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9 May, 2020 11:31

UFC 249: An all-time classic between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje beckons as UFC emerges from coronavirus hiatus (VIDEO)

Despite once again being denied seeing Tony Ferguson do battle with Khabib Nurmagomedov, the UFC has served up the next best thing as the fiercely exciting Justin Gaethje steps in to face Ferguson for the interim title at UFC 249.

Every once in a while, a fight comes along which simply cannot fail to entertain. Ferguson – the UFC lightweight contender currently in the midst of a 12-fight win streak – and Gaethje have combined for an incredible 13 post-fight performance bonuses in their last 14 fights. 

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A glace at both men's fighting styles reveals exactly why. Gaethje is perhaps the least risk-averse fighter on the UFC roster. His fight career has been characterized by a willingness to wade into battle with little concern for his own wellbeing. Gaethje has long been secure in the knowledge that he hits harder than his opponents and engineers situations in which he can employ this vaunted power.

It is a move that has occasionally backfired, as displayed in his two UFC losses against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. But while those two were able to weather Gaethje's initial storm, the 21 other fighters that Gaethje has dismantled inside the cage haven't quite been so fortunate. 

In Ferguson though, he faces a unique challenge. "El Cucuy" has pieced together one of the most impressive winning streaks in UFC history.

His 12 victories in succession have come by all manner of methods: (lots of) submissions, knockouts and, perhaps worryingly for Gaethje, his last two wins against Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis were won by doctor and corner stoppage – meaning that he served up such savage beatings that people representing the best interests of his opponent decided that they had seen enough. 

Like Gaethje, though, Ferguson's arsenal of tricks can sometimes get him into trouble. He was dropped on several occasions by Pettis before rallying for the win. Late replacement Lando Vanatta came close to an upset in their 2016 fight before Ferguson's class ultimately shone through. Neither Pettis nor Vanatta hit with the same concussive force as Gaethje. 

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One sometimes overlooked element to this fight comes in the grappling department. Ferguson is among the finest submission specialists in the sport but despite being a Division I All-American wrestler, ground fighting isn't a tactic often employed by Gaethje.

Ferguson, who has been in a training camp since December, has been preparing for the top-heavy assault of Nurmagomedov, but will be forced to switch gears against Gaethje - who, despite his own wrestling credentials, hasn't yet attempted a traditional takedown in his UFC career. 

The odds suggest that most likely methods of victory are Ferguson by submission or Gaethje via knockout but even if one of those soothsaying predictions come to pass, you can guarantee that neither fighter will have it all their own way for as long as it lasts.