trash talk between Cejudo and Cruz has been quite entertaining and even made its way to the weigh-ins when Cejudo, aka ‘The King of Cringe’, brought a pillow with a photo of Cruz’s face on it and kicked it into the media area, before taking part in a tense stare down. One thing that is certain between these two is that they may trade insults and in Cejudo’s case put on a bit of an act but when it comes time to fight and the octagon door closes and bell sounds, they are dialed in and ready to go.
It’ll be interesting to see who the winner ends up defending their title against as the bantamweight division is currently one of the promotion’s most stacked divisions especially with former champions Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo moving down to 135lbs. Although Aldo lost to Moraes in his bantamweight debut, he was originally scheduled to challenge Cejudo for the title but like Nurmagomedov, was forced to pull out of the card because of travel restrictions.
With Aldo already scheduled for a title shot, he may likely be the next challenger as a possible bout with Cruz could be a long awaited dream fight and a possible bout with Cejudo could be a much bigger fight if he’s able to retain on Saturday night.
The main event on the prelim side of things is a welterweight rematch between former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. Pettis and Cerrone last fought eachother in 2013, with Pettis getting the TKO victory following a kick to the body. This is surprising considering that Cerrone main evented UFC 246 against Conor McGregor earlier in the year and now in this fight, he is the main event of the prelim on ESPN instead of being included on the actual main card.
Fans are expecting fireworks when Cerrone and Pettis meet in the octagon as both have their backs against the wall in terms of their UFC future because they are coming into this fight with losing streaks – Cerrone has lost three straight and Pettis has lost two straight. Depending on how this fight pans out, it may be the final time we see one of these fighters in the UFC octagon.
Photo Credit: UFC (@ufc)